16. December 2011–
The ability to take something as your own is difficult. The ability to execute, even harder. When I read Mike Butcher’s article on the Rocket Internet coup hours after receiving an identical Oliver Samwer quote from Rocket MD Alexander Kudlich hours before, I felt robbed. (See below, Kudlich claims the quote is his own.)
For the last few days, the philosophical implications of Rocket Founder and Managing Director Christian Weiss’s resignation had preoccupied me: Would Oliver’s autocratic leadership inspire future resignations? Would the incubator’s unwillingness to compensate managers with meaningful equity prove unsustainable? Is Rocket a perfect breeding ground for risk averse talent?
It didn’t matter that I’d opened my third 'rocketsplinternet.doc' that hour. It didn’t matter that TechCrunch had butchered a few details in the article, either (for instance, failing to remember that Weiss is no longer CEO of gimigames.com or that he’s still Managing Director at Rocket Internet, at least for the next 15 days).
Nor did it matter that Butcher had neglected to mention perhaps the most important loss: Rocket’s two CTOs (both Java and PHP) as well as core developers left the team in late November, amounting to a total departure of over 10% of Rocket staff not including portfolio companies. According to insider sources, both Weiss’s resignation and the previous tech-xodus were motivated by internal conflicts over firm culture, management style and strategy.
It didn’t matter that I’d taken the story and run with it. Butcher had executed. And he did it first.
But 'First' is a value that Berlin is revolutionizing
—led by the Samwer brothers, who are convincing the world market through the persuasion of high returns that execution is an innovation of its own.
This past summer, 25-year-old former Managing Director Uwe Horstmann left Rocket to complete a PhD at WHU- Otto Beisheim School of Management (alma mater of Oliver Samwer, Rocket MD Florian Heinemann, and FP Commerce GmbH co-founder Felix Jahn). Horstmann is currently planning an incubator as part of his dissertation.
Several trusted sources suggest that Weiss and Horstmann may be working together on an upcoming initiative, though the character is not yet clear. (Left to right: Uwe Horstmann, Christian Weiss)
Whether they will take the risk to start something Rocket disruptive—and whether they will be able to execute, either apart or together—will prove to test Rocket’s model: Is it building entrepreneurs equipped to challenge its hegemony, or just training managers to run its operations?
The year 2012 brings many questions to the Berlin start-up ecosystem.
Has the success of Rocket’s cloning and hard-nosed execution blinded us from a model that could prove even more profitable? Does the ability to take a risk increase with your Klout Score, your funding, your valued education at Germany’s most prominent incubator—or just the opposite? And how will global media outlets like TechCrunch and Wired interact with new innovative editorial spaces like VentureVillage, TechBerlin, and Silicon Allee?
Thanks to Mike Butcher for leaking the story, so I can do something else.
The ability to execute is difficult. The ability to risk, even harder.