Growing up in Peru, Guillermo Perez was mesmerized by electronics, deeply curious about how and why things worked. An eager student at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Peru, he narrowed his focus to the burgeoning field of informatics engineering and found his calling.
After a brief stint teaching at his alma mater, Perez joined the Spanish multinational Telefónica as a network engineer and began working on multiple projects in Peru, Chile, and Argentina.
In 1999, Telefónica launched Terra, a global subsidiary known best to the public as a Spanish-language Internet portal. Perez was called to join its startup team in the United States, where he is director of technology today. To complement his technical professional formation, he attended the executive MBA program at the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania.
Perez is quick to point out that Terra has been transforming and that its importance extends far beyond its original presence as a portal. Terra was the first company to launch offers of music and videos to Latin America and has recently become the implementation arm of Telefónica for its mobile and subscription value-added services. “Terra is distinguished by its innovation culture,” Perez says.
From his Miami office, Perez oversees the company’s regional infrastructure, data-center operations, and corporate IT. In its data center in Miami, the company processes more than two billion emails a day and connects with more than 50 mobile carriers and more than 100 million visitors per month across Latin America. All of this technology infrastructure is Perez’s responsibility.
Given the renown of California’s Silicon Valley as a tech corridor, Miami might not seem like the obvious first choice for a telecom giant to base its operations. Nevertheless, for Latino-centric Telefónica/Terra, it makes great sense. In addition to being the ideal location to market directly to the Hispanic community in the US, Miami was also Terra’s best option to centralize its data center and technology infrastructure, consolidating all its original data centers from all over Latin America. It’s part of a push to achieve greater operational efficiency—a virtue Perez is constantly touting.
“We are no longer competing with local or regional companies; we are now competing on a global scale with multinational companies and brands.”
Telefónica has regional fiber-optic submarine cables throughout South America, with the landing station for these cables in Boca Raton, Florida. The company also works with multiple other Latin American carriers, boasting a presence in 22 Latin American countries and offices in seven.
According to Perez, Terra has succeeded mostly because it has learned to remain at once creative and efficient. Technology entails investments, he notes, but it also can be used as a tool for efficiency.
Perez has found himself at the helm of this push for centralization since Telefónica decided some years ago to have an online presence. The company’s strategy was to grow through acquiring various Latin American companies, each with its own technology and local resources. Perez was tasked with making the relationships between these companies and the mother company coherent and operative.
“Now, we are no longer competing with local or regional companies; we are now competing on a global scale with multinational companies and brands,” says Perez, who knows better than most that the majority of challenges a company faces to remain competitive can be assisted by updating technology usage. “To maintain
relevance in the market, we’ve had to invest heavily in cutting-edge technologies.”
Terra’s operational model of continuing to tap talent from Latin America while keeping technology infrastructure in the United States has proven successful. “It is not all about product differentiation. Operational efficiency is another way to compete,” Perez says.
Miami is also an advantageous location for Terra because of the competitiveness of the tech market, which plays into Terra’s strategy. Take, for example, bandwidth. In the United States, there are hundreds of carriers competing for business, making it a more efficient, more mature market.
Subsidiary of Telefónica Group
Presence in 22 countries
Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, US
Terra Networks is the Internet and mobile-services integration arm for Telefónica.
“Having our tech operations located in the United States allows us to get a better price and better quality. Relocating operations to the US is a smart decision for any Latin American tech company,” Perez says.
Over the past five years or so, Miami has emerged as hotbed of technology innovation. LabMiami, VentureHive, Endeavour, and other organizations—as well as events like eMerge Americas—are promoting the advantages of Miami-based technology companies. “Miami is not only a great place for tech enterprises, but it’s also a natural hub for Latin American-regional companies,” Perez says, adding that American companies must see the opportunities in emerging markets.
“There are so many opportunities in Latin America to connect the millions of people that still are not connected—or with limited connectivity—to the Internet,” he says.
Perez has personally invested in helping rural and remote communities in Peru to improve their broadband connectivity. “In the next few years, projects from local operators as well as efforts like Google Loon, Facebook Aquila, and others will bring broadband to all of Latin America, if not to every remote area in the world.”
Beyond his day job, Perez is also a technology advisor to several nonprofits in South Florida and serves as a mentor with Everwise, a startup and community of business mentors and mentees. Everwise helps guide young professionals in technology to navigate the industry and make transitions into management positions. “Mentoring,” he says, “is one of the most rewarding activities any professional can participate in.”