Investors Take Run For the Border

Mexico.com, a portal for Mexican and Mexican-American Internet users, recently received $7 million in a first round of financing from eCompanies Venture Group and Brener International Group.

The money will be used for new hires, to build its sales and marketing team, enhance existing sites and to construct a consolidated technology infrastructure capable of sustained high usage growth.

“What’s appealing is the uniqueness of the content – it’s very vibrant, and there are few portals targeted to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans,” said Clive Fleissig, chief operating officer with Brener International. “We also feel the pan-regional focus adopted by so many competitors is not sufficiently targeted.”

Rami Schwartz, co-founder and chief executive of Mexico.com was more direct. He said, “Spanish is not a glue strong enough to bond Internet users in Latin America it’s like making an English [-speaking] portal for Americans, Australians, Canadians and Irish.”

As such, Mexico.com offers a variety of Mexico-centric Web site content for both Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

“By serving Mexicans and Mexican-Americans we’re serving the largest Spanish-speaking market in the world – seven out of ten Hispanics (30 million people) in the U.S. are Mexican,” Schwartz said. “We’re building virtual bridges between these communities and their homelands.”

He described this as a grassroots Internet approach, as opposed to the “trickle down Internet [method] so many investors are using.”

Mexico is the second largest Internet market in Latin America after Brazil, with just over one million online users at the end of 1999, according to a recent report from Jupiter Communications. The report also said, however, that the country exemplifies the lack of competition that keeps prices high and slows Internet adoption in markets dominated by a legacy of telecommunications monopoly.