Piloting Businesses Into the Cloud
By David Taylor
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan delivered his now famous speech to the British Parliament predicting the ultimate triumph of freedom over communism. A year later, 2-year-old Manny Vivar floated across the Rio Grande River into the U.S. with his parents, his brother David and his sister Yesenia. Like others who came from around the world, that journey would open for him the freedom and the opportunity we still call “The American Dream.”
The family settled in New York and became legal citizens within a decade. Manny experienced the oft-repeated immigrant story of hard work and a will to succeed. His father José became a restaurant server in Manhattan and eventually opened a Mexican restaurant on Staten Island with his wife Ofelia. The drive of entrepreneurialism wound its way into Manny’s life and would eventually result in the creation of HostDime, now a middle market, global data center headquartered in Orlando with over 230 employees around the world.
Manny saw hard work and commitment to task modeled in his parents’ restaurant. “I learned to focus on a goal, be committed to it and do whatever it takes to reach it. That’s why I ended up in flight school at Embry Riddle. I flew for the first time at age 12, and it so intrigued me that I decided that day I wanted to be a pilot.”
Fast forward to 2001, and Manny is a 21-year-old senior at Embry Riddle in Daytona. A student club asked for help in getting a web page online, forcing him to learn more about the Internet and cloud. “I realized anyone with a website has to have hosting, and every business has to have a website. The coming demand was obvious, so I spent $15 on a domain and $50 on server space. I hosted the school club site and sold the rest of the space online. People began to randomly sign up.”
In only a few months, Manny was making more than his flight instructor – the job that was his path to achieving a commercial pilot’s license. He said, “As much as I loved flying, I decided to fly for fun and trade a career in commercial aviation for the risks of a little-known technology industry – cloud hosting. You have to know when to take advantage of an opportunity.”
Bootstrap, Innovate and DIY
So for $65, HostDime was born. Manny pressed forward, and his brother David and two friends – Mark Gregan and Miguel Torres – joined him a year later after graduation. They recognized innovation would fuel the fire and have become a leader in the industry because of their ability to adapt and meet the market.
Banks were not quick to lend to a start-up, so the team had to get creative. “It’s capital intensive to buy hardware, so we built our own servers with “Original Equipment Manufacturer”. That’s a cost savings to us, and a service benefit to our customers. We don’t wait on a third party vendor to fix down servers. We do that in-house and keep our clients online.” It didn’t stop there. Manny’s family and employees installed the raised floor for their current data center and saved over $50,000. David and Miguel designed the data center’s air containment system and shaved $10,000 off monthly power bills.
“Before Google made dramatic Search Engine Optimization changes in 2012, I studied high ranking sites and reverse engineered the algorithms to increase the organic ranking of HostDime.” This was a major factor in the company’s dramatic three-year growth arc beginning in 2007. As the old saying goes; ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’. HostDime has turned that way into dollars and success.
Talent for Scaling
“I am committed to our local talent. Orlando is underrated in terms of talent pipeline. Our local schools produce everybody we need, which is why we’ve hired over 300 UCF students and alumni to be part of the HostDime team.” The company brings on recent or soon-to-be grads with a strategy to create All Stars. “We want every HostDime employee to reach his or her career and financial goals and enjoy the success of the company.”
Manny has also embraced Orlando personally. “I feel alot of emotion and loyalty to the city because it has empowered me to grow HostDime.” That’s not dollars, but rather, people. “I’ll be a lifelong resident, creating jobs and giving back to the community.” HostDime has used Orlando as an incubator for success and wants to be iconic in the sense of creating a path to growth that others can follow.
Manny’s emotions run on a parallel track in regards to UCF. “The university has attracted many people in IT and computer technology, and most of those students already have tech skills.” The idea is that UCF academic programs take this already strong pool of talent and create a savvy workforce ready to fuel HostDime’s growth. “I equate it to a family or a fraternity. You grow and teach the younger generation. The process can be messy at times, but it gets you long term employees.”
The Numbers Are Rising
Backtrack to 2003. In less than two years, four guys doing everything hit $1 million in annual revenue. This prompted a move from Daytona to Orlando that ignited a firestorm of hiring and growth. HostDime punched through $5 million in revenue in 2005 as the company went through a series of office moves to accommodate its swelling ranks and need for additional server space and power.
By 2008, HostDime was exploding and began opening international offices. The year 2010 saw $10 million in annual revenue. The first overseas location was in Brazil and by 2013, the company had five additional global locations in Mexico, Colombia, India, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. “We will always serve our U.S. clients with excellence – the small businesses and the Fortune 500 companies. However, our global competition is 25 percent of our domestic competition. That’s why we are concentrating on global infrastructure to provide cloud products ranging from virtual private servers to managed dedicated servers to colocation.”
Manny has the goal of $100 million in annual revenue by 2020. He firmly believes that innovation only happens by keeping a startup mentality and won’t sell despite buyers knocking on the door. “We’ve had three major players make eight figure offers, two of which are publicly traded. The time was not right and our ambitions and growth were undervalued, so we declined.” As sole owner, Manny will have a capital event one day, but he’s incredibly satisfied for now to keep doing what he’s doing. His passion for the industry and loyalty to his team continue to fuel the company’s growth.
The Sky’s the Future
HostDime will break ground in fall 2015 on a seven-story, 85,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters in Central Florida. “We are fully committed to Metro Orlando. We want the community to enjoy our success and have local access to IT infrastructure. We are also committed to our local employees who have helped write the HostDime story.” There’s an intense concentration on culture for Manny, so the top two levels of the new building will be for the employees and tech community: cafeteria, game room, gym, sports court and a conference and training center with event space.
Manny believes that opportunities always come, but there are no shortcuts – only hard work. “Don’t be greedy. HostDime’s culture is to be unselfish, and unselfish people are the most loyal.” He has been unselfish with his efforts to make his people successful and has created enormous success for HostDime along the way. The story continues to be written, but the future is clear.