Tech leader Manny Medina previews what’s next for eMerge Americas and Miami’s startup ecosystem

Above: Della Heiman, founder of The Wynwood Yard, interviews Manuel D. Medina, managing partner of Medina Capital and founder of eMerge Americas, on what Miami can expect from the third year of eMerge and the future of tech capital in Miami. Photo by Cristian Lazzari/Miami Dade College.

The third year of eMerge Americas is expected to unite more than 10,000 diverse innovators and investors, and more than 500 startups and corporations from Miami and around the world for a hackathon, startup showcase and demo, panels and keynote speaker series.

Manuel D. Medina, managing partner of Medina Capital and founder of eMerge Americas, which is funded in part by Knight Foundation, says the quality of the participants for the event has scaled beyond his wildest expectations. A high-tech serial entrepreneur, Medina says eMerge brings together new tech talent with experienced  founders within the global startup ecosystem to discuss major trends and opportunities. This year’s events will take place April 15-19, and will feature everyone from Monica Lewinsky to skateboarder and entrepreneur Tony Hawk to Ret. General Colin Powell.

“This isn’t about being Silicon Valley,” Medina said. “This is being the tech hub of Latin America, showcasing the talent, and having important conversations related to the subject of tech and entrepreneurship.”

The Idea Center at Miami Dade College featured Medina as a speaker in its “Pioneers@MDC” speaker series Monday night. Medina’s passion for filling the tech gap served as the lead topic for the Q&A, which was moderated by Della Heiman, a serial entrepreneur and founder of The Wynwood Yard in Miami.

Manuel D. Medina, managing partner of Medina Capital and founder of eMerge Americas. Photo by Cristian Lazzari/Miami Dade College.

Heiman: What are major trends in tech in Miami and Latin America today?

Medina: The major trends are mobility and social media. Social media penetration in the United States is at 65 percent and in Latin America it is 90 percent. There is a reason why groups like Twitter and Facebook are opening an office down there. Because more than 25 percent of their subscribers are in Latin America. It only makes sense for Miami to serve as the hub where these trends become a conversation.

Heiman: People say it’s hard to get funded in Miami. Do you agree?

Medina: It should be hard. If anyone gets you funded easily, they’re a fool. If you’re working hard 24/7 and you’ve just about sold your wedding ring to get your company off the ground, then you will get funded no question. But the problem here is that you get a lot of stuff that is half baked. Who in this room doesn’t have an idea that they want to get funded? If you really do your work and make the sacrifices, you’re going to get funded whether your idea is a restaurant, a dance studio or a high-tech company.

Heiman: As you said, there is a lot of momentum in the startup ecosystem in Miami, where do you see the ecosystem in the next five years?

Medina: Miami as a Latin America tech hub needs to be a mindset—not  Miami mojito, not Miami Beach fun and not Miami shopping. No, it has to be a mindset. We hope that more funding comes beyond institutionalized funding, and it would be great to get a mega tech company to have a significant presence here soon. As an example of what I mean, no one questions that Miami is an art hub today and it wasn’t that way 10 years ago. Art became a mindset and that’s what has to happen.  There will be a day when people stop asking when we will be a tech hub. It will be understood.

Medina said last year more than 1,700 hotel rooms were reserved as part of the eMerge event. He said the experience is like “SXSW with a higher IQ,” and sees the event attracting an even more impressive global, diverse audience to the South Florida region this year. The goal, he said, isn’t numbers. It’s about continuing to evolve the quality of the dialogue in collaboration with strategic partners such as Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade County, Greenberg Traurig, and The Miami Herald.

Jenna Buehler is a startup writer and co-founder of Groundswell, a startup incubator located in Space Coast, Fla. Email her via [email protected] or follow  @swellstartups on Twitter.

For more information on eMerge Americas, visit and connect on Twitter @eMergeAmericas.

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