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Cold Start: How Neosites Pioneered the Web Building Market in the Wake of Financial Crisis

Cold Start: How Neosites Pioneered the Web Building Market in the Wake of Financial CrisisNegative growth, no credit, double digit unemployment and sovereign default. No, this isn’t present day Greece we are talking about here, it’s Argentina 2001, when ballooning debt and an overvalued currency led to the largest sovereign default in history, effectively blacklisting the country from credit. It may not sound like the most fertile ground for cash strapped startups, but fast forward to 2007 when three resourceful entrepreneurs founded Neosites.com, the do-it-yourself web builder that grew with the green shoots of a now robust economy.

Five years and twenty five employees later, Neosites offers a simple solution to small businesses and professionals looking for an online presence with e-commerce, without having to deal with third party web developers. While its roots lie in the Latin American market, it now competes worldwide with a host of features from mobile e-commerce to fully integrated facebook pages.

So how did a handful of twenty year old webmasters hatch a business plan for their venture? According to Neosites COO, Pablo Harburguer, it was all about responding to customer needs, accessing an untapped market and chance. “It all just sort of fell into our laps,” Harburguer says, “there we were sitting in my office (then my bedroom) and our heads were spinning trying to keep up with nitty-gritty requests from our customers. That was our ‘eureka’ moment, when we realized that our customers should have the tools to build their own websites for themselves.’’

They were onto something. Not only did the vast majority of professionals and small businesses in Latin America lack an online presence (75% still do), but there were also few solutions on the market; industry heavy hitters like Yola and Wix.com were only just emerging. “We saw a great opportunity, and we knew that we would have to move fast before the competition could come and scoop up market share’’ recalls Alejandro Trybiarz, Neosites CEO. “Raising capital was a non starter in Argentina back then, so we reached deep into our pockets and focused 100% on the product and end user.’’

Hard work pays off. With serious attention to detail and design, and by targeting customers with limited technical experience, Neosites offers a user friendly platform to establish a professional online presence. “You just have to know how to use a mouse,’’ claims Harburguer, “we take care of the rest.’’ This point harmonizes with one of Neosites’ central mantras: ‘simplicity doesn’t compromise integrity.’ A template gallery with over 10,000 professional designs and 100% customizable content gives users freedom of expression with the security of knowing that their content will fit seamlessly onto their page. Garnering praise from users and web designers alike, Neosites launched Neoresellers.com, a reseller web building service popular among developers and graphic designers.

There was the product and there were the customers, but one glaring roadblock lay in between: lack of internet access across Latin America. Although the region was far behind Europe and the US in terms of connectivity, emerging markets in Latin America were booming, even as the US plunged into its own financial crisis in 2008. “What we did initially, was simply follow the growth’’ says Harburguer, “and by partnering with major telecommunication companies, we are able to market Neosites from the moment that new users and businesses are connected to the internet for the first time.’’ Starting with Telefonica in Argentina and Chile, and then Movistar in Peru, Neosites forged partnerships that offer their products under white label brands. These alliances inform a large part of Neosites’ business model and have been mutually beneficial for the company, its partners and the thousands of startups and SMEs that have jump started their businesses’ web presence and e-commerce capabilities with Neosites.

Reflecting on their growth in recent years, Trybiarz comments that “one of the most important things for us is to make sure that our success dovetails with the success of our customers and their businesses. It’s incredibly rewarding to see entrepreneurs’ ideas come to life on the web.’’ Neosites’ ability to accelerate small business growth via e-commerce hasn’t gone unnoticed. Private bank Santander Rio partnered with Neosites in early 2012 to provide their Premium service plan to all account holders as a complimentary benefit. By partnering with Neosites, the bank rewards customer loyalty, while simultaneously attracting new clients by offering them an exceptional service not found with other banking institutions.

So what’s in store for Neosites? Recognizing the integral role that strategic alliances play in the company’s growth, Neosites is aiming to replicate it’s mutually beneficial partnership model with telecommunication and financial institutions worldwide. But when it comes down to it, “It’s still all about the product and the end user.’’ Harburguer stresses that “the only difference is that the end user is no longer just in LATAM; we are marketing Neosites to a global community, and our product developments reflect that.’’ Indeed, with a strong emphasis on mobile e-commerce and social network integration, Neosites jibes with the market’s top web builders. When it comes to user-friendliness, however, Neosites goes one step further, largely thanks to its roots with first time web users in Latin America. “It’s funny,’’ Harburguer reflects, “just a decade ago this was that last place anyone would look to as a hotspot for startups, but the entrepreneur is the epitome of resilience and resourcefulness. Who knows,’’ he adds with a smile, ‘’Maybe the next silicon valley will lie somewhere between Athens and Mt. Olympus!’’

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