For the last 8 years I’ve been in the trenches here in Miami trying to foster the growth of a tech community. I’ve been busting my hump trying to bring people together in an effort to build a community of entrepreneurs and technologists I want to be a part of. We’ve come a long way in 8 years (I honestly couldn’t have predicted this – even though I love doing annual predictions), it’s almost unrecognizable to be honest. However, we’re still far, far away from where I want us to be.
So I am going to present you with a wish list of things I want to see in Miami, some tech, some not, but these are the things I would love to see to improve my city.
1. More incubators and accelerators
Right now there is one. ONE accelerator for a population of 2.6 Million (5.5 if you include greater Miami metro area ). That’s not enough. There are thousands of entrepreneurs in greater Miami, we need more than one place to help them grow. We need several health-care accelerators, several entertainment, several hardware accelerators, and a number of software/internet accelerators. I would prefer to see 5-6 smaller incubators that can give small seed size investments and support than just 1 larger one.
2. More Miami pride
Miami startups need to wear their hometown with pride. You know what you are if you’re a startup in San Francisco? One of twenty thousand. You know what you are in Miami? Unique. So wear your affinity for the 305 with pride. This is your town, act like it. Great companies that are here need to stop hiding the fact they are from Miami, it doesn’t help them recruit, and it certainly doesn’t help the overall image of the community.
3. More peer mentorship.
I want to see everyone who has more than 3 years of experience working in the tech industry to have two mentees. These are people that the mentors can give feedback to and the mentees can rely on them. Wonder how to market your company? Maybe your mentor has done it already. We’re trying to do this at Refresh Miami with our Open Mentorship project, but its not enough. We need people who are getting together for coffee, lunch, breakfast, whatever. We need people keeping each other accountable. These mentors also need accountability. I want someone who will check in with me weekly to see if I am on track to accomplish my goals.
4. More physical spaces for collaboration
The effect we’ve seen on the community via the LAB has been incredible. There are a handful of coworking spaces around Miami right now, and I truly hope we see this trend continue, however it’s still not enough. We need more. We need several maker spaces for people to hack on hardware. We need more event spaces. We need more collisions.
5. Become a true landing spot for all the best Latin American companies
We need the equivalent of plug and play center in Sunnyvale here in Miami. a 20,000 square foot space with offices and all the necessary support infrastructure that the best companies from abroad can come to Miami and make use of. This would be a free trade zone of sorts for tech. Place this space near the existing Miami startups and you’ll see way more growth for both communities.
6. Better transportation
If Miami doesn’t act now, we’re going to suffer the same fates as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Panama City, and countless other metropolitan areas in Latin America that are paralyzed by traffic. Miami needs to figure out solutions that make public transportation accessible and useful in both the short term and the long term. That means adding more trolleys (glorified buses), expanding our light rail systems, and looking at solutions that will keep us from falling further into traffic paralysis (people avoid traveling through cities whenever possible in order to avoid gridlock).
7. More commercialization of research
We have a number of great schools in the region that are doing great things and innovating on a number of fronts. Let’s make sure the world knows about them. Our local universities need to stand up and show the world what kind of exciting things they are creating. This is where we see the future, in our schools. If our schools can profit from their research, we can improve facilities, improve our
8. More collaboration
Miami needs to drop the pretenses that we’re all independent in this fight. We need REAL collaboration. I want to see more cross pollination between groups. Resources being shared. People helping each other. I want to see people making an effort. Healthy communities are unsustainable if all the contributions come from under 20% of the participants. The pareto principle only works when we see at least 20% participating, the reality is that its far fewer right now.
9. More investor awareness
It would benefit the startup community greatly if we saw more investors competing for deals. Right now the balance is on the side of the handful of angels in the area.
Some of these things on my wish list are pie in the sky ideas, which I don’t see happening any time soon. Others I think are quick wins, which can be solved. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for making Miami better.
Great article Brian! I agree with each and every point you raise and I truly believe that if everyone of us does his part, we can make most of items in your wishlist happen.
More focus on the *application* of technology to trade and logistics, and less on pure technology. We do not have a great engineering program within driving distance, but we *do* have NAP of the Americas, the Brickell financial district, the two busiest cruise ports IN THE WORLD, the only net-exporting ports in the USA, and closer proximity to dozens of foreign capitals than to Washington DC.
Regarding #2: is there any up to date online resource listing tech companies in Miami? I live in the Bay Area and have been keeping an eye out for opportunities in Miami, but it’s hard to find stuff since I don’t live there and have no contacts in the Miami tech scene.
1. Are you counting ProjectLift as the one? What about VentureHive, IncubateMiami, Miami Entrepreneurship Center, or the UM LaunchPad?
The feedback I’ve heard from local incubator alumni is that there’s a lack of mentors with experience turning small companies into medium sized companies. There’s small biz people and large biz people, but no one in between.
2. e.g. Rocking the #MiamiTech stickers Woven was handing out.
I will avoid listing a company on http://soflastartups.quora.com/ if I can’t find anything on their site or social networks indicating they are from South Florida, even if I’ve met the owners and know they are. Listing your location as “global” is also a pet peeve.
3. I get asked all the time to advise non-tech co-founders who can’t afford to hire me. I never get asked to mentor other devs. The closest I’ve had to tech mentorship was http://www.coderetreatmiami.com/.
4 & 8. I’d like to see local startups start working in the same spaces. I’m not asking them to move out of their offices and into coworking permanently, but take a day to apprentice or pair in a shared space, or even trade employees with another startup. The response is always “they’re going to steal my idea”. I can’t even get some local devs to take free advice from a local meetup once a month.
9. I wish more local startups built self-sustaining businesses that didn’t require investor intervention.
My wish: That local devs and entrepreneurs make more of an effort to get better at the job of entrepreneurship rather than trying to flip their half-baked ideas.
Great article. One of the issues I see with Miami is ownership. Miami seems to be a transient city. People live here a few years then move back to Latin America or wherever they are from. I am sure this is why attendance to Marlins games is so low. There is little ownership of the city. About “the startup scene”. Every city tries to compare to SF. Every city has ups and downs. The transportation will never be ideal. It will never be a driving-less city. People need to make a good effort to meet others and the only way is driving. Yeah there is the metro, but you will need to walk a lot or take the bus, not so reliable. Take a taxi or an Uber? then we need to make more money to afford this type of transportation every day.
* Speed networking events
* Competitions that are not only hackathons
* Themed collaboration events: design night, coding night, VC night, etc
There are a lot of meetups about a topic, guest speaker. But I bet a lot of people go home thinking “I still cannot get my XYZ to work”