Stelleo Tolda was one of the founders of an auction site in Argentina – and that was just a few months before the internet bubble burst. This was the beginning of Mercado Livre (MELI34), today the most valuable technology company in Latin America. The company currently has a market capitalization of $40 billion, and generated $7.7 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year, up 32% from the same period in 2021.
Toleda was a guest on a special episode celebrating the three-year anniversary of From zero to the topEntrepreneurship brand Infomoney. The podcast also had a virtual audience that asked Mercado Livre co-founder their questions. In this episode, Tolda recalls her path and tells how Mercado Livre went from this auction site to a giant for buying and selling products, logistics and financial services. The program is available on YouTube video or on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Deezer, Spreaker, Google Podcast, Castbox and Amazon Music platforms.
“We left the university there in 1999, dreaming of the Internet in Latin America. (…) We have been growing exponentially. But we are still only at the beginning,” he says. Check out some excerpts from the conversation with Stelleo Tolda:
Do Zero ao Topo Anyone who loves entrepreneurship has heard a lot of stories of the founders of Silicon Valley setting up their business in their garage at home. You might even doubt whether these stories really happened. But in the case of you three [Stelleo Tolda, Marcos Galperin e Hernán Kazah] It already happened, right? But in a garage in Buenos Aires.
Stelleo Tolda – This, and it wasn’t in the garage at home either. It’s interesting how we started. We started in a garage in a commercial building. We took two spaces, put up drywall walls and that was our first desk. We put some swatches on, we bought some buyers, and that’s how Mercado Lever’s first office was born, right there in Argentina.
It was a humble start, just like any company. We took this idea from the garage into a reality in Latin America.
We hear about free market expansions and think a lot about innovation. In fact, Mercado Livre was named the most innovative company in Latin America by Fast Company magazine. For you, what is innovation? And how can the company remain innovative, reaching a size as large as the Mercado Livre?
Stelleo Tolda – We send [essa inovação] For the value of the company culture, which is to be in “continuous beta”. This “beta” refers to the company, but also to us as individuals. It is the idea that everything we do can and should be improved. We never have a final product. We borrow this term from the world of technology, as a “beta” version is a version that is not the final version.
(…) We consider that innovation is not necessarily invention. People confuse the two. Invention is contained in innovation, which is often an improvement on something that already exists. It’s something we do a lot. We have faced challenges from new categories and new business sectors. But the focus is always on how to improve the customer experience.
Regarding future plans, Mercado Livre announced that it will invest R$17 billion in Brazil this year. Among the goals you mentioned is that you will invest in logistics, services, and grocery shopping.
Stelleo Tolda – Inside our site the shopWe see the potential to expand into new categories. This category of supermarkets still has low penetration in Brazilian e-commerce, but it is also undergoing a major transformation.
We and others are working to provide better grocery shopping experiences through online platforms. The big challenge is the shipping issue. To justify buying groceries, we need bigger carts. It’s a challenge this industry has always faced: how to make running an online supermarket viable, considering shipping costs. We have invested and worked a lot on it.
Part of the resources go to the development of this category, but not only. Logistics was a major focus for Mercado Lever. I hear people commenting on how fast the company has delivered, and how surprising it is. There is a significant investment behind this in logistics technology, not to mention partnering with carriers.
Our investment goes into further accelerating the delivery time. We know that the consumer does not return. After having a good experience, it is always striving to improve. We are focused on increasing our share of deliveries that happen in less than twice, in less than a day and even on the same day. And of course financial services. Mercado Pago has great potential.
About from zero to top
podcasts From zero to the top He brings, every week, a prominent entrepreneur in the Brazilian market to tell his story, sharing his biggest challenges along the way and the key strategies used to build the business. The program has already received names such as André Penha, co-founder of QuintoAndar; David Neelman, founder of Azul; José Gallo, CEO of Rise of Renner; Guilherme Benchimol, founder of XP Investimentos; Artur Greenbaum, CEO of Grupo Boticário; Sebastiao Bonfim, creator of Centauro; and Edgard Corona from Smart Fit Network.