We woke up early in the morning after our day in Stuttgart and boarded a direct flight to our final destination: Berlin. The capital city boasts a population of over 3.5 million people with an economy that revolves around the high-tech and service sector. Recently, the city has seen the emergence of a bustling entrepreneurial scene. We went directly to two leaders in the startup space Rocket Internet and Zalando.
Rocket Internet was founded in 2007 and is now a public company that has based it’s operations on copying the business models of other established companies and replicating this in different geographies. At the meeting we learned more about the process in which they hire founders to execute on a strategy in different countries. They actively avoid countries where local incumbents are present or have a distinct advantage (China, USA, and increasingly India). The roll-out of these strategies is very standardized despite each subsidiary company possessing very different markets or products. The company attempts to marry local knowledge and agility of a startup with the precision of a large corporation.
Following our meeting with rocket we then made our way to one of their run-away success stories. Zalando is also now public and got their start imitating US retailer Zappos. Here we met with the SVP of Operations, David Schroder (who spent a semester at CBS), to learn about how the company plans to be Europe’s largest fashion retailer. We learned about the challenges of growth and how they struggled with credibility issues before reaching scale. The company now has a presence in many European countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and the United Kingdom.
After checking in the group went to an Alumni Mixer at Bar Le Labo – the city’s first liquid nitrogen bar – for some appetizers and drinks with Alumni, Columbia University Students, and prospective business school students. During the night the owner Le Labo, Tobias Wittich, showed us his co-working space (Rainmaking Loft) where entrepreneurs can avail of a seat for minimal cost. Further the loft hosts global startup programming such as Startup Bootcamp. Current residents of the loft are involved in many different industries such as fintech, food, and transportation.
Following this tour and reception we all enjoyed a night out in Berlin before heading back to our hotel to prepare for the last day of company visits.
Diego Cuenca ’16
Chazen Germany 2016