Poised To Win
Story By: Frederick Jerant
Tech billionaire Manuel D. “Manny” Medina made his mark on the world in the old-fashioned way – through a combination of grit, determination, and an itch to make things happen, instead of just letting them happen.
Born in Matanzas, Cuba in 1952, his parents left Fidel Castro’s oppressive regime, and moved to Miami, Florida in 1965. He earned a degree in accounting from Florida Atlantic University in 1974, and joined Price Waterhouse (now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers) as a certified public accountant.
He traveled extensively as part of Price Waterhouse’s Latin America division, and developed lasting business relationships throughout the region. But after just a year with the firm, Medina started getting restless. “I wanted to make money and be successful,” he said. “But I wasn’t sure which way I was going to do it – except that I wasn’t going to stay a CPA.”
He left after just three years.
Miami in the late ‘70s “was poised to explode,” he said. “There was lots of money coming in, especially from Latin Americans who wanted to invest in the United States, particularly in real estate.”
Medina took on a partner, and set up a consulting business. “We were both CPAs, so we had some credibility. And we’d say to potential clients, ‘Look, if you want to buy something, let us look after you. Because you don’t know the system here, and you don’t know the territory.’”
He incorporated the business as Terremark Worldwide, Inc., in 1980, and focused on real estate. When the economic downturn of the ‘80s hit, Medina was a little ahead of the curve. “I was lucky. I had already begun shifting my sources of business and capital to Europe and Asia. When the crash happened, my partners in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia helped my business kept growing,” Medina said.
That is, until the real estate and financial industry collapses of the ‘90s.
“We were involved in developing an $80 million property, until the proposed anchor tenant went bankrupt, investors were indicted…all hell broke loose,” Medina recalled.
It was time to rebuild, and one of his business contacts in Lebanon threw him a lifeline. “Kuwait had been invaded, and he knew there would be many opportunities for rebuilding the country after the war ended,” Medina said. “We formed a partnership and worked on many infrastructure projects in the Middle East.”
That led to a fascination with emerging technologies, particularly the Internet. Terremark evolved into an information technology services company itself. Its first project was the National Access Point (NAP) of the Americas, one of the most important data banks in the world, connecting North America, Latin America, and Europe. Verizon acquired Terremark in 2011 for $1.4 billion, and then – instead of just sitting back – created Medina Capital, a private equity firm that invests in cybersecurity, data analytics, cloud infrastructure and software-as-a-service markets. In conjunction with CenturyLink, Medina Capital formed yet another new company, Cyxtera Technologies. It will operate analytics centers in the U. S. South America and Europe.
Manny Medina has traveled a long road from his practically penniless beginnings in Miami, through international real estate and infrastructure development, to his current
position as CEO of Cyxtera. His changes in direction, coupled with his lifetime love of learning, have taught him many things – and he offers some keen observations and advice for the next crop of rising entrepreneurs.
“One of their first questions is ‘what’s the secret to success?’ and I tell them that there is no secret. The answers are right there – but you need to want to find them and act on them,” he said. “Look at the weight loss industry. What’s the secret to losing weight? Easy -- eat less and exercise more. But people want shortcuts, so now we have a multibillion-dollar industry devoted to that.
“If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, be sure that the risk involved is acceptable to you. Because every business venture involves risk. And then be prepared to work your behind off, even on the little things.
“When I started out in business, there was no Internet. If I needed information about a new lead, I went to the library and dug through old clippings. Today, you can find out anything about anybody with one or two clicks – and some people don’t bother to do even that much,” Medina said.
“And don’t be self-conscious or defensive about your roots. People don’t care whether you’re German or Dutch or black or white or Latino. All that really matters are your pitches, your ideas, the business plans. Being of two cultures can give you a great advantage when looking for big financing, dealing with the government or anything else,” he said. “When I was young, I didn’t want to be seen as ‘the kid from Cuba.’ Today, I often tell people that if you want to do business in Miami, you need to have a Spanish accent!”