Meet Manny Ruiz, the accidental entrepreneur behind Hispanicize

manny ruiz hispanicize latino innovation

“We want to inject new ideas that Latinos have never heard before. We want to unite Latinos and create our own voice.”

Born in Miami to a Cuban father and a second-generation Cuban-American mother, Manny Ruiz is one of the most influential personalities in the Latino community in terms of empowering content creators and digital media trendsetters. Ruiz is an entrepreneur, a businessman, and founder of Hispanicize, one of the most important events for Latinos in tech and digital media in the United States.

“I’m an overachiever of epic proportions,” he says. Ruiz is a true businessman … even though he admits he never planned it.

Call him the accidental businessman.

Related: Meet Alexis Tirado, the young Latina carrying the flame of Hispanic millennials

In Cuba, his family lived a humble life. In Miami, the family had limited resources as well: As a boy growing up in Little Havana and Hialeah, he looked forward to an escape from the challenges and struggles of his childhood and adolescence, especially in primary and secondary school. A victim of bullying, he saw journalism as a salvation, a way to communicate and inform.

“I failed my senior year in high school, and I had to take it again,” he said during a candid, exclusive interview with Digital Trends Español. “It wasn’t because I was a flunker, it was because I thought I wasn’t smart … I didn’t have any confidence in my skills or the academics to be able to go anywhere, but what I always had was a strong gut feeling and desire to find and fill a gap in something.”

From journalism to activism

Ruiz’s business adventures have been diverse — some successful, others less so. But a thread weaves them all together: He has always fought to create opportunities and bring the Latino community together. “I’m a businessman in media that actually never intended to be part of the business, to be honest.”

“I’m a businessman in media that actually never intended to be part of the business.”

He began his career with the Miami Herald. Ruiz was a part of the team that covered Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. After his career as a journalist, he ventured into public relations, marketing, digital media and entrepreneurial business. “I’m a journalist at heart. I used to cover police stories for some time at the Herald, and then in 1994 I pursued a career in law. Life changed and then I decided to get into public relations to survive — literally.” In 2013, he was named one of the most influential Hispanics in America, according to Latino Leader magazine.

Ruiz today is one of those people who, when he speaks, captivates others with his rhetoric and energy, which transmits a contagious sense of confidence. He’s also extremely knowledgeable about the entrepreneurial world. He started this chapter in 2000.

Related: The Latino ‘Perfect Pitch’ competition is coming to Hispanicize

“Right when everybody was getting the bug for business, I came up with my first idea, which would later become known as Hispanic PR Wire,” he explained. And this was when his first efforts began to pay off. “We innovated something that changed the industry and also made us a strong target for acquisition.”

Hispanicize began in 2010 when he sold his first company. Ruiz’s online publications and press releases targeted the Hispanic community; Hispanic PR Wire was bought by one of its competitors and market leaders, PR Newswire, for $5.5 million. With this capital the entrepreneur decided to start Hispanicize. “Many times, I’ve been the first in and the first out,” Ruiz states when discussing his entrepreneurial vision.

Carving a space for Latinos in media

Regarding entrepreneurship, Ruiz highlights his experience working with new concepts, and how to bring them to fruition. “I thought it was much easier than what it is … but the reality is that being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things one can do. It is very fulfilling in some ways, but it’s a lot of work and, it isn’t for everybody. It is hard to do and be successful at it.”

“I think we don’t dream enough and we don’t dream big enough.”

The goal of this year’s Hispanicize is to provide opportunities for Latinos in media, entrepreneurial businesses, and agencies, and for them to connect and collaborate. “The biggest challenge is that our community is not as economically mature outside of the small business world as other communities are. We have a lot of smalls businesses and we are trained almost organically to be business people, but we don’t know how to scale. We don’t have mentors to help us scale business ideas.”

