Rocket Internet’s China operations set to crash unless it finds new investors [Update]

Rocket Internet’s China operations set to crash unless it finds new investors [Update]

From the looks of it, Rocket Internet, the perennial clone producer from the Samwer brothers, may be in trouble overseas. On the heels of reports last week that the self-described startup accelerator might be closing in Turkey, we’ve heard from a reliable source that the company’s China operations could be on the brink as well.

[Updated with response from Rocket Internet below]

According to the tipster, Rocket Internet is urgently looking for new investors and will pull out of the market if it cannot find any. The China operation is believed to have a headcount of around 60 people, all of whose jobs are presumably on the line.

Rocket’s Hong Kong – China ventures, including Square clone Payleven, Airbnb copycat Wimdu and the Zappos-inspired Zalora, are expected to continue to operate in the region.

Rocket Internet was heavily involved with Groupon’s messy entry into China. Filings uncovered by Digicha last year revealed that Rocket Asia, a subsidiary of Rocket Internet, sold 9 percent of its stake in Gaopeng, the domestic joint venture that also involved local Internet giant Tencent, to Groupon for $45 million. That would have valued the company at $500 million, an impressive figure, given that it had posted $46 million in losses during the first three quarters of 2011.

Gaopeng went on to merge with rival group-buying service FTuan, which was also backed by Tencent, earlier this year.

The Samwer brothers have been making rapid plays in Southeast Asia. Within months of landing on the ground in Indonesia, Rocket Internet had hired hundreds of employees and released several products into the market. A steady stream of Rocket-backed clones have been been entering Asia, including Zalora, an Amazon clone called Lazada and Pinspire, an obvious Pinterest ripoff.

Though the Samwer brothers have made plenty of enemies the world over, they’ve also built up some friends in Asia. Assuming that Rocket Internet’s China division is indeed looking for investors to keep it running, it will be interesting to see if any of those friends put their money where their mouth is.

Update: “China is currently not a focus market from a company building perspective, but the existing ventures remain operating. What we have done in the past 2 weeks is to relocate a PHP dev center from China to Porto, where we already operate a big hub,” said Andreas Winiarski, Head of PR Rocket Internet.

Image via Flickr / Jurvetson

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