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Latin American Portal Shifts Into High Gear

By Robert Conlin & James Hollander
Jul 29, 1999 12:00 AM PT

Roberto Cibrian-Campoy, CEO and co-founder of Latin American portal El Sitio International, expects his company to grow six-fold by the year 2002. Judging by the fast track the company is on in recent months, Cibrian-Campoy might just get his wish.

Latin American Portal Shifts Into High Gear

The recipients of $44 million (US$) in private equity placement last month - one of the largest first-round sums in Internet history - El Sitio made a three-pronged announcement Wednesday.

The Spanish and Portuguese-language portal announced that it opened an office in Miami in preparation for the anticipated September launch of its U.S. site. Secondly, El Sitio signed an agreement that will have e-mail and messaging service provider USA.NET provide El Sitio customers with e-mail addresses. And third, they chose e-commerce logistics company, From2.com to provide logistics and shipping services to fulfill international e-commerce transactions on the company's site.

Moves Crucial To Expansion

The opening of a U.S. office and the agreements with the two companies are sure signs that, armed with cash, El Sitio intends to aggressively expand as the competition for the Spanish-speaking market heats up. Cibrian-Campoy said the move into the U.S. helps El Sitio plug a gap.

"The Latino-American community is finally earning recognition as a vital and powerful market," he said. "With more than 30 percent of El Sitio's traffic coming from the U.S., we felt it necessary to address the needs of this growing and highly prominent cultural group.

El Sitio's CEO said the agreement with From2.com, a Miami-based company, helps the portal overcome the obstacles posed by international e-commerce transactions.

"In an effort to distinguish El Sitio from our competitors, we noticed that the weak link in the e-commerce equation was the inability of both merchants and end users to accurately calculate international shipping costs," Cibrian-Campoy noted. "Equally frustrating was finding a way to physically ship products abroad. Our alliance with From2.com provides a truly innovative and practical solution to the international e-commerce challenge."

Latin-American and Proud Of It

El Sitio was founded in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1996 and the company is proud of its Latin American heritage. Most Spanish-language Web sites are aimed at a hybrid of Spanish speakers with little concern for local content, Cibrian-Campoy noted in a previous interview with the E-Commerce Times.

In contrast, he said, El Sitio develops local content through a stable of 80 journalists working out of offices in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Brazil and Montevideo, Uruguay. The company also intends to invest heavily in developing local content for Chile, Colombia and Venezuela in the coming year. El Sitio recently unveiled its Portuguese-language site, Osite, which is designated for the huge Brazilian market.

With 300,000 registered users and a huge untapped market ahead of it, Cibrian-Campoy just might reach that two-year goal with something to spare.


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