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Rocket Internet, a unique technology incubator based in Germany, invests in and develops startups in Europe and emerging markets that are versions of successful technology firms primarily located in the United States, such as eBay, Zappos, Amazon and Groupon. Fundamentally, the company seeks to reduce the uncertainty of entrepreneurial startup ventures by imitating proven business models and replicating them in other geographic regions. Rocket Internet has recently begun to expand into emerging markets more aggressively, and its chief executive officer must now decide on the best strategy to continue the firm’s global expansion.
The main objective of the case is to guide students through Rocket Internet’s complex and innovative business model by analyzing whether the model offers a stable competitive advantage, and whether it effectively reduces uncertainty for entrepreneurs looking to start a business. This case is ideally suited for an entrepreneurship, international business or strategy course at the MBA or executive education level, to address how disruptive firms can succeed internationally where most entrepreneurs typically fail, while also highlighting successful technology firms’ vulnerabilities to imitation.