For 2016, Hispanicize is about opening new doors where Latinos can grow their businesses, presence, and outreach in the U.S. “What we want to do with Hispanicize is stretch the minds, the thinking, and the attitudes of Latinos. We will do that this year. I will be introducing some ideas about leadership, and hopefully, about economic empowerment.”

Related: What to watch at the second annual Tecla awards

Ruiz is a firm believer that the Latino community can come together and be unified. “We are very humble and content people, collectively speaking, as Latinos, but I think we don’t dream enough and we don’t dream big enough. I hope that through this industry gathering with many opportunities showing and doing different things at a larger scale, we will ourselves discover our voice.”

Finally, Hispanicize’s founder states, “We are an event and an organization, a movement with an attitude that we are not going to ask for permission, we are just going to do what we’ve got to do. Because if we continue to wait, ask, and beg, we are not going to get anywhere. We do need to unify on this. Unless Latinos learn how to unify we are not going be able to see our collective efforts.”

Hispanicize 2016 is expected to gather more than 3,000 of the nation’s most influential Latino professionals from the industries of digital content creation, journalism, music, marketing, film, and business over five days. The event will take place in downtown Miami’s InterContinental hotel, April 4-8, 2016.

Smart Home

Alexa toilets, robot ovens, and all the other smart home tech coming to CES

CES 2019 is finally here. So what smart home trends can we expect to see this year? Regardless of what you seek, chances are you'll find it on the floor at CES 2019. Here's what we're expecting to see.

Microsoft’s Cortana wants to be friends with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

Microsoft no longer wants to compete against Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant in the digital assistant space. Instead, it wants to transform Cortana into a skill that can be integrated into other digital assistants.
Home Theater

Plex is the latest player to contemplate the subscription streaming game

With massive reach thanks to its client app being supported virtually every media device on the planet, Plex is now looking at the future of its media curation platform. A future that may include free and subscription services.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

CES 2019: Tech trends to watch for at the consumer electronics show

With more than 4,400 exhibiting companies and more than 2.7 million square feet of exhibition hall, CES is overwhelming. Here's what to expect from the upcoming show, from A.I. and self-driving cars to 5G networks and 8K televisions.

Can gamers build a society? We’ll find out in Amazon’s ‘New World’

Amazon is building a massively multiplayer game with an entirely unique world and setting. We interviewed three of the game developer’s about why Amazon is taking a risk on ‘New World’ and how the company’s cloud tech makes it…
Emerging Tech

Today, hacks are annoying. In future smart cities, they could kill

Corporate security breaches are becoming so common that people now accept them as part of a digital future. But for smart cities, system hacks could prove far dangerous for citizens.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live – CES 2019 – Day 2

On today's episode: While we are for sure going to run down all the hottest and most innovative tech announcements of CES 2019, we're also hosting some amazing guests and panels. From the latest VTOL taxi from Bell Helicopters and the…

Ride through the sky and get fit on the fly with the NordicTrack VR Bike

During CES 2019, we tried the NordicTrack Virtual Reality Bike. Combining fitness and gaming, the bike is one of the most interesting approaches to VR traversal we’ve seen. 

The best CES 2019 health gadgets combat stress, pain, and more

We can all use some help with our health and CES 2019 was packed with intriguing devices designed to combat pain and stress, help you monitor blood pressure, reduce tinnitus, and care for the sick or elderly.

These shoes let me stroll through ‘Skyrim,’ and I desperately want to go back

After being funded in just two hours on Kickstarter back in October 2018, Cybershoes has earned itself a place among the coolest VR walking and running tech. At CES 2019, we got to try them out and they live up to the hype.
Smart Home

Treat your furry friend with the best pet tech at CES 2019

We all want the best for our feline companions and furry best friends, so we're seeing more and more innovative gadgets designed for pets. CES 2019 was a veritable treasure trove of pet tech and these devices are our picks.

It took three years, but OLED laptops are having another moment at CES

To our surprise, OLED laptops made a strong showing at CES 2019. With options in the works from most of the major PC manufacturers, it seems OLED is making its comeback.