Author:Wyss, Jim

LIKE MOST TEENS, MARCOS MOLINA HAS SHOWDOWNS with his parents over tying up the phone. In his case, however, the line is filled with modem chatter as the 16-year-old and his friends make their bid for Internet fame and fortune.

Molina, Eduardo Raad, 16, and Gustavo Guadamud, 18, are the owners of Portal Co. with headquarters in Ecuador's coastal city of Guayaquil--more specifically, in Marcos' bedroom.

For the last seven months, the trio have been dedicating all their spare time to building the country's first serious portal site on the World Wide Web. "We're starting in Ecuador, but our real objective is to be the start-up page for the entire Spanish-speaking world," Marcos says. The group gets its inspiration from powerful U.S. sites like Excite and Go Network, and hopes to give surfers free e-mail, web hosting and an array of personalized information.

The dream--which materialized during a street-hockey game--has a price tag. "I read somewhere that it took a hundred people and about two million dollars to build the Go Network page," Marcos says. Portal Ca. wants backers, too, but the young entrepreneurs figure they can get up and running with about US$20,000 to purchase e-mail and news services needed to make the site entertaining.

While the search for venture capital continues, the empty portal is registering Internet users with a promise to send an e-mail alert when the business goes live. Hopes are high in the bedroom braincenter that operations will be running by the middle of the year. "We're going to have a launch party at one of...

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