Germany’s Rocket reveals IPO with eye on taking over (most of) the world

Germany’s Rocket Internet has announced its upcoming initial public offering (IPO) later this year.

The company, started by the Samwer brothers (pictured above) seven years ago, said it intended to use the flotation on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange to become “the world’s largest internet platform outside of the United States and China.” It’s looking to raise €750 million ($970 million) to fund this growth.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rocket, the incubator/accelerator is something of a clone factory, taking proven business models and driving them into markets that the original company (Airbnb in the case of Rocket’s Wimdu, Stripe in the case of Rocket’s Paymill, and so on) isn’t ready to address yet. It’s huge in e-commerce but also very much into financial technology and marketplaces. It’s enormous, it internationalizes at breakneck speed and it’s also responsible for training up loads of business-minded startup people in hubs from Berlin to Cape Town to Sao Paolo.

Having built a global infrastructure that lets it test out “new” ideas at will, that stated aim of taking over the non-U.S., non-Chinese e-commerce world is actually pretty plausible. It should also be noted that Rocket companies may start out as thinly-disguised copies, but they sometimes evolve into recognizable entities in their own right.

The fashion retailer Zalando is the clearest example here – once a Rocket-incubated Zappos clone, it will see its own Frankfurt IPO later this year too (each company is expected to be worth around $5 billion after their IPOs.) Rocket’s various companies have 20,000 employees in total, across over 100 countries.

Rocket’s IPO will only provide new shares – its existing shareholders won’t sell any of theirs for at least a year. Those shareholders are: the Samwers’ Global Founders vehicle, Kinnevik, Access Industries, Holzbrinck Ventures and its affiliates, United Internet, and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), which invested in Rocket last month (giving Rocket a $4.5 billion valuation.)