Inside the the “Samwer cloning factory”: what’s it like to work at Rocket Internet?



A few days ago, Xing acquired Kununu, a platform where employees can rate their employers. Village Venture checked out how a few of Germany’s startups are being rated on Kununu by their employees. One of them was Rocket Internet, and it seemed interesting to look a bit more closely at the company, given all the hubbub surrounding its possible/rumored IPO.

Here’s a few of the ratings that ex-employees give Rocket Internet. Overall, the scores are pretty good – prompting one reviewer to allege that Rocket Internet is actually manipulating the scores.

Martin Varsavsky recently wrote about starting a company in Europe:

 the intense regulation of work is something that I found extremely annoying as a US-trained tech entrepreneur.  In Germany, where I built Einsteinet, for example, there are rules that state how many meters an employee has to be from a window.

Many of the workspaces that are used in NYC are illegal in Germany because these employees are far from windows and in very small desks—prohibitively crowded environments by German law. In Berlin there are many start ups who break these rules but I don’t know how long this is going to last.  I hope Germany goes the way of Berlin in adopting further flexibility for start ups.

It seems like Rocket is more American-style, according to one reviewer: “Some people sit very cramped and only window to the atrium (no fresh air and no sunlight, extremely ugly). ”

It’s clear from the ratings that Rocket is a very lean machine: hard work, long hours, low pay. And not much frills either: “If you want to phone someone, use Skype”.

Here’s a few sample ratings, from the good to the bad and the ugly:

“Great company” (4.6/5)

Rocket is a great company to work for. I was working with an excellent team Consisting of very talented and competent people. The working atmosphere was great! 

New ideas are always welcome and you get the resources you need to implement them. It is a fast-paced environment Which offers great opportunities for your professional development. Everybody works very hard but at the same time the company does not forget about the well-being of its employees. There are several employee events. 

Moreover, you get beverages, cereals and fruits for free. You can also decide for yourself at what time in the morning you would like to start work. Rocket Employs only the best of the best so working for them means learning from the best and meeting a lot of talented people from all over the world since it is a very international company as well. 

Furthermore, working for Rocket Internet opens a lot of doors for you in the e-commerce sector.

“The pay is a bad joke” (2,5/5)

Supervisor behavior: Because of my area of responsibility I have very little contact with my superiors. When I do, however, it’s mostly respectful.

Colleagues:You get the feeling that everyone feels a little more important than you .

Interesting tasks: The Rocket offers for which they intend to interesting fields in which one can enjoy themselves very well. In the end it is a very good launching pad. 

Communication: Communication is one of the biggest problems of the company. There is much talk that, unfortunately, often misses the point. 

Work-Life Balance: What is “life”? Sure, you can organise your own work, but if you can’t finish it in your eight hour work day, that means your leisure time is going out the window. In bad times I’m working up to 70 hours a week! 

Dealing with colleagues 45 +: Nobody older than 45 works here. Rocket places a heavy emphasis on employing young people.

Career / education: I think that there are opportunities for advancement within the company. However, it’s like that everywhere, that the only notice the blind and therefore have to fall down a lot of performers.

Salary and Benefits: Salary is ridiculous. When you consider the responsibilities you have to shoulder, the pay is a bad joke.

Image: If you want to take on responsibilities, Rocket is a good choice. If you want work-life balance, forget it.

“Much self-created suffering! I do not recommend it!” (2,6/5)

Supervisor behavior: Always friendly. 

Colleagues: Dealing with each other is mostly good. There are regular team and staff events, such as karaoke, beach volleyball, football tournaments, etc.. 

Working atmosphere: Everything must asap. There is a lot of stress and a lot of self-created suffering. In many places there’s a lack of qualified and adequately informed staff  (many trainees, career changers, no time for adequate training, learn by doing and learn from mistakes ). Very peculiar philosophy.

Communications: There is always much ado about nothing. There is much talk, but said nothing.

Working conditions (space, …): The new rooms are very nice, but almost too small for the very fast growing company again. Some people sit very cramped and only window to the atrium (no fresh air and no sunlight, extremely ugly). Drinks for free, good selection of drinks. Employee lounge and football table and patio. The organization of the office management should be reconsidered. For some study materials you will wait forever.

Interaction with colleagues 45 +: It’s more of an under 40 company.

Image: I would not recommend it.

“Rocket manipulates these ratings!”  (1,7/5)

Supervisor behavior: not very good! 

Working environment: There’s no proper offices. every day one has to search a new chair and desk! 

Communication: very very bad communication.in fact you dont know who is who until they fire you. 

Work-life balance: you have to even work at weekends! . and it does not mean that you wont get fired when project is almost completed

Equality: most of the employees are male. . so one can not really say about it 

Dealing with colleagues 45 +: there are mostly young employees. the bosses who are older than 45 are very bad at communication. the only thing they communicate is time when they fire the employees! 

Opportunities for advancement: forget it!

Image: they alway fire the employees during the probation time, which means one is working thier ass off with surprise of being fired! very bad image. ex employees created another company named Project A. The one who runs the whole thing, are very unfriendly. They only think of employees as robots!

Pro: 
the colleagues are friendly but not certain other individuals.

Contra: 
the rating here is mostly manipulated.
very bad communication!
no proper offices!
IT structure is still like in the early 90s!
no telephone for employees! use skype!
lot of rivalries between bosses! which results in firing employee! collateral damage!
they easily make it to look like someone else’s fault.

Read what people say about Xing, Groupon and Zalando at Village Venture

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist at Humo whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning post before starting Whiteboard in 2012. He profiles entrepreneurs and businesses and loves to chat on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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