Monday night I had the pleasure of attending an event in downtown Miami that was lightheartedly labeled “#thegreatdebate.” It was for all intents and purposes a great excuse to bring together many of the movers and shakers in the Miami tech community and many of the folks I like to refer to as the suits. There were easily 100+ people in the room, all eagerly awaiting the message that both Auston Bunsen, and Juan Pablo Cappello were trying to argue for. Disclaimer, I am friends with Auston, and have yet to meet Juan Pablo. For a bit of backstory, please see Nancy Dahlberg’s great coverage of the event The Great Debate: We’ve only just begun.
TLDR: Auston thinks we should support the locals. Juan Pablo thinks we should embrace the South America gateway