Miami, the future of startups?

March 9, 2019

The possibility of turning Miami into the entrepreneurship capital of the country stirs enthusiasm among investors and local entrepreneurs. In addition to some encouraging signs, the city has the challenge to create a stimulating environment that contributes to innovation.

If influential cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and Austin lead the way, can Miami become the next Silicon Valley with Latin accent and tropical sunshine? The answer is yes. Not only Miami could be included in the list, but it could reach this state with personality and enough style.

For this reason, there are many interested in adding to the startup profile of the city. In 2012 Knight Foundation decided to make entrepreneurship the centerpiece of its Miami program. Since then, they have invested more than $ 25 million in co-working spaces, accelerators, and events as big as eMerge Americas and small community meet-ups to spark sustainable job creation.

Other organizations soon followed: Goldman Sachs brought its 10,000 Small Businesses program. Endeavor, an international mentorship program, set up its first U.S. outpost in Miami. Cambridge Innovation Center, another startup convener, came from Boston. Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups, a venture capital fund, opened in downtown last spring after previously investing in local startups including facial recognition experts Kairos and Clutch Prep, a textbook app. The University of Miami, Florida International University and Miami Dade College added entrepreneurship programs. So many co-working spaces opened that Miami soon had more per-capita than any other city in the country.

It is necessary to recognize that we are still in the first stages.

“I think you’re just starting to see the nascent bubbling of Miami’s potential,” said JJ Desai, a former Johnson and Johnson Labs executive and now chief strategic innovation officer at Miami medical device company INSIGHTEC. Last year, Desai moved his work to Miami after shuttling between the Magic City and Silicon Valley for four years. “If you get in now, you’re an early-stage early adopter.”

In his point of view, Miami is right on track, taking in consideration that L.A., he believes, already peaked. Austin has plateaued. Instead, he likes Miami’s current status to places like Minneapolis or Houston, which are all looking to transform their economies away from traditional industries.

However, Miami is an international hub, and will soon likely leapfrog those other places, he believes. Also, it can happen overnight.

“It takes a few key people,” he said. “L.A. happened because three or four PayPal people moved down there, then other names declared they’d be coming. That’s what it takes, and we’re now starting to see that with influential people coming to Miami that have cash.”

Miami Timeline

Key moments in the growth of South Florida’s entrepreneurship movement:

  • 2006: Refresh Miami launches as Miami’s main tech-oriented community group.
  • 2012: The Knight Foundation identifies entrepreneurship as a key initiative for Miami, investing in The LAB Miami, the region’s first independent co-working space
  • 2013: Endeavor, an international business mentorship group, opens its first U.S. program to Miami thanks to a Knight Foundation grant
  • 2014: Miami hosts first-ever eMerge Americas conference, the largest tech conference in Latin America
  • 2015: Kauffman Foundation releases the first study on local startup activity, ranking Miami No. 2 in the nation
  • 2016: CIC Miami and Venture Cafe Miami open, providing events and programming for local startups and entrepreneurs
  • 2017: Kauffman Foundation ranks Miami No. 1 in startup activity; LaunchCode opens first non-profit coding academy in Miami
  • 2018: 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley venture fund, arrives in Miami

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