Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2000 (Revised April 2000)

StarMedia: Launching a Latin American Revolution

by Thomas R. Eisenmann and Jon K Rust

Abstract

By the fall of 1999, StarMedia had sprinted to a sizable lead in the race to acquire Latin American Internet users. Its pan-regional, horizontal portal was the first to target Spanish- and Portuguese-language speakers on the Internet, registering 1.2 billion page views in the third quarter of 1999. Thirty-three-year-old StarMedia co-founder Fernando Espuelas was the toast of "Silicon Alley" and a recognized hero throughout Latin America. A picture of him on the cover of Internet World magazine--ripping his shirt open to show the StarMedia logo, like Superman, summed up the spirit of the company. But each day brought an announcement of a new initiative by a heavyweight nemesis. To maintain its lead, StarMedia raised and spent money at a frenetic pace, promoting its brand, acquiring companies, and launching new Web initiatives. Losses for 1999 were projected to be $90 million on revenues of $19 million, a burn rate made sustainable by private and public financing rounds that had netted the company half a billion dollars since its 1996 inception. By December 1999, StarMedia had evolved from a pure Web company to an integrated media company that stretched into the ISP, mobile phone, and broadband production businesses with more than 700 employees in 12 countries. As the new millennium dawned, the major question facing StarMedia's executive team was how to best leverage the company's infrastructure to maintain and extend its traffic leadership--and to monetize its audience--in an environment that was becoming both more competitive and more sophisticated. Includes color exhibits.

Keywords: Private Ownership; History; Risk Management; Business Cycles; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Infrastructure; Media; Emerging Markets; Cross-Cultural and Cross-Border Issues; Web; Information Technology Industry; Web Services Industry;

Citation:

Eisenmann, Thomas R., and Jon K Rust. "StarMedia: Launching a Latin American Revolution." Harvard Business School Case 800-166, January 2000. (Revised April 2000.)