Is the Oryx overtaking the Rocket? Another Story on Leadership and Entrepreneurship

Posted on January 25, 2012 by


Now, this might not help you a lot when you are unhappy but in this blog post I want to give you an example of how unsatisfied Rocket Internet employees changed their job/life.

To start with: obviously not everybody has this chance. And thus this isn’t an advise of what you should do, but sort of an inspiration of how taking a risk might turn out just great.

Plus the whole story around Rocket Internet, which is a Berlin based start-up incubator and capital venture, really interests me.

The Brothers’ Style of leading 

As Lukas already described briefly in his blog post Into the Wild Rocket Internet can be a helpful institution when you need financial and networking assistance when founding your start-up. He also mentioned the price you’ll have to pay for signing a contract with them.

The Samwer brothers Oliver, Alexander and Marc founded rocket Internet in 2007,  whereas Oliver is said to be the leader. He just recently wrote a really aggressive  email about his “strategic aims” which has been publicized by TechCrunch – feel  free to read and see what type of person he proves himself to be.

To sum it up –and for those who are lazy to read –he describes his online furniture       strategy as a Blitzkrieg, claiming to be willing to die to win and setting the target to  be more aggressive than any competitor trying to win over the market. Additionally I’d advise you to listen to the by “Blitzkrieg Olli Samwer which was a song made from the email and posted and made fun of on many blogs and social networks ever since.

The original recipient furthermore describes the tone of the email to be “Olli Samwer Style” and that the kind of military motivation he uses is definitely not an exception.

Oliver Samwer obviously apologized for his choice of words he made while being overexcited and very enthusiastic. Honestly for me it sounded like war rather than motivation.

So after reading this email I felt I could relate to those employees being unhappy. As Larissa described in her blog post about leaders being pirates it is good to have a strong and targeted leader, but a pirate only wants the treasure without necessarily shedding blood the way Mr Samwer has it planned out.

In another article describing how their former partners backstabbed the Samwers by founding a competitor the leading style of the Samwers is pointed out to be pressuring and anguishing for partners and employees. To implement Oliver Samwers aims it isn’t seldom to have him shouting and using vulgar language. Another point of criticism by an ex-employee is that quality is decreasing due to the high speed of trying to clone each and every successful US start-up.

If you are interested in Copycats I would advise you to read Lucas post about Berlin based copycat manufacturers.



So by having read about the aggressive and targeted leading style of the Samwer brothers, especially Oliver Samwer, I am sure you understand that some employees aren’t content with the current work atmosphere. So there were some changes made, not by the Samwers or Rocket Internet, but by the employees – to be more specific – by three of the former top managers of RI.

Gründerszene reports on how approximately 10% of Rockets employees left their job due to unacceptable working conditions whereas TechCrunch quotes sources who told them:

All those leaving are up with the Samwers and are going to do something on their own.”

“Many are leaving and the ones that are still there have ‘mentally’ left Rocket.”

Furthermore they report of a very tense situation with many tech leads and CTOs leaving, but still Rocket rather hires managers than entrepreneurs.

Now, what does this mean? Sounds like the end, doesn’t it? But then I wouldn’t expect the Samwers to give up, especially after reading this aimed-to-take-over-the-world-of-furniture-ecommerce-by declaring-war email. Oliver Samwers comment on the recent events:

“Rocket is growing very fast and its team has also been growing very fast. Rocket develops entrepreneurs and sometimes people decide to go their own entrepreneurial route at some point of time. We think this is what Rocket stands for: an entrepreneurial culture. We continue to have a great relationship with Christian and his colleagues and wish them great luck with their new venture.”

And also Christian Weiss, Rocket Internets former co-founder states that he looks back at his time at RI and the past years as a fantastic time and thanks them. Furthermore he is convinced to continue the collaboration in future.


The Oryx Project

The Oryx start-up incubator is being found by those three recently mentioned former Rocket Internet managers. It is said to be a direct competitor to Rocket Internet, being Berlin based and intensively concentrating on talent search – with one significant difference: Oryx wants to concentrate on creating innovation-driven start-ups rather than opening a cloning factory similar to Rocket.

The welcome text on their homepage seems to be a straight backlash at the Samwers by stating: Together with a well established and strong financial partner it is our claim to work with operational excellence in all key areas of success. Thereby we cherish quality and sustainability more than quantity and speed.“

But nevertheless, you cannot forget that Christian Weiss, Uwe Horstmann and Thies Sander have been working with the Samwer brothers for years and for this to be happening there must be similarities or at least acceptance in strategy and leading. So I am asking myself whether their “new start” will identify a whole new strategy and leading style opposing the one the Samwer brothers are carrying out. Or will it be a similar working atmosphere?

Concluding, we can continue to be excited about the next steps of Oryx and it’s strong financial partner Otto Group.

And Now…?

This blog post took me relatively long to write in order not to display wrong facts, but as you may noticed I let the articles and blog post I read influence my opinion and writing. I think, since we do not have the complete insight into the situation it is okay to make up your own opinion and I am honestly curious about the outcome.

Coming back to my topic from the beginning: changing your workplace may also be in order to develop yourself and build something of your own. I cannot judge why there has been a separation of the Samwers and some of their employees, but based on some of the quotes I found, I see reason in the argument that it happened due to discontent.

I do not think it is healthy for anybody to be working in an atmosphere where you do not feel comfortable. Now this isn’t about whining or being unhappy, but in my opinion this is complete self-destruction, which is bound to lead to burnout or depression. And if this is the case even talking about it to your friends won’t help, since it will be an on-going situation. So my strategy still is: keep your head up and work for what you really want.