Are Rocket Internet the ultimate innovators?

rocket-innovationI’ve mentioned numerous times about the crucial role recombination plays in innovation, and that there is often a huge discrepancy between what innovators are doing, and what the majority are doing.

I have often said that this discrepancy between those at the forefront and those in the pack means that in reality, the future does already exist somewhere in some shape or form, and that the best form of business model is therefore to sense what’s going on around you, and then be adaptive enough to respond rapidly to what you sense.

And yet, despite that, we still tend to define innovation as the creation of truly new and novel things.  To copy or remix existing ideas is seen as the worst thing imaginable.

Might one of the biggest tech companies in Europe provide a telling antidote to this innovation status quo?

Rocket powered innovation

Rocket Internet are the German based company with over 100 online based ventures.  Their whole model rests on the copying of approaches that have proved successful elsewhere.

The model has proven hugely successful, with around 25% of all European startups valued at over $1 billion being a Rocket Internet venture.

Before we fall into the trap of thinking such an approach is easy or cheating in some way, it’s worth remembering the challenges involved.

Not least of these is the inherent differences involved in launching a proven concept in a new territory.  Even when two places seem to share many similarities, they are usually full of profound differences.

Overcoming these various cultural, legal, geographic and institutional differences therefore is no mean feat.  That the company has managed to achieve it in over 100 countries thus far is testament to their success.

Execution entrepreneurs

Rather than focusing on creating new ideas, the founders openly admit to being experts at execution instead.

“We are builders of companies, we are not innovators. Someone else is the architect and we are the builders,” Oliver Samwer explained in Wired magazine.

The company is quick to judge the potential success of a new venture.  They typically get 100 days to get off the ground, which places them in similar terrain to incubators.

If things are showing signs of success, then things are rapidly scaled up.  If they’re not then resources are ruthlessly reallocated elsewhere.

Of course, with the unique challenges involved in ‘copying’ ideas and implementing them elsewhere, this should in no way be considered an easy undertaking or some kind of shortcut.

It does however, highlight the results that can be achieved by being exceptional executioners of ideas that have already shown promise elsewhere.


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