5. April 2012–
The Samwer brothers seem to be casting the Rocket Internet net further than ever before – not content with expanding their empire into South East Asia, they also appear to be setting their sights on the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, with more than 300 employees across eight portfolio companies already in the region.
We decided it was time to take a look. What's going on at companies such as Namshi and Zidaya and how is the Berlin incubator recruiting top talent to staff them?
Fast numbers - introducing Namshi and Zidaya
Rocket opened its Turkey and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) offices in September 2011 with head offices in Dubai and Istanbul. Since then, it has recruited more than 300 people across its eight portfolio companies. One of the newest companies active in the region is Amazon clone Mizado, the same model as SE Asia's Ladaza.
According to Arabic tabloid magazine Ahlan!, Namshi – a replica of Rocket's successful online shoe store Zalando – has been active in the area of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) since October last year.
The GCC, a federation of states including the six states of the Arabian Peninsula (Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman), has nearly 40 million inhabitants and an average gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$20,000 per capita - so you could say it's an attractive market.
Since mid-March, Namshi has also been active in Egypt. The Namshi leadership team - Louis Lebbos (founder), Muhammed Mekki, Annas Abedin and Hosam Arab - boast combined experience from Harvard, WHU and global consultants McKinsey.
Mizado made the news last month with a southeast Asian rollout under the name Ladaza which also has a home in the Gulf. So far, according to the company's website, Mizado is only active in the United Arab Emirates. The online shop is linked to the same logistic service provider (Aramex) as elder brother Namshi, though, so a rollout to other countries in the territory would not come as a surprise.
The Turkish Samwer Empire
Meanwhile in Turkey, sister Rocket company Zidaya has operated in the market since February from a base in Istanbul, also following the Zalando model.
Evimister, translated loosely, means something similar to "home" - perhaps a nod to Rocket's German version Home24 – is an online budget general store specialising in electronics, based in Turkey that has been up and running since November 2011.
Another Istanbul-based company, online sporting goods shop Sporena, has been active on Facebook since September last year, which would make it the oldest of Rocket Internet's projects out of Istanbul. Its success is difficult to estimate but at 250,000 Facebook fans (compared to eBay, which recently celebrated its 150,000th fan), it seems to be well-received by customers at least.
Shopping clubs WestWing (furniture and equipment) and Bamarang (design products) are on track for growth around the globe - and Turkey is no exception. WestWing attracted funding from Point Nine Capital in September.
Eliseri - international company of mystery
Meanwhile, LinkedIn's "Rocket Internet Turkey & MENA" page names eight Rocket portfolio companies in the group but - the domain name for Eliseri is empty. Is it on the way or just an abandoned project name? We'll be watching this space...
Where is the top talent coming from?
The WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar is known as a popular recruiting ground for Samwer brothers Marc, Oliver and Alexander. But as Rocket Internet's activities become more international in scope and grander in scale, its demand for young, hungry (mostly male) founders is growing greater than can be served by German universities alone.
We stumbled upon the announcement of a session at the University of California, Berkeley, which gives some insight into Rocket Internet's recruiting hooks:
“Rocket Internet Turkey & MENA (managed by Cal Alums, Husain Misherghi and Hisham Zarka!) is coming to Cal this Thursday for an informal session. Rocket Internet is perhaps one of the largest technology incubators in the world (with HQ in Berlin), currently launching a number of internet businesses worldwide. The Turkey/MENA team, for instance, is building what is hoped to become the Amazon.com of the Middle East.
There are two offices in Turkey and MENA. They are trying to build a top caliber team – with management already full of Alumni from Stanford, HBS, Wharton, McKinsey, Google, and BCG.
They are looking for top people with exceptionally strong academic & work backgrounds to join them. Primarily looking for people interested in relocating to the Middle East but counterparts are hiring for South East Asia, South America, India, and Europe also.
Minimum GPA: 3.6
All majors welcome
Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, or Urdu fluency is a plus
According to sources in university circles, Rocket offers its internet business newbies a starting salary of up to €60,000 plus a marginal share of investment (tenths of a percent) - and that's for bachelor graduates.
Know anything else about Rocket's movements in MENA? Tip us at firstname.lastname@example.org