Global business: The IPO dash

By Lauren Paul, CIO |  Business

For the most part, however, going public -- the Holy Grail for all startups -- is no more remote for overseas ventures than for their U.S. counterparts, if they can survive the hard knocks of early startup life, such as funding crises, personnel pitfalls and jittery markets. The three overseas startups profiled here are all at different stages of the new-venture life cycle. Whether headed for an IPO, mere profitability or oblivion, these companies' survival skills have enabled them (by press time at least) to hang on in the face of uncertainty. We follow their twists and turns as they struggle to avoid the global dotcom shakeout.

In Latin America, local funding is harder to come by, unless you have an "in" with regionally formed incubators or family-run companies that control much of the financial capital in these countries.

The $7 million chauffeur

In the spring of 1999, Marcos Galperin was fresh out of Stanford Graduate School of Business with nothing but an MBA and an idea when he caught a lucky break. Moved by the spectacular success of eBay, Galperin dreamed of creating a person-to-person auction site for Latin America. "Latins are very used to bargaining, and they don't throw away used stuff. It was a fantastic model for these countries," says Galperin. He reasoned he had better insight into the diverse Latin American cultures than any U.S. company and would be better able to handle intercountry customs and bureaucracy. The then 28-year-old Argentinian had stayed in touch with Stanford Graduate School of Business Dean A. Michael Spence (now retired), and he brought the idea to him. Spence liked it and offered Galperin the chance to take his friend John Muse -- who just happened to be founder of the Dallas VC firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst -- to the airport. Galperin walked away from that trip with seed money for his venture, called MercadoLibre ("free market" in Spanish). Shortly thereafter, other investors ponied up a total of $7 million for the first official round of funding.

The rate of Internet adoption in the Latin American countries is still between only 3 percent to 5 percent of the population, depending on the country.

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