It’s been a while since I last touched on this topic; I haven’t discussed the growth and evolution of the Miami tech community as much as I have in the past. There’s a reason for this, it’s hard to take the time to write about something when you are in the midst of building it. Building communities is something I care deeply about, and take very seriously. It takes quite a bit of dedication to actively attempt to improve your environment in such a way that affects lasting and widespread positive change.
A number of communities spread far and wide across our planet are hastily trying to reposition themselves as tech hubs, in effect trying to position themselves as mini versions of Silicon Valley. You have Silicon Alley in New York, or Silicon Prairie in the Midwest, or Silicon Beach in too many places to count (Miami at one point tried to own this moniker, much to my chagrin). Each of these outposts has made efforts to gather the resources they feel they need in order to drive growth in their local information/technology economies; don’t get me wrong, this is an effort definitely worth applauding. What disappoints me is not that people are trying to foster technology and entrepreneurship, two key components of the original Silicon Valley, what disappoints me is that they are trying to be clones of the Valley. No one is ever going to replicate Silicon Valley. Ever. Seriously you can’t do it, there are too many organic components that cannot be replicated. You can’t duplicate the storied history, you can’t duplicate the world class universities in the area, you can’t replicate the culture of risk that is pervasive in the San Francisco Bay Area. So stop trying to be Silicon X, and start trying to be the best version of what your community is good at.
Miami will never be Silicon Valley, and silicon has a completely different first meaning here than in Mountain View, California. Miami does have an incredible amount of positive attributes (and plenty of negatives, but so does every place). The key for Miami or any other city that aspires to be a world-class city, is to look at the fundamentals they already have and build upon those strengths. Your city might not be very large, but I am sure there are people in it who have incredible domain knowledge in one industry or another. In this day and age we should be looking to bring industry knowledge and technology knowledge together. Technology shouldn’t be the end goal, but seen as the tool used to bring us into the next generation of our existing industries. These cities need to focus on fostering innovation and collaboration as their focuses, not technology for technology sake. Tech for tech sake only serves the interest of the vendors of tech, not the community as a whole.
We can’t out manufacture countries with tons of low cost labor, but we can out think them and out innovate them. We won’t get there though if we keep focusing on being clones of Silicon Valley for the sake of being clones. We have to focus on being hubs of innovation, whatever industry or shape that requires.