marcos galperin

Marcos Galperin: The Latin Entrepreneur Behind Mercado Libre

July 12, 2020

There are many Latin entrepreneurs and successful Latin businesses but few as well-known as Marcos Galperin and Mercado Libre.

In 1999 eBay had been on the market for 5 years already, enough to have attracted many budding entrepreneurs to try to imitate their success story. It was that same year that three Stanford MBAs: Marcos Galperin, Hernan Kazah, and Stelleo Tolda started Mercado Libre, venturing into the challenging Latin Market.

Marcos Galperin, President and the CEO of the company until January 2020, had a leading role in the whole process. He isn’t a self-made man, born to a well-established Argentinian family, owners of a leather company, SADESA, little Marcos received the best education in private schools in Buenos Aires and was even selected for Argentina’s junior national rugby team.

Later, he decided to continue his education at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Everybody knows that making friends is an essential part of college life, but making good friends can positively influence your future life. Marcos Galperin befriended José Estenssoro, who happened to be the son of the president of YPF, an Argentinian energy company.

In 1994 after they graduated, Galperin joined his friend’s company after returning to his home country. Three years later, he applied to Stanford University in California’s Silicon Valley.

It was in Stanford where he met the other co-founders of Mercado Libre: Hernan Kazah and Stelleo Tolda. All of them studied the eBay case and started working on the Latin American version of the platform.

Good ideas are sometimes enough and a legend says that it was thanks to an important car drive, that the company was brought to life.

Marcos Galperin volunteered to drive to the airport a speaker invited by the Stanford students. It was John Muse, a private equity manager, and that short drive was enough for Galperin to successfully pitch his idea to his future investor.

Mercado Libre wasn’t the only company following the same business model in Latin America, but it was the most patient one, and the most focused on the product. While other competitors bet on rapid growth and marketing, Mercado Libre was organically gaining strength.

The Latin American Market is not easy for online sales due to limited Internet access and general mentality, people don’t want to buy a product they cannot touch before. Add to it local regulations that change from one country to another and you will understand why the South American territory is so challenging for ambitious business plans.

The founders, however, understood their own market and worked with persistence. In 2001, eBay noticed the competitor, acquired 19.5% of shares, and signed an agreement to not enter the Latin American territory for the next five years. It was enough to secure steady growth.

Marcos Galperin took the company public in 2007 on the Nasdaq index and the company had a very successful debut despite the difficult economic times that followed the next year. In 2019 this Latin American giant celebrated 20 years on the market with a still very promising future ahead.

In January 2020, Galperin resigned as CEO in Argentina but he continues directing the whole company with his partners.

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