Origin

BY aarrieta

I was born in 1973, in a middle class family at neighbourhood of Flores in the City of Buenos Aires.

In 1985, being 12 years old my mother gave me my first computer as a present. This event, apparently meaningless, would have a great impact in my life, even though that this moment was unforeseeable.

In 1989, being 16 years old, while studying electronics at a public school in Floresta neighbourhood, I find my first job assembling electronic components. Then I would have other less important jobs, but which will contribute to my professional development from the bottom. Another job that gave me a lot of experience was running errands for a company, since it taught me how to deal with unknown people, etc.

In 1991, being 18 I got my first job as a programmer trainee. Of course I was working for free but at least I was learning to program better than in a course or a seminar.

At that time I was nerd enough to buy me a MODEM and to spend hours connecting with my friends to bbs. (Which at that time was the most similar thing to Internet).

Thanks to my cousin moving to Canada, my aunt proposed me to finance an e-mail account on the Internet to be able to keep in touch with her. Being the IT referent of my whole family, it was my duty to use this account with the repayment of teaching my aunt how to use the electronic mail, at that time via UUCP, which is an asynchrony way of email communication.

That internship let me, in 1994, being hired by the person that taught me to program, so I started working for Century Computers, a company with an incipient division on software development.

By then with two of my nerd friends, with whom we used to connect to bbs, and formed a node of Fidonet (message system parallel to the Internet, that at that time had more users in Argentina than Internet itself), we heard that the company Startel (owned by Telefonica and Telecom equally), was organizing a seminar in which they were planning to launch of commercial Internet in Argentina.

At this seminar they explained the basis to install a commercial ISP selling them the connection. With my 2 friends we collected some money for the seminar and to finance the project, to be able to have our own ISP, which will guarantee having a good connection to the Internet for personal use, more than for a great business.

It is needless to say that the project that we wanted to build stayed only in going to the seminar, to which by a matter of luck or time I ended up going by myself.

The unbelievable part of this story is that when I told my boss that I had attended this seminar, he told another manager and then to the owner of the company and after that, they launched a new business unit: Century Internet.

With my naive vision at that time I couldn’t appreciate the political root of it. The only thing I perceived was the possibility of having access to a quality Internet connection, which after all was my motivation at the beginning.

The wise thing about Raul Blisniuk, entrepreneur and founder of Century Computers, and then of Century Internet, was his vision of competing directly with Startel and to connect directly to Telintar, monopoly provider at that time of the national connectivity. It was necessary to apply for a provider permit and to guarantee a monthly investment of USD40.000, for a 64k link, 1/1000. The same a cable modem connection is offering today for a few pesos.

At that moment Internet was pretty different, mosaic was used to surf, there was no Explorer, nor Netscape. Google neither Yahoo were search engines but a list of links. And instead of music or video online services, we used gopher and newsgroup.

This first entrepreneurial failure was very useful to acquire a lot of experience in the technological and business areas which in the future would be key for many professional development.

In this context my roles within Century Internet was at the beginning to be in charge of servers and operations maintenance, activating users, email accounts, domains, etc.

Later I was appointed to technical support areas and training technical support executive and sales people. Then I would be in charge as webmaster and hostmaster of coordinating the development of sites and the technical presale of links and designing connectivity solutions for companies. Knowledge was what let me take care of all this issues and to lead in this strength.

By then I was studying IT at UTN, but being work a priority, I was missing many classes due to work and learning new thinks there, where I had access to knowledge that I was not getting from university. The consequence of that is that I studied for only 3 years missing a lot of subject and I never graduated as an IT Engineer.

Little by little I was moving from a technical profile to a more commercial one and each transition was enriching my profile.

In 1995 Century Internet make a spin off of the Internet unit and sales the business unit to Inea, an engineering company that decides to diversify its income trying with the Internet.

That was the first time that I traded companies without trading desks.

Previously, in the middle of a transition mess without communication and payment stops to connection providers and after threatens of service cut, together with some of my co-workers and as I was “domain proprietor” for the Nic, we decided to make a deal with another service provider to migrate the remaining users of Century to another provider. In fact the users were moved for 3 days, until we found out that Inea had bought Century and they would take responsibility for resuming services by refinancing the debts of the company. After clarifying the situation we brought the users back, and at that time without diallers that would make the task much simpler.

My role in Inea deepened my commercial profile at the same time that allowed me to continue accumulating technical knowledge, which strengthen my leadership and let me communicate with any IT manager at the same level.

In 1996, one day I receive a call with a job offer from a person that I had taken to work to Century and that since a year before he had been working at S&M Internet (another ISP). They offered me and interview with one of the founders of S&M and at that interview they asked me to propose some improvements for the business. Without formal knowledge about strategy, the only thing that I could do was to lean on a conference that I had attended at UBA of Levi, in which it was explained FODA analysis (in Spanish Strength, opportunities, weaknesses and threats). With this base and my practical knowledge of the industry, I wrote one page of what I thought should make and ISP.

