Interview | Ramon Toledo Searches for a Better Education

Ramon Toledo created BuscaCorp. to be the leading Spanish-language social networking platform, and Levelup.com had a target to be the number one video game site. In 2008, it won Best Website in Mexico and then once again in 2010 it won for the second time Best Entertainment Site, both times by the Mexican Internet Association, and now it’s the number one Spanish Video Game Site in Mexico, Latin America and among U.S. Hispanics. Here, Ramon talks about his thoughts on Busca, Levelup.com, as well as education and technology.

Victor: What does the name “Busca” mean?

Ramon: “Busca” means search; when we started the company we started as a Metasearch Engine www.Buscatodo.com (“search everything”) in that time our goal was to be the leading Spanish English Meta Search Engine where you could search in the top three search engines in both languages. Then we learned we could not compete against Google—actually no one could—so we kept the name but turned ourselves into a social networking platform to develop our sites.

Victor: What is it? Who created it?

Ramon: We have a great team of developers, the platform itself was created by our CTO Rodrigo Violante, and we started inviting interns from the top universities in Mexico to do their social service. In Mexico, you can’t graduate unless you do this service, so we started getting the best talent, after their six-month internship was over, we picked the best candidates and made them full-time employees, after one year they become shareholders of the company.

What our team created was one of the few social media platforms, where user can communicate, post, blog, contact, basically we created a Facebook for video gamers, and we created everything from scratch, it has taken us over four years of coding and development to create what we have now, there is nothing like this and we are very proud of what we have accomplished.

Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?

Ramon: I already answered what it does; the benefits are that you can comment and share it with the rest of the world, our platform lets users connect with each other and know what their preferences are, they can invite their friends, and just adding this features can increase any site. For instance, when we took over Playboy dot com dot mx they had only 100,000 Monthly Page Views, since we implemented our social media platform, their traffic has increased to over 7,000,000 Monthly Page Views, so this is the biggest benefit.

Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?

Ramon: There is nothing similar to us in Mexico or Latin America, I would say the company that comes close to us would be www.quepasa.com since they are also a Social Media Networking site, but they are mostly a dating site, we are a platform, that can be used for News Sites, Video Games Sites, Entertainment Sites, it’s endless…

Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?

Ramon: We started Developing in 2006 and went to Beta Testing in 2008, when we won Best Website in 2008 For Levelup.com we were still in Beta Phase. The most interesting part is that it was created with Several Universities from Mexico, and a lot of Local Talent, a lot of these programmers are now working for top companies in the U.S. so we could say we helped pave the way, and each one left their little grain of salt.

Victor: Where did it originate and where can you get it now?

Ramon: Our First Office was in Tijuana, Mexico. Now we have offices in Mexico City, Santiago Chile, Silicon Valley and La Jolla, California—and we plan to open in Colombia and Argentina this year. You can get it anywhere since our sites are available to anyone, our platform is another story since we commercialize our platform trough sales agents and it’s very specialized.

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

Ramon: Well, we spent over 4 Million USD in these 4 years, we spent a lot on legal in the U.S., since we have plans to be the First Mexican Internet Company to be publicly traded in the U.S. Markets. But we did manage to bootstrap and for an internet company we really spent the minimum.

Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?

Ramon: Depending on the site www.levelup.com is tailored for Console Video Gamers, www.tarreo.com for PC Gamers, www.Metatube.com as an alternative to Youtube, Playboy dot com dot mx  for the lifestyle user; www.deporte1.com for the Sports Fan and finally our new addition www.sandiegored.com is for the Hispanic User that wants to know what is going on in both sides of the Border.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?

Ramon: We need to spend more money on education since kids just really don’t want to go out and get a real job. We see that every day—a lot of the interns we get were just looking to get a normal programing job at a maquiladora, and after they spend six months they see that there is a whole world out there they can conquer.

Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating Busca and level UP?

Ramon: Well, I was first a stock broker, so this helped me with the financing aspects to raise money and stock in exchange, since we are still a private company. Then I was a Diplomat for the Mexican Embassy, so this helped me with the deals we have done; we now have partnerships with MSN Prodigy, MSN Latino U.S. and MSN Latin America, Yahoo Mexico, Televisa, Terra Networks, San Diego Union Tribune and Playboy.

Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?

Ramon: I see Asia, I see Europe, and they are spending money on Education, in the U.S. they are spending less each year; in Mexico, it’s even worse since instead of becoming a college graduate, they want to be a drug dealer—so a lot has to change. I am no politician or government official, but I don’t like where this is going. Hopefully, things change soon.

Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Busca and level UP?

Ramon: Give students a chance. We’ve seen kids that had to drive two hours to go to school and then come to work as interns; these were kids that no one else cared about, not even their teachers—they were diamonds in rough—now they are working in the best Internet Companies in the world. There is talent everywhere—we just have to nurture it and look for it and the most important thing is to mentor them.

——-

Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of Edtech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com

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