Scaling in Miami, Where VCs Fear to Tread

For Florida technology entrepreneurs, the absence of a thriving venture capital and startup scene in the state has long been a sore point. Manny Medina is no exception.

“There’s obviously no Sand Hill Road here,” says the Miami-based data center entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist, whose firm, Medina Capital, is making early growth stage investments in technology companies, mostly in the software space. The firm is looking to invest in companies in both the U.S. and Latin America, and, where possible, to capitalize on Miami’s stature as a business hub for the two hemispheres.

So far, Medina Capital is investing principally Medina’s own money and that of colleagues from Terremark, the massive Miami data center he built over the past decade and sold to Verizon in 2011 for $1.4 billion. The general plan is to write checks of $10 million to $20 million, Medina says, with a focus on disruptive technologies in areas such as cyber security, cloud computing, big data and storage. The firm is also seeking to raise a $250 million fund, according to a securities filing.

To date, deal flow has been largely outside Florida. The firm was the first and only venture investor in Catbird, a Scotts Valley, Calif.-based provider of security and compliance services for virtualized and private cloud data centers that closed the round in December. It was also one of several investors in Prolexic, a Hollywood, Florida-based security provider, and is close to closing an investment in a Colombian technology startup, whose name Medina declined to disclose.

As for boosting the Miami region’s startup chops, Medina says he is hoping to play a role in that next year with an inaugural conference, eMerge Americas, focused on bringing together entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders from the U.S. and Latin America. Organizers’ goal, he says, is to create something on the magnitude of Austin’s South by Southwest, with a dose of international flavor.

Another project on the drawing board is to foster a technology zone in South Florida that could serve as hub for technology companies. Medina says the region needs more local talent for a startup ecosystem to thrive. In the past, companies such as Terremark had to recruit outside the region for too many of their skilled positions.

Image courtesy of Medina Capital

Note: Story has been updated to include mention of Medina Capital seeking to raise a $250 million fund, according to a securities filing and to include location of Prolexic.