Apparently I caused a good impression because I later received an offer from who will then become my boss. Having this solid offer, I used it to improve my position at Inea, who agreed on giving me a raise. And after turning down the first offer from S&M and staying with a higher salary at Inea, I regretted it, because I realized that I was in need of a change not to get stuck, and when you go through a mental transition, the worst thing that could happen is to stay in a role that wears you out. Fortunately my future boss was not used to getting a no for an answer and he called me again with a better offer which I could not say no to it (in fact I could have accepted the previous one), but now with an unbeatable position, a better defined post, not more half sales, half operations. I was the new Sales Chief at S&M and then I would become a sales Manager, where I was coordinating 3 sales teams, with older people compared to me, but not with more knowledge.

After a while in the company, this was acquired by VIA Networks, an American corporation based on risk capitals who was looking for ISPs in different Latin American and European countries to consolidate them in a package and make an IPO in Nasdaq. That was my second company change without trading desks, going through the motions this change of authorities generate, the political realignments of directors and managers and the inefficiencies this produces.

The best thing that I got from this company was meeting who later was going to become my partner in my first company which we founded together. Anibal Sanchez with whom we were one year apart and had many things in common, who at that moment was the development area manager and was in charge of implementing solutions for e-commerce, home banking and site development in general.

With this mix of knowledge and an environment that was starting to understand that something was happening on the Internet world, we draw up a powerpoint presentation that pretended to be a business plan but in practice was not. In the times where the newspaper headlines where talking about millionaire investments to El Sitio (pre IPO :LCTO), to Patagon and to the star Starmedia, we had a PPT that talked about a business model where ecommerce solutions could be offered to this new market, where we had to sell the shovels for this gold fever that we were living.

This is how we received an investment commitment of 2MM (of which only 600K was integrated) for the 90% of what I-Solutions S.A. was going to be with the possibility of re purchasing up to an additional 15% as long as certain milestones were complied with.

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5 thoughts on “Origin

  1. Ariel, que dificil es poner en pocas palabras por todo lo que uno pasó en sus comienzos!. Cuantas cosas quedan afueras, desde emociones, alegrias, sueños, etc. Por lo poco que sé de vos, tu relato no le hace justicia! ya que el tuyo ha sido un camino para náda facil, lleno de desafios, donde han pasado muchas cosas. El esfuerzo ha tenido, y seguirá teniendo, sus recompensas. Un abrazo!. Max.

  2. Mil gracias Max,

    es muy difícil relatarlo, al menos para mi y mucho mas dificil que sea entretenido y no una densa suma de hechos….

    Espero que mejore….

    Un abrazo,
    Ariel

  3. Hola Ariel, cuantos recuerdos interesantes! Cuando eras gerente de INEA me impactó conocerte (virtualmente, porque en persona solo nos vimos muchos años más tarde), primero porque no podía creer que alguien tan joven ya era “el gerente”, y segundo porque invertiste en publicidad en mi portal que contaba con poquitos meses de vida. Tal como relatás los costos en esos años eran muy altos asique vender publicidad en 1996/97 era un logro casi imposible. Sin embargo tuve la suerte de vender publicidad a un par de compañías americanas. En ese mismo tiempo tu compañía argentina también me permitió continuar adelante. Asique más de una década despues, te repito, Gracias!

  4. Hola Jorge,

    Si fue toda una etapa increíble, hoy parece paleozoica.
    Era la manera correcta de hacerlo,es mas facil pescar en una pecera…

    Tu concepto de Grippo.com y la version white label del buscador fueron muy adelantados para su epoca. Muchos grandes productos como altavista o excite quedaron en el camino, otros como grippo.com sobrevivieron esa etapa en mercados mas dificiles como estos.

    Yo tuve la suerte de trabajar con vos y con Andres Alterini que trabajaba junto a vos en esa epoca…

    Gracias a vos!

    un abrazo,
    Ariel

  5. Hola Ariel, me encantó tu historia! leerla me dió fuezas y energía para seguir con mi proyecto.
    Me imagino que debés ser una persona muy ocupada y que debés recibir varias consultas, pero confío en que tendrás un ratito para orientarme en mi proyecto. Necesito informarme sobre 'white label solution'. Verías viable una solución de este tipo para un “open shop” con las mejores marcas de indumentaria donde cada marca tenga su propio e-shop? Existe algo parecido en la Argentina que no esté relacionado al mercado financiero?
    Cualquier información que me puedas brindar será muy útil para seguir estudiando y analizando el proyecto.
    Desde ya muchas gracias.
    Cecilia.

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