2019 Symposium Spotlight: Melissa Medina

Melissa Medina, President, eMerge Americas

ELISABETH RABIN—This February, University of Miami Law Review’s annual symposium will examine the ways that attorneys, financiers, and other professionals guide their clients through cross-border investments and disputes, as well as the growth in international career opportunities that will accompany Miami’s transition from a regional hub to a “hemispheric innovation center.”

Melissa Medina, president of eMerge Americas, will speak about hemispheric growth opportunities along with four other distinguished panelists. UMLR interviewed Melissa to learn more about her premier technology event and Miami’s future as a global tech hub.

eMerge is the annual technology event and conference connecting Latin America to the rest of the world. eMerge brings together entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, global thought leaders, and government officials from around the globe to discuss technologies transforming industries. eMerge is a platform helping to transform Miami into the tech hub of the Americas. eMerge was started by Melissa’s father, Manuel “Manny” Medina, who has been in the technology business for many years. In 2011, after Manny sold his technology business, Terremark Worldwide, he had a desire to give back to the Miami community in an impactful way. He sought to spark a new ecosystem in Miami—the tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Furthermore, Manny sought to create a new narrative for Miami. He wanted Miami to be seen as an ideal petri dish for global entrepreneurialism. It was then that eMerge was born.

Since eMerge’s inception, Melissa has seen huge changes with both the event itself and Miami as a growing tech hub. Mainly, as Melissa put it, five to seven years ago no one was thinking of “Miami” and “tech” in the same sentence. Now, they are. In fact, the Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit group that tracks entrepreneurship, recently identified South Florida as one of the fastest growing centers for entrepreneurship in the United States. Melissa credits it to Miami having the “perfect ingredients” for entrepreneurs—the city is a culturally diverse melting-pot with sunshine and tax breaks.

When asked about the future of Miami as a tech hub, Melissa explained that Miami has established a great foundation of an ecosystem, and is now building on that foundation. She continued, “[Miami is] still in the toddler stage, we’ve outgrown the infancy stage of building an ecosystem, but we still have a lot of hills and mountains to climb.” For Melissa, however, this just means there is a lot of opportunity. She envisions Miami as becoming a “thriving and robust ecosystem in the near future.”

One initiative Melissa is proud to be a part of is the University of Miami’s Hemispheric University Consortium. The consortium consists of eleven universities across the hemisphere and was created to provide a platform to share best practices for technology and innovation. Melissa, on behalf of eMerge, has specifically partnered with UM on the Latin American initiative. She has been travelling to the different universities that are a part of the consortium “trying to create not only virtual bridges, but physical ones too.” She explained that the key to both this consortium and hemispheric collaboration is collaboration and knowledge transfer.

In order for lawyers to stay competitive in this changing landscape, Melissa stressed the importance of immigration law. She recommended for young lawyers to learn as much as possible about the legal implications of companies setting up shop in Miami, or even moving nationally or internationally.

Additionally, when asked about advice for new business startups in Miami, Melissa said the key ingredients are hard work, research, and dedication. She recommended the following resources for entrepreneurial startups: (1) eMerge Americas, which hosts a competition for startups during the event on April 29 & 30, 2019 (2) The Launch Pad, (3) The Venture City, (4) Cambridge Innovation Center, (5) Startup Miami, and (6) Knight Foundation.