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Manny Medina: The time is right for tech fund, major conference

MannyMedina Last year Manny Medina sold Terremark, the company he founded, for more than $2 billion, then slipped beneath the radar. Now he’s back on the Miami business scene.

Here are some excerpts from his recent Q&A with Business Editor Jane Wooldridge about his plans for a technology fund and a major tech conference planned for early 2014. You can read his full Q&A here. (Photo of Manny Medina by Miami Herald Staff)

 Q:  You’ve started a fund for investing in tech companies. What kinds of companies are you looking at?

 A. These are truly exciting times in the information technology industry. The revolution of moving from the era of “Industrialized IT” (owning your own hardware, etc.) to the new era of “Agile IT” (cloud computing, mobile, etc.) is creating fantastic opportunities. I have launched Medina Capital Partners in order to invest in companies in this field. 

 We are not geared for startups. We are looking for established companies with a unique business model or technology that we can help with capital and strategy. Besides capital, our vast experience in Terremark working across international borders, product lines, enterprises and government, could be very helpful for the right company at the right stage.

 Q: In your view, what does it take for a tech company to be successful today, and why aren’t you finding more investment-worthy companies in South Florida?

 A. I believe that for a technology company to succeed today, it must have a carefully thought-out business plan with enough flexibility to adjust along the way, but it needs to have a road map. Just because you have a “cool idea” does not mean you will be able to bring it to a successful conclusion. We have seen numerous technology companies fail because they have not spent enough time planning before the launch.

Another major cause of failure is grossly underestimating their capital requirements. Unfortunately, South Florida does not have enough of a tech critical mass at this time. Therefore, we have to spend our time in Silicon Valley, Virginia and the Northeast Corridor. However, we hope to help change that in the future.

Q: You’re working with local leaders to initiate a not-for-profit Tech Conference of the Americas in Miami. When will it happen? Can you tell us what you’ve got in mind? How do you think it will help the region?

 A. As I attended technology conferences in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, etc., I was always amazed how any one of them would attract from 100,000 to 250,000 participants. Some conferences actually transform the entire city.

I began to ask why we couldn’t do this in South Florida. The answer was always that we could not compete with Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle, etc. My view is that we do not need to compete, we need to use our number one asset — that we are the undisputed capital of Latin America for everything except technology. Therefore, why not launch a Tech Conference in South Florida to serve as the technology bridge between Latin America and the rest of the world?

Circumstances today create the perfect storm for us to do this. The economic meltdown in Europe and the slowdown in North America are making Latin America substantially more attractive for technology companies. At the same time, Latin American enterprises and governments have an insatiable appetite for the transfer of this new technology.

The conference has to have three main attributes: It needs to be substantive. In other words, tackle real issues facing the industry today like cloud computing, cyber security, big data, analytics, etc.; it needs to be a great networking event; and lastly, it must be fun. I could not think of a better venue than South Florida.

If we think of Art Basel’s impact in our community, I am convinced that making South Florida the Tech Capital of Latin America could have as big if not a bigger impact. The idea has been overwhelmingly embraced by local leaders. We have already secured a few hundred thousand dollars of funding. The goal is to have the first annual conference in the Spring of 2014. Over the next few months, we will be reaching out to the broader community to invite everybody to join us and help make this annual conference a major success for our community.

 Read the full interview here, which includes Manny Medina's thoughts on his new foundation, what he might have done differently in building Terremark, and the best advice he ever received.