German startup juggernaut Rocket Internet is famed for its frenzied pace of execution – taking a business from idea to implementation in a couple of months – and aggressively scaling thereafter.
Part of how the incubator manages to do that is because it’s able to rely on dedicated engineering hubs in Berlin and Portugal. Developers work with local teams on the ground in Asia and Africa to build websites and apps as well as manage things like online marketing and data analytics.
The cost of maintaining these hubs is then billed back to the local startups, contributing to a complex financial structure that leaves some analysts scratching their heads.
The German company announced today that it’s investing in its third hub globally (and first in Asia), which will be based in Bangkok. This center will concentrate on startups under the umbrella of the Asia Pacific Internet Group (APACIG) – Rocket’s joint venture in Asia along with Qatar telecommunications giant Ooredoo.
The tech hub will start servicing the engineering needs of four APACIG startups for now – hotel platform Zenrooms, travel-booking site Jovago, and classifieds sites Everjobs and Ads.
It’s headed by recent hires Sohil Gilani, chief product officer of APACIG, and Alex Stansfield, head of engineering. It has a current headcount of 20 product managers, developers, and engineers. Rocket’s already recruiting more people to join the team and Hanno Stegmann, CEO of APACIG, says it’s likely that the overall employee tally will “more than double by the end of 2017.”
“The decision where we will start the tech hub was tough, there are many rising cities all across Asia. We decided for Bangkok, as there is a strong base of local tech talents, many expats consider it a city worth living in, and it is a key market for some of our companies,” explains Hanno.
Both Sohil and Alex have extensive backgrounds in product management and engineering prior to their roles at APACIG. Sohil’s worked at eBay and Walmart and was also the chief product officer at Lazada. His LinkedIn profile indicates he relinquished the role shortly after Lazada’s acquisition by Alibaba. Alex has held software development jobs in London and Southeast Asia in a career spanning several years.
One of the core tenets of the hub is to deepen Rocket’s regional expertise in building products tailored for Asian consumers as well as bring the tech team closer to their markets. They’ll be drawing upon their years of experience gleaned from Berlin and Portugal but also infuse an Asian flavor.