The Argentine Gastón Taratuta is considered one of the revolutionaries of digital advertising globally. He began as part of UOL, in Brazil, and from there he decided to jump into the entrepreneurial world. Thus, in 2005 he created Internet Media Services (IMS), after noticing the few opportunities that local and regional companies and advertisers had to connect with large digital platforms. Today, IMS is part of Grupo Aleph, which is headquartered in Miami, has a presence in more than 90 countries, is valued at more than US$2 billion, and exclusively represents more than 30 platforms, including Twitter, Snapchat , LinkedIn, Twitch, TikTok and Warner Music. Thus, Taratuta was chosen “Entrepreneur of the Year” in the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2022. In 2016, he had received the recognition of “Endeavor Entrepreneur” together with his partner Ignacio Vidaguren.
In a new installment of “Hacedores que inspiran”, the EY and the nation series, Taratuta talks about his beginnings as an entrepreneur in the 2000s, why he continues to bet on Argentina with his company and reviews several pivotal moments that marked his career.
-Let’s start the story from when you noticed that the company you worked for had certain complications. What happened?
-I was working for UOL, which was a very large company, and at that moment my boss called me and told me that they were not interested in continuing to have an office in Miami. I was in Brazil, I had made a contract with them for two years in São Paulo and I had agreed that I was going to return to the United States doing my job, which was to sell online advertising to any advertiser who was interested in the Latin American market from the United States. . Since they didn’t want to lose me, they offered me to be an entrepreneur. It was 2005, I ask him what it is to be an entrepreneur and he tells me: “You have your own business and you have a percentage of every dollar you generate for us.” I tell him to let me think about it. I was in Uruguay on vacation and my boss told me that he sent me the contract and that I had to give him the name of the company to be able to do it. I call it Internet Media Services, because we are going to provide internet services, and that’s where IMS came from, which is where it all started. It started in February 2005 with $5,000.
-From that initial kick until now, when you were adding investment rounds for more than US$1000 million, how was that path?
-The road was long because during the first years, until we found the true road, many things happened. There were a couple of key moments for us, one is in 2008. From 2005 to 2008 we were helping agencies and advertisers to buy digital advertising, basically we were one more link in the chain. At that time it was new and difficult to execute. In 2008 Sony wanted to buy the company. I was going to the law firm to sign the sale of the company and at that time it was a significant amount, I was 35 years old. I meet a woman in the elevator, who was the owner of Architectural Digest magazine, and when I told her that she was going to sell my company she told me that she was too young to sell. I got out of the elevator and called three people who are well known in Argentina to ask them. One of them did not know what to say to me; another told me: “Take the money and run” (“Grab the money and run”); and another told me that the lady was right. So I decided not to sell.
-What was it that led you to say “no” at that moment?
-For entrepreneurs what you are creating is like a son and when you sell, you lose control. At that time, he was selling 51% and the company was valuing at US$20 million. It’s a nice amount of money that you received for the first time back in 2008: Sony bought you, it had all the prestige. Imagine it was to win a Libertadores. But it took me the decision that I was not willing to let go of the baby and give up control, because I had understood that there was much more opportunity ahead; so I prioritized what I loved to do, keep controlling what I wanted to control.
-What other milestones do you remember as fundamental or foundational?
-Here comes another key moment, in 2010, when Netflix, which only operated in the United States, called us to ask me and Ignacio Vidaguren some questions. He asked us about the digital infrastructure in Latin America and they asked us to bring some slides on why they should go to Latin America first and not to Europe. At that time, Netflix was a company that only had operations in Canada outside of the United States and we went with Ignacio, explained the infrastructure and told them: “With US$300 million you can have a horizon in Latin America, Europe is going to cost you a $1 billion. So if you want, go for the cheapest first and see how it works to be a global company”. Six months later, we helped Netflix launch in 30 global markets.
-You were the winner of the World Cup for Entrepreneurs, what was that moment like and what did you feel?
-I did not win alone, we won as a team and that is not a cassette. That’s true. It would not have been possible without the support, first of all, of Fernanda Zuloaga, who always told me: “Gastón, let’s participate because you will see that our story is a good story.” So it wouldn’t have been possible without her. Second, all the entrepreneurs who had gone there, all the greats of Argentina were there, they wholeheartedly supported me to go and we went to tell a story. What made me most proud was that we beat 50 other competitors in the world who had made great companies with great entrepreneurs and great things. What was it that made us win? It was not the company’s story about the entrepreneur who started in Miami and looked to Latin America and from there to the world, because today our business is 10% Latin America and 90% the rest of the world. What made us win was that we first explained the concept of transferring GDP from offline to online and the jury understood it very well. And then we said that, while governments are printing money and generating more poor people and philanthropists are giving away bags of food, but the next day there is more hunger, we at Aleph are educating 50,000 people in the world to learn digital marketing, and not in five years, but in three or four months to be able to have a job opportunity. At that time I said that education is a currency that never devalues.
-You always thought of Argentina for the world. If we give you 100% of the shares of Argentina, how do you distribute them?
-To begin with, I would say 20% for education (primary, secondary, tertiary, university). Another 10% for short careers that have a quick job opportunity, for example learning digital advertising in three or four months. Then, 20% to what is personal security and legal security, because a country can progress with education as long as we can attract investment, providing legal security and obviously personal security. On the other hand, I would invest 5% in selling Argentina to the world, because that is where we have the great opportunity of digital soy. Also 20% for health; 20% in infrastructure and 5% for the most vulnerable. In this plan we are investing for the future generation, but we cannot forget our grandparents, who have contributed a lot to Argentina in everything that has to do with social security.
-Lately, the film starring Ricardo Darín, which talks about a very important date such as 1985, was very present. What was this film for you and what happened to your father in 1979?
– My dad in 1979 was a businessman in the shoe industry. In fact, he produced shoes called Gastón. And my dad suffered a kidnapping for extortion like many other cases that occurred in Argentina. It was a difficult time, I was seven years old, and we didn’t hear from my dad for two or three weeks. It was a very difficult time for the whole family. Those are the things that one can forgive, but cannot forget.
-Speaking of family, you are the father of three children. What is parenthood for you?
-It’s very interesting, because I have a daughter who is 23 years old, who was a blessing for us at that time, and later, since I had been an only child, I didn’t want her to be, so then her sister arrived, who He is 16. At that moment obviously one is in a rush of wanting to do, do, do, and he misses out on many unique moments. That is why it is very important at that time to have a partner, who is your partner. For me, throughout this process, Verónica was a catalyst. Then, well, I got divorced in 2019, I started a new family and a five-month-old boy was born. I experience parenthood differently today, because, at 50 years old, a five-month-old baby is a whole new experience. You have the opportunity to dedicate a little more time, because you are a little calmer. Fortunately I can dedicate more time to it and I think it is a very nice thing to be able to experience this.