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MercadoLibre Grows Latin America’s Online Marketplace

With nearly 32 million visitors last year and its first quarterly dividend in the bank, Latin America's MercadoLibre e-commerce site is on its way, founder Marcos Galperin, MBA '99, told a Stanford Graduate School of Business audience during a recent visit.

In its early days, the founders of MercadoLibre wanted to ensure that their online company, considered the eBay of Latin America, just survived.

The e-commerce enterprise, founded in 1999 by several Stanford Graduate School of Business alumni, has not only survived but thrived, and is now taking strategic steps to beef up its services as more users throughout the region flock to the internet.

The Latin American online e-commerce site recently announced its first quarterly dividend on the heels of a $6 million profit and $200 million in revenue last year. "It’s a great thing to be able to give back to our shareholders some of the money they have invested," said CEO Marcos Galperin, MBA '99, who founded MercadoLibre — Spanish for "free market" — right after graduating from the GSB.

Galperin addressed more than 100 students at the GSB on March 3 as part of the Global Speaker Series, an event cosponsored by the Latin America Student Association and the Entrepreneurship Club. He detailed moves the company is making to capitalize on the trends that have boosted internet penetration in the region from 3% in 1999 to 36% today.

MercadoLibre is the dominant e-commerce platform in Latin America, with 31.8 million unique visitors last year and an average of 1.7 billion pages viewed monthly. Launched in Argentina, the company now operates in 12 countries, including Brazil, its largest single market. U.S.-based auction giant eBay took a 20% stake in 2001 and is MercadoLibre’s biggest minority shareholder.

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