Rocket lieutenant jumps to clone-free rival incubator

Update: While it was no secret that Florian Heinemann, CEO of Rocket Internet, was on his way out, it’s now official: he’s jumped ship to become managing director of new rival incubator Project A Ventures.
Florian HeinemannHeinemann is heading up Project A’s marketing side, the company confirmed on Friday, much as he did at the Samwer brothers’ operation. It’s a big win for Project A, which is pitching itself as a more creative alternative to Rocket.
Berlin’s Rocket has gained international notoriety as a highly successful incubator-slash-accelerator for clones. The company readily admits that it doesn’t do original ideas, but prefers to copy other startups’ business models (and, it should be noted, site designs) and move to beat them in terms of execution and expansion.
Over the last few months around 20 top Rocket staff, including MD Uwe Horstmann and founding CEO Christian Weiss, bailed out to start another venture. Horstmann was quite explicit that their goal was to “approach projects with more innovation and move away from the copycat model”.
The new incubator was initially called the Oryx Project, but by the end of the month it had started setting itself up as Project A. Now the company is trying to fill dozens of vacancies and get properly up and running.
Already, Project A — which has backing from German mail-order giant the Otto Group — lists two companies in its portfolio: men’s fashion site Amerano and high-end alcohol service Wine In Black.
Heinemann had worked with the Samwers since their Jamba days (yes, the Crazy Frog company). I’ve asked Rocket for comment on his departure, but haven’t heard back yet.
Update: Rocket has got back to us with a statement.
According to Rocket, since 2010 he has been “mostly involved in Rocket’s larger portfolio companies, and less in the incubator’s own daily business”.
“After working at an incubator, it is completely natural to try to build one’s own project, so we fully understand Florian’s step and wish him good luck for his future and all the best,” co-CEO Alexander Kudlich said.
Heinemann’s replacement is founder and current Googler Johannes Bruder, who will start as co-CEO in April. Other incoming names at Rocket include Metaversum CEO Christian Hardenberg as the new CTO, and Ferdinand Kalm (a Nestle man until recently) as COO in charge of global e-commerce.
That’s right, global. In Kudlich’s words: “We are creating structures to support our ventures globally, to guarantee full success in the future. We are now shifting gears to go even further and faster, at a global scale.”
Look out, U.S. There’s a Rocket heading your way.