Monday, May 2, 2011

Financial website integrates data on Central America

Versión en español aquí.

It was out of frustration that Carlos Mora de la Orden started collecting and organizing information about the economy and stock market in his home country of Costa Rica.

Although an engineer by training, he is a financial adviser by profession. He wanted to provide his clients reliable, up-to-date information untainted by political or business interests.



Much of the information he wanted was hard to get. He decided to start collecting and publishing it himself. That was 14 years ago.


Integrating Central America


Today he employs 11 people at his website, Capitales.com, which provides daily news and data on the economies and stock exchanges of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. He is fulfilling his dream of integrating economic information about Central America.

The operation generates $130,000 a year through a combination of paid subscriptions, the sale of premium data and the development of online marketing channels for clients.

For the past two years, the operation has been losing upwards of $3,000 a month because of aggressive expansion from the base in Costa Rica to four neighboring countries. Now Mora de la Orden believes he is ready to present Capitales as a regional business news service. In July, he is going on the road to sell sponsorships of the email service and the daily news from each country. "It’s show time," he says.

Better than a retirement plan

It would be very difficult for a competitor to duplicate what he has done for these countries, he believes. Now that he has developed information on five countries, it will be easy to add others, he says. He has already made a start in Guatemala and Honduras and is thinking that some countries in South America could be next.

Mora, 56, has the soul of a journalist and recognizes the importance of editorial integrity. "I don’t let my personal business interests affect the agenda of the editor," he says.

He jokes that no one else is crazy enough to spend the time and energy he has to develop a business news service for a market as small as Central America. "It’s crazy, but it’s a craziness based on sane ideas. I enjoy this project very much. This business, Capitales.com, has had high development costs, but now that it is ready to go, it will be a cash cow."

He views the money he is putting into capitales.com as his retirement plan. "How much is Capitales really worth? In the next six months we’ll find out."


Financial information has high value

Here are some of the relevant numbers for Capitales.com:

-- 600 subscriptions generate $85,000 a year. A subscription costs $300 a year, but businesses pay an additional fee for each user on the subscription.

-- The site has 7,000 registered users and generates 30,000 page views a month.

-- A news service in London pays $25,000 for a specially prepared daily package of data.

-- Four clients pay $500 a month for an investor relations page of information on the site.

The front page puts a premium on data and breaking news.

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