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...