Global business: The IPO dash

By Lauren Paul, CIO |  Business


Within a few weeks, Galperin, his cousin Marcelo Galperin and Hernan Kazah (all Stanford MBAs from Argentina) had recruited several of their Stanford classmates to join MercadoLibre, which started business in Buenos Aires in July 1999. (MercadoLibre was the fourth largest recruiter of Stanford grads that year, behind Goldman Sachs, Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey.) But a top education wasn't the only criterion. These new hires were all natives of the countries in which MercadoLibre operates -- initially Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, and thenn Venezuela, Colombia, Spain, Uruguay and Chile.

Galperin organized MercadoLibre as a U.S. corporation because it inspired confidence in the company's investors, which are for the most part located in the United States. Having a U.S. headquarters also puts the company in a good position to go public on a U.S. stock exchange, should the chance arise. "The ideal would be to go public in the United States because of the liquidity and relevance of the market to our business," says Ignacio Vidaguren, vice president of business development. "But there is always the chance to go public in local [Latin American] exchanges too. The Brazilian and Mexican exchanges are very important."

Vidaguren, an earnest 29-year-old Argentinian with wavy brown hair and arresting green eyes, opened the company's U.S. office in Miami, shortly after joining MercadoLibre in November 1999. Miami seemed the right place for the headquarters, since it is the gateway to Latin America and has a large Hispanic population of its own. Vidaguren had friends at a Latin American investment site that headquartered in South Beach, so he made a few calls to real estate agents there.

By December, MercadoLibre had settled in on the ninth

Ignacio Vidaguren opened MercadoLibre's office in Miami, the gateway to Latin America.

floor of a squat 1970s office building in the chichi Lincoln Road section of South Beach. "By February or March, every single dotcom was trying to get space here. The line was going around the corner," recalls Vidaguren. The manager of the building even asked Vidaguren and his colleagues to vouch for the newer startups that were clamoring for space, including ZDNet and B2bwine.com. But after Internet stocks took a beating on the Nasdaq in April and May, some of the dotcoms that had reserved space never even moved in. Now only a handful of Web startups remain in the building, a constant reminder that existence can be fleeting. (When stressed, MercadoLibre's Miami staff -- almost all natives of Latin America -- blow off steam at Finnegan's, a nearby Irish bar with a palm-ringed patio.)


For better or worse, Europe never experienced the all-out Internet craze that swept the United States.

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