Based primarily in Berlin, the operation is largely a 'cloning' one, centered around the identification of potentially-lucrative and somewhat-proven tech-based products in established markets such as the US and UK, copying them, and rolling them out into emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and Latin America, at a massive scale.
To better explain the general view of Rocket Internet, consider this comment on HN:
They're incredible at what they do and that isn't building innovative, new businesses. They've probably made more successful (in terms of revenue, exit, etc) web businesses than anyone else has. They've scaled up ideas into big companies by bringing on a lot of capital.
I don't respect them because they don't use this to build new, long term businesses and tear into others intellectual property but I can acknowledge their success thus far.
What people seem to consistently fail to see (usually until I point it out in conversation), is that the Samwer brothers have built a hugely innovative and groundbreaking company in a nascent industry, in which their company is by far the world leader.
That industry is startup arbitrage - the art of taking the good ideas of slow-moving startups and implementing them in markets that are still missing them.
Rocket Internet has cloned Square in Europe? Well, why isn't Square in Europe already? It's too hard? Rocket Internet proves that it can be done, and quickly.
In short, Rocket Internet, like all other arbitrage companies, are simply making the market more fluid, liquid, and more competitive. I am sure that in the future there will be many more companies like Rocket, and future founders of ambitious startups merely need to count this as part of their expansion plans.
The age of ignoring markets like Europe, Brazil or China until later is over. Startups with global ambitions need to be aggressively international from day one now - or pay a fee to startup arbitrage companies, the first of which is Rocket Internet.
This is probably the most important meta-innovation in the startup world since YCombinator (who themselves fund competing startups in different markets).
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