23. March 2012–
Yes, a brand new Rocket Internet clone – this one going by the name of Lazada and the face of Amazon – has launched in Southeast Asia (Singapore).
Yes, we’re enraged. Not at the Samwers, but rather, at Europe’s reigning two-cent tech bloggers who’d rather offer their redundant, pseudo-ethical complaints (“geez, can’t they even change the first letter?”) against cloning in general (largely in the form of referencing past clones) than consider the historical precedence of Rocket Internet or the strategy of this current move.
“Cloning” (or, I’m sorry, would you prefer we continue calling it, “oops, they did it again“) is the innovative method for getting startups to emerging markets. These petty clone bashings (that take the model of “New Rocket clone x copied American company y” and occasionally add a “that sucks” to the template) are systematically reinforcing the insecurity complex plaguing European tech hubs today. And, worse, they’re cloning each other with very little added analysis.
Although the criticisms from a technical point of view are legitimate (we’ve also been pissed off by the sloppiness and insincerity of Rocket clones) these posts are missing the big picture and they’re spending often two, three paragraphs going over the quick, backseat history of Samwer clones while muttering shallow complaints rather than actually giving a shit enough to consider why it’s important.
Here’s what’s happening
In this Lazada instance and all the others, the American company and supposed ‘victim’ Amazon is simply too US-centric, disinterested, incapable, or otherwise too daft, to enter the market itself. Why American companies are ignoring foreign opportunity in favor of egocentrism (why protection of business models or design templates continue to make them vulnerable to European strategists like the Samwers) is a fault of their poor strategy, but it’s a reality that Rocket Internet is creatively addressing.
Perhaps it will be their tragic mistake, when in 10 years those currently narrow-minded, international US-based executives look outside their window across the Atlantic to see the richest men in the world: The Samwer brothers themselves. (As for you tech bloggers, we know you don’t care about money . Just “creativity.” That’s fair. We’re kind of like that too. Which is why, PS, we’re sending 20 bucks to anyone who has the nerve to clone this article.)
No, the US is not intrinsically more creative
If you look at what Europe was doing while the US was building Silicon Valley (an introspection that has so far been put on the back burner in favor of the petty clone bashings), you’ll likely find it wasn’t wasted time. In tech, sure, one way or another Europe is going to have to make up for the fact that it’s behind. It could do this by becoming a leader in crowdfunding, for instance. Or it could do it the Rocket way.
“Amazon has been optimizing their platform for years. Why would I not make use of that, and better it from there?” Florian Heinemann told us in an interview.
“There’s a certain humbleness,” Oli Samwer told BusinessWeek in February, with a similar sentiment. “First you need to learn from people who are more experienced. … From there, you can start innovating yourself.”
Either way, they’re the ones trying.
And it’s time you get a little more creative, too
How many times are you going to start an article with “Have The Samwers Gone Too Far…” before wising up to the fact that Rocket Internet is, gasp!, the most innovative company coming out of Berlin. They’re taking advantage of a market space that Americans are ignorantly neglecting.
Cloning may well be Europe’s biggest contribution to the world in the next 10 years. And it’s time we start treating it with some philosophical rigor. Or at least some damn respect.
The Samwers are practising a corporate-political tactic that will be remembered heroically, and in the meantime disdained. You, on the other hand, are “tipping your hat” to the last tech blogger who wrote “Rocket cloned x and called it y” and putting out in an article called “Rocket cloned x and called it y and that’s just so terrible, ain’t it Mom?”
The word ‘creative’ does not just limit itself to iPhone app artists, finger paint, or even original productions for that matter. And your two-second pity sighs for “the poor innovative startups of Germany” (naming them, time and time again, under the blanket of “guys like Soundcloud, Amen and 6wunderkinder“) does not cut it. Think deeper. Or get out.
Now for today’s story on Rocket’s Amazon clone, Lazada. And thanks for reading.