ON MEXICO CITY'S TRAFFIC-CHOKED PERIFERICO HIGHWAY ALL BILL-boards point to cyberspace--pitching the latest soccer scores on futbol.com, an online head-hunter on laborum.com, or a CD purchase via the Sanborn's department store website.
Mexico is the second largest Internet market in Latin America after Brazil. The estimated 1.5 million users could triple by 2002. The Mexico City consulting firm Select IDC predicts e-commerce will skyrocket to US$1.9 billion in 2003 from $22 million in 1998.
But not everyone will have access to the future Internet community. About 60% of families live on less than $700 a month and only about 3% of the population have home computers. Only about 10% have a phone and lines are hard to come by.
To make Internet access cheaper and easier, a number of large telecommunications companies have begun to package free Internet access with inexpensive computers. One is Telmex, the nation's largest telephone company, which offers a computer and free Internet access for $50 a month and a payment deadline of two years.
"If you increase the number of Internet users by one percentage point in lower income groups" says Jose Garces, Select IDC's head of Internet research, "Internet penetration explodes."
Business Wunderkind. With an MBA from Stanford and years in the business trenches, Jose Marin knows a good investment when he sees one. So, after researching web business possibilities in Mexico City for a Boston consulting company, Mann joined with Latin America's best and brightest from places like Harvard Business School to form a web auction house in 1999.
Now, the site--DeRemate.com--has more than 70,000 Latin American customers, a number he is quite proud of: "We really believe it is an incredible achievement, without precedent for an Internet company in Latin America."
The success has certainly attracted international attention.
Aucland.com, a leading French online auction website recently agreed to provide US$700,000 in technology in exchange for 10% of the company. Other equity heavy hitters including Citibank, Merrill Lynch, the Texas Pacific Group and...