Manny Medina was 20 years old when he came to the United States to pursue opportunities in engineering.
“For me, the American Dream is that I could be anybody I wanted to be,” Medina said. “And that wasn’t possible in Ecuador when I was there.”
Medina went on to get a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He is now the CEO of Outreach, the Seattle-based sales automation technology company that raised $65 million in its latest funding round.
He says he would not have achieved the same amount of success if he had stayed in Ecuador.
“Not even close,” Medina said.
According to Medina, there were more barriers to upward mobility in his country of origin.
“In Ecuador, you need to be from the right family,” he said. “You need to go into the right institutions. You need to come from the right lineage, and potentially you could be whatever you wanted to be. Here, you don’t need to have anything.”
The Immigrant’s Journey project was originally intended to recognize Immigrant Heritage Month in June. We interviewed foreign-born entrepreneurs and tech leaders about their experiences immigrating to the United States. Today, on the Fourth of July, they explain why they chose the U.S. as the place where they would build their lives, families, and careers.
The video above is Part 4 of the Immigrant’s Journey series. Click on the following links to watch Parts 1 through 3 of this series:
How can U.S. improve its immigration policy? We asked immigrant entrepreneurs and tech leaders (Part 1)
Immigrant perspectives: Women entrepreneurs on ‘microaggressions’ and biases (Part 2)
Resilience and risk-taking: How the immigration experience shapes the path of foreign-born entrepreneurs (Part 3)
The following are the entrepreneurs featured in this installment:
Elena Tarassova, founder and CEO of Vioure, which manages a portfolio of short-term and corporate rentals in Seattle. Tarassova and her family are originally from Russia and moved to Seattle in 2001. Tarassova said there was a lot of uncertainty as the Soviet Union was falling apart, and her parents decided to move to the U.S. to provide a better future for their children.
Satoshi Nakajima, chairman of Xevo, which provides software for auto manufacturers. Nakajima immigrated from Tokyo, Japan to the U.S. to pursue a career at Microsoft, working closely with Bill Gates as the lead software architect of Windows 95. He was in charge of building the Windows Desktop and Internet Explorer. Nakajima has founded seven companies and employed more than 300 people since moving to the U.S.
Francis Duong, CTO of Flexe, a Seattle startup that offers a marketplace for warehouse space. Duong was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. He immigrated to the U.S. to work for Microsoft, where he was a developer for Windows and a program manager for Xbox. Before founding Flexe with Karl Siebrecht and Edmond Yue, Duong built Ignition Mobile, a Y-Combinator backed mobile analytics company.
Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach, the Seattle-based sales automation technology company that raised $65 million in its latest funding round. Medina is originally from Ecuador. When he was 20 years old, he immigrated to the U.S. to finish his undergraduate studies and pursue opportunities in engineering. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania.
Valentina Vitols Bello, angel investor at Pipeline Angels, which helps create capital for women and non-binary femme social entrepreneurs. Bello is originally from Venezuela, where she was a candidate for the Latin American Parliament and the House of Representatives of the State of Miranda. She is also an attorney and previously founded a startup called Love to Thank. As an angel investor, Bello focuses on supporting female entrepreneurs in the social impact space.
Continue reading for a full transcript of the video.
Bello: How do I define the American Dream? … The concept of the American Dream for me has been more about freedom than anything else.
Duong: When I came to the U.S., the main reason was for opportunity.
Medina: For me, the American Dream is that I could be anybody I wanted to be. And that wasn’t possible in Ecuador when I was there.
Nakajima: The American Dream is really the dream for the people who are willing to succeed and get what they deserve. And I really want to express that, to mention to everybody in the world, to say this is the best place to do that.
Tarassova: I know for a fact that I would not be where I am today if I was in Russia. And especially because being a queer woman is not acceptable back home. So I couldn’t be myself. I think I would have had a really difficult time being successful professionally, but also just being happy.
Medina: In Ecuador, you need to be from the right family. You need to go into the right institutions. You need to come from the right lineage, and potentially you could be whatever you wanted to be. Here, you don’t need to have anything. You can study hard, work hard, put in the time, put in the effort, and you will get there. So to me, the American dream is that. There are ceilings, there are holes in the road, and yes, it’s not easy for everybody, but you can do it … It’s becoming less so over time, especially in a country that is in the current political situation that is actively anti-immigrant and anti- a specific type of immigrant.
Bello: When it comes to the American dream — working for what you want and being able to achieve success — it’s just a little bit more complex than that. I would say that the great thing is that this country has a lot of resources. So my advice would be: Yes, work hard. Set some goals. Strive for success. But at the same time, be very aware of the resources that you have available … There are so many resources in the United States that have not been tapped.
Duong: I personally believe that the U.S. has given me opportunity that isn’t available in many parts of the world. It is the one place that has so much other entrepreneurs and other investors that are willing to help other people to be successful.
Nakajima: Nothing is guaranteed, but if you have something valuable like your brain or ideas or passion, then come to the United States.