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On building a community

By November 7, 20115 Comments3 min read

Five years ago, a movement of sorts was born in Miami. It was born out of a need, and a desire. A need for community, and a desire to feel accepted.

When I moved back to Miami after college, what I found in tech down here was startling. There was no sense of community in South Florida tech. It was all about who you were and what can you do for me today. Thus, the genesis for Refresh Miami was born. A place where the creative and tech community can connect and engage.

Over the years, the purpose of Refresh has evolved and the need we originally saw has been largely fulfilled. The number of smaller groups that have emerged from the audience at the tech events fills my heart with hope. These groups could have emerged on their own, but it wouldn’t have been as easy for the founders to meet and feel the vibe or energy of the community. What was originally meant to fill a void from a lack of community has managed to surpass that, and now enables the creation of new niche communities. Refresh has fulfilled its original goal of sparking the creative fires in our respective bellies, now it must find a new raison d’etre.

So what should Refresh 2.0 (for lack of a better moniker) be? My dream is to see Refresh help more people than it has in the past. The hundreds of jobs it has helped fill, the thousands of friendships that have emerged, the millions of dollars in economic windfall its brought to the region — they are the tip of the iceberg. Refresh needs to refresh itself. The new Refresh will be less about individual meetups and workshops organized by us, but rather it will be about fostering events you want to setup, new relationships, and new opportunities for the community.

In the coming year, my goal is to see anyone from a javascript enthusiast to a final cut aficionado to a ruby guru be able to find, connect, and engage with other like-minded individuals and groups throughout South Florida. Refresh will be there to help you connect with others, and share your knowledge, your passions, and your love for tech. I’d like to see Refresh find more people jobs this year than in the past 5 years combined.

The people in the community I’ve spoken with have all mentioned the need for action and forward movement in our community. If we want to create the community we want to live in, raise our kids in, work in, and have fun in, then we have to take action. We cannot expect others to fulfill our dreams for us.

I’m asking you, the designers, developers, marketers, artists, business guys, teachers, consultants, bloggers, etc to take it upon yourselves to stand up and engage the community. If we don’t all participate, then who are we to blame but ourselves when the community isn’t there?

Thank you all for the last five years, they’ve been incredible. Cheers to another five!

If you’d like to get more involved in shaping the future of the tech community in South Florida, please let me know.

* Worth reading: Foundations of a startup community


  • Hey Brian,

    I enjoyed your article. I currently live in Chicago where there is a lot of collaboration, but there is also a lot of room for improvement. My brother and business partner lives in Miami and we are trying to organize a couple of technical and entrepreneurial events to add to the community and encourage collaboration, creativity and produce opportunities for startups.

    Our first event is which is a Global Event that is currently being organized in 50 cities around the world. Its initiator is Corey Haines a Ruby developer from Chicago who is traveling around the world facilitating these events. His purpose is to encourage software craftmanship.

    I am investing in Miami, because I went to school there and my roots are still there. It is great to hear that other people like yourself are promoting community and encouraging others to do the same.

  • Jon Kirkman says:

    Hello Brian,

    Having just moved to Miami from Utah (Orem/Provo) I’ve been fairly surprised at how scattered the dev scene is here. In retrospect I should have realized that the only two markets I’m accustomed to are real hotspots. New York and Utah both have active tech communities with a lot of amazing talent in very high demand from equally active entrepreneurial/startup communities. 
    I don’t know yet if the talent is here and simply waiting for us to summon them from the woods but I think you’re exactly right that communities won’t just magically appear. 

    Events like Refresh, Hack-day and Code Retreat Miami (thanks Tom!) are a great start. I’m trying to figure out what kind of event I can organise to help.

    If we can’t draw from a solid community here Miami will have a big problem. The opportunity to be the tech centre for Latin America will disappear and so will the tech jobs. At the end of the day I know that I can relocated my business to wherever the talent is whether it’s NYC, Salt Lake City, Miami, Bogota or Santiago.

    • Hey Jon,
      Well one thing to consider is geographic distance. The people in Miami/South Florida are spread out over a distance greater than the state of rhode island. There are plenty of developers here, thousands and thousands, all working in big corporations (citrix, microsoft, motorola, etc) just few venture outside. Come to a refresh event, or watch for updates and see before you start organizing something new. 

      • Jon Kirkman says:

        That’s a good point about geographic distribution.

        It’s interesting to consider what makes a vibrant tech community. I think Silicon Valley became what it is/was because of the number of passionate geek startups, rather than the number of geeks employed. Similar to San Jose & San Francisco the interstate between Provo & Salt Lake City is scattered with billboards recruiting developers for companies like Adobe/Omniture and a lot of startups that may or may not be around next month. I don’t think those billboards are purchased by developers. So what makes the business community in an area so passionate about nerds like us? Do you think the clammy embrace of mega tech companies like you mentioned above could actually be somewhat stifling to community?

        I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know people here and the tech community as a whole. 

        Thanks for the insight!

        • Silicon valley is built on a culture of engineering. Look at hewlett packard. Big companies are necessary to foster talent and support it. The big companies here in south florida though largely ignore the ecosystem around them locally.