Childhood & Early Life
Fernando Espuelas was born on August 6, 1966 in Uruguay, to a real estate entrepreneur and his wife. The father left the family when the boy was only eight years old.
The young child pursued his elementary education from 'Elbio Fernández School’, in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. When he was ten years of age, he moved to the United States with his mother, with a savings of a meagre $100.
The mother worked twelve hours a day, at different factories, before she was hired as a housekeeper by a wealthy family in Greenwich, Connecticut. Here, Fernando started attending ‘North Street School’, where he initiated his first venture at fifth grade—a kid’s bank and insurance company.
He formed a student government in the school, the following year, which was the first of its kind, and was made the President. The enterprising young boy also started a school paper and worked as the chief editor.
In 1984, this young man passed out of ‘Greenwich High School’, where he dabbled in a lot of co-curricular activities, leading the ‘Debate Team’ and the ‘Political Action Club’. He also presented the local cable television show, titled ‘The Bottom Line with Fernando Espuelas’, interviewing eminent people from the place.
To fend for his family, this talented boy did odd jobs like working as a food delivery boy, babysitter and greeting card salesman. He also did his training from the New York head office of the company ‘Philip Morris’.
Espuelas took up a course in history from the ‘Connecticut College’, where he contributed extensively to ‘The College Voice’, the institute’s newspaper. Working for various councils in the college, he became a member of the ‘Board of Trustees of Connecticut College’, and subsequently graduated in 1988.
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In 1988, Espuelas started working for 'Wunderman Worldwide', a branch of the famous advertising agency 'Young & Rubicam', as an assistant executive, for the accounts of companies like 'American Express', 'General Foods Gevalia' and 'Weight Watchers'.
After an association of one year, he left 'Wunderman' and was then employed as an account executive by New York-based ad agency, 'Interpublic Group of Companies', his work including that of the ‘Citibank Visa’ account.
Fernando moved to South America, in 1991 and was appointed as the Managing Director for 'Ogilvy & Mather Direct', a marketing and advertising company in Argentina. Initially working on a single account, the young executive ensured tremendous profits for ‘Ogilvy & Mather’, in Argentina.
The same year, this enterprising young man was appointed as the head of the ‘Unilever’ account, belonging to ‘Ogilvy & Mather’. Working for ‘Unilever’, he designed the portfolios for big cosmetic brands like ‘Ponds’ and ‘Dove’. By the end of that year Espuelas became a member of the Board of Directors of the company.
In 1994, American telecommunications MNC, 'AT&T' appointed the ambitious young man to promote their brand in the whole of Latin America. The next year ‘AT&T’ he was made the Managing Director of Marketing Communications, where he would have to head operations in Latin America and the Caribbean area.
In 'AT&T', this persevering entrepreneur developed online services for the company, which became quite popular. The Spanish 'Hola' and Portuguese 'Ola' involved the first search engine that gave results in the two languages, along with news, games and interactive portals.
In 1996, Fernando and entrepreneur Jack Chen came up with the idea of having an Internet platform, called ‘Starmedia’ for people who speak Spanish and Portuguese. Being too innovative an idea, investors refused to contribute in the project. However, by the following year, the company somehow managed to get a funding of $2.5 million.
‘Starmedia’ became the first Latin American Internet enterprise to go public on America's stock market 'NASDAQ', in 1999.
The internet company's capital shot up to more than $500 million, by 2001, with business stalwarts like 'GE Capital', 'Hearst Corporation', 'Ebay', 'NBC' and 'Intel Capital' investing in the venture. The same year, Espuelas quit the company and was replaced by a representative of ‘Chase Manhattan Bank’.
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’Starmedia’ was sold in 2002, to a Spanish Internet service provider called ‘Eresmas’, for $8 million.
In 2004, this budding young entrepreneur wrote an autobiography titled 'Life in Action'.
Subsequently, Espuelas founded a digital media company called ‘VOY’, focusing on the interests of Latin American youth. In 2005, the business venture released a documentary titled 'Favela Rising', with the movie becoming a hit with critics.
Two years later, in 2007, VOY suffered losses and had to let go of employees, but somehow continued business.
In 2008, a radio talk show titled 'The Fernando Espuelas Show' was launched, by the passionate businessman. The show was aired on 'Univision Radio Los Angeles', with Fernando as the managing editor as well as the host.
The talk show focuses on political and social issues of concern and boasts of interviews with several prominent political leaders and social activists. Some of the distinguished personalities who have appeared on the radio show are President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, and Bishop William Henry Willimon of the Methodist Church of Alabama, among others.
Awards and Achievements
Espuelas was selected as the ‘Global Leader of Tomorrow’ by the 'World Economic Forum' in 2000. The same year, ‘Latin Trade Magazine’ honoured him with the ‘Bravo Awards’ for the ‘Internet CEO of the Year’.
He featured on the list of 'Leaders of the Millennium' compiled by media corporations 'Time' and 'CNN'. He was named the '2000-All Star business leader’ by 'Crain's New York Business Magazine'. He also received the ‘Hispanic Entrepreneur Award’ the same year, presented by the ‘Hispanic Business Magazine’.
At the 'Multicultural Media Expo', held in 2006, ‘VOY’ bagged the 'Best Start-up Company' award. The next year, it was named the best Latin social networking company in US, by the 'Forrester' market research company.
In 2007, he won the 'Henry Crown Fellowship', which is an initiative by the 'Aspen Institute' to commemorate young "community-spirited leaders".
'Immigration Daily' newspaper named this distinguished businessman the "Immigrant of the Day" in 2008.
He was named one of the "Most Influential Hispanics and Rising Stars in Information Technology" by the 'U.S. Hispanic IT Executive Council' ('HITEC'), in the next two years.
According to 'PODER' magazine this entrepreneur was one of "The Nation's 100 Most Influential Hispanics" in 2012, for his radio talk show.