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Plays of the week – Rocket Internet and Access Industries, hub:raum, Better Marks, Pebble Written by Nina Fowler on 11. May 2012

Good Will Hunting

Berlin Web Week – what a week! Re:publica, Betapitch, Heureka!, Startupweekend Berlin, European Venture Market, NEXT and all the deals and parties in between. Now it’s nearly over, here’s a selection of important moves you might have missed.

Rocket Internet’s $200 million backer revealed

dollsTHE LOWDOWN Industry sources reveal US billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries as Rocket Internet’s $200 million mystery backer. The deal – with some details still unknown – would make Access Rocket Internet’s second largest direct investor behind Swedish investment company Kinnevik.
WHY IT MATTERS This fresh injection of capital brings Rocket Internet to a total funding volume of around €855 million – heading close to the €1bn mark. This would make the Samwer brothers’ incubator one of the most significant not only in Germany but across Europe – and will make them a serious force as they continue to rollout companies in Southeast Asia, South America, and the MENA and Turkey region.

Deutsche Telekom launches Berlin incubator Hub:raum


THE LOWDOWN The big news out of NEXT this week: Deutsche Telekom is starting up a new incubator in Berlin, Hub:raum. About 10 to 15 companies per year will be eligible for up to €300,000 in seed funding plus associated mentorship, infrastructure access and other support.
WHY IT MATTERS It won’t be the only incubator backed by a telco giant in Germany – Telefonica will be opening one of its Wayra academies in Munich later this year. Will competition between the two drive a new wave of telco, internet and digital media innovation in Germany? Also pretty cool: innovation academy General Assembly will be extending its network (New York, London) to include Berlin, in partnership with Deutsche Telekom.

Pebble clears $10 million on Kickstarter


THE LOWDOWN “E-paper” watch startup Pebble, out of Palo Alto, California, will raise more than $10 million from over 67,000 individual backers on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter by this time next Friday.
The Pebble watch lets you download different watchfaces and internet-based apps. Those who pledged $235 or more get early access to Pebble’s software development kit – and a valuable headstart on building new apps.
WHY IT MATTERS Venture capitalist and blogger Fred Wilson noted this week that if every American family gave just one per cent of their investable assets to crowdfunding, it’d be worth $300 billion of new venture capital. That may never happen – but Pebble gives irrefutable proof of crowdfunding’s potential.

Holtzbrinck backs online maths portal Better Marks

Good Will Hunting

THE LOWDOWN Leading Munich web investor Holtzbrinck Ventures (backers of Groupon, Zalando, Delivery Hero, Wooga and others) acquired a stake in Berlin online education portal Better Marks this week, in exchange for a €2 million investment. Better Marks, which focuses on school mathematics, wants to use the fresh funds to help develop “growth markets” in Asia and Latin America.
WHY IT MATTERS Holtzbrinck and TIME Magazine, who this year named Klan Academy founder Salman Khan one of the world’s most influential people, are among those to recognise the potential of online eduction. It’s still early days for Better Marks – but it’s part of a trend to watch.