Alexander Straub, the 27-year-old co-founder of e-business Mondus.com, squeezes the most out of his summers. The year he turned 20, he honed his competitive edge by sailing for his native Germany in the Barcelona Olympic Games. Later, while he was pursuing advanced degrees at Cornell University and Stanford University, he put in a summer stint at McKinsey & Co. Then, as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, a summer job in London at Goldman Sachs International helped him get a grip on finance. It was while he was at Goldman that he and his Iranian-born classmate Rouzbeh Pirouz drew up plans for Mondus.com.
Just a year-and-a-half later, Straub has a business-to-business phenomenon on his hands. Mondus.com, a global marketplace where customers and suppliers seek one another out, now boasts 80,000 registered users in the U.S. and Europe, with hundreds more signing up every working day. Companies come to Mondus looking for a specific part, and the Web site links them up with a supplier, taking a sliver of the transaction price as a commission. From two graduate students only a year ago, Mondus.com now employs 120 workers.
Unlike their peers in Silicon Valley, Straub and Pirouz needed a break to get investment pouring in. That came in 1999, when they entered and won a Sunday Times of London entrepreneurship contest for their Mondus.com business plan. With their $1.7 million prize--a startup investment from venture-capital company 3I and the newspaper--Straub and Pirouz launched their venture.
But Straub, who handles the strategic side of the company while CEO Pirouz runs it, had his eyes on a bigger market than Europe. Wasn't its name, after all, the globally inspired Mondus? He went to work raising more venture funds. Even as Mondus was shopping for its first office, in Oxford, Straub landed an additional $15 million from Eden Capital and Zouk Ventures. The duo launched Web services in October, 1999, opening offices in Frankfurt, Oxford, Paris, and New York.
These days, Straub spends most of his time in New York. "If you're going to win, you have to win in America," he says. There's an initial public offering on the horizon, says Straub, who has strong ideas about how to launch an IPO. His summer at Goldman Sachs will serve him well.