SM: Manny, let’s start by talking about yourself. Where do you come from?
MM: I was born in Cuba and left in 1965, when I was 13. My parents left the Castro regime. We came to Miami, and I grew up and went to school here. I went to a junior college here, which is where I got my first interest in business. I graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in accounting. I am not an accountant by devotion. I was very young, and the shortest way for me to get credibility in the business world was to become a CPA.
I worked for PriceWaterhouse for a short time. This is where I got my start. I chose them because at the time, PriceWaterhouse created the Price Waterhouse Latin American division, which basically got a hit team composed of a few of us who, besides doing the fun stuff like auditing books, were actually involved in the community and went out to promote the company.
I did a lot of interesting things with them, in particular traveling throughout Latin America. That is where I got my start making contacts and business relationships. I left in the late ’70s and began doing business on my own, consulting and advising folks, particularly Latin Americans who were investing money in the United States. Real estate was very hot at the time. That is how I got started.
In 1980 I incorporated Terremark as my consulting business started to grow. That is the genesis of the company. For the first 15 years we focused on real estate. We did high-rise real estate development and very complicated infrastructure projects in the Middle East. It was all related to building physical infrastructures.
SM: How long did you go on with the real estate development business plan?
MM: We were doing that all the way through the end of the ’90s. In the mid ’90s I started building the infrastructure of telecommunication companies. We had done some of that before on some of our other projects, but nothing that was specifically geared toward telecos, such as the telecom hotels. We built a building, and then we rented out the space to telecommunication companies. I started building more of those in the late ’90s, and that is when the companies focus started shifting to the telecommunications and Internet side of the business.
SM: What is the purpose of telecommunication hotels?
MM: You rent the space to telecommunication companies. They all share space within a physical infrastructure. There is nothing too special about it at all. At the end of the day you are building 45 boxes. It is like warehouses. We were just lighting the way when telecommunication companies were getting plenty of funding. This was late ’97 through ’99. It was a real estate play, but that is where I got my first hook into the telecommunications world.