Yuri Milner’s DST Global has joined the Samwer brothers as an investor in Zalando, a German online clothing retailer that rivals Asos of the UK.
Mr Milner and the Samwers were both early investors in Facebook.
DST, which became known for buying shares in Facebook and Twitter through secondary markets, is taking a direct minority 4 per cent stake in Zalando, for an undisclosed sum, the company said on Thursday. The Samwers’ Rocket Internet is already an investor, alongside Holtzbrinck Ventures, Tengelmann Ventures and Kinnevik.
“Zalando has a professional management team, an impressive growth record and great potential to capitalise on the fast-growing European e-commerce market,” said Alexander Tamas, partner at DST Global.
“We look forward to being long-term partners of Zalando on its path to becoming a European internet leader.”
DST has become a leading player in tech venture capital, investing in several Silicon Valley start-ups including Airbnb and Groupon.
The Zalando deal is DST’s third in Europe, after investing in Spotify, the digital music service, and Klarna, an online payments company, last year. DST’s latest bet on the growth of e-commerce follows last year’s investments in Alibaba and 360 Buy, the Chinese online retailers.
“We are very pleased to have won DST as a new shareholder,” said Rubin Ritter, managing director of Zalando. “We look forward to accelerating Zalando’s growth in Europe even further.”
Zalando was founded by David Schneider and Robert Gentz in the Samwers’ Rocket Internet incubator in Berlin in 2008.
After initially mimicking the online shoe retailing business pioneered in the US by Zappos, now part of Amazon, Zalando is expanding into clothing and jewellery, where sales are rising rapidly online as the European e-commerce market grows to $130bn. It offers a range of thousands of products from hundreds of brands.
Most of Zalando’s business is in Germany but it is expanding into other European countries such as Austria and Switzerland. Its UK site opened last year. While it is much smaller than Asos, the new backing from Mr Milner will give Zalando’s UK challenge extra impetus.
The Samwer brothers, a German trio of serial entrepreneurs, invested in Facebook in 2008, around the same time as Microsoft took a stake in the social network at a $15bn valuation. DST subsequently invested in Facebook in 2009 and again in early 2011, at a $50bn valuation, at which point the Samwers sold their stake.
On Wednesday, Facebook filed to raise $5bn in an initial public offering, which is expected to value the company at between $75bn and $100bn.
The Zalando deal is the first time DST and the Samwers have worked together, although a person close to Mr Milner says he is unlikely to invest in Rocket directly, as has been rumoured, because some companies in its portfolio compete with other DST investments.
The Samwer brothers are known in Europe primarily for copying US internet business models and then executing them, rapidly and ruthlessly.
The success of this approach was demonstrated with CityDeal, a German Groupon clone that was acquired by the Chicago-based daily deals company in 2010 for a rumoured €100m, as it began its expansion out of the US. Oliver and Marc Samwer remain closely involved with Groupon’s international growth.
Rocket has been hit by departures of several high-profile staff in recent weeks, some of whom are now setting up a rival incubator, TechCrunch Europe has reported.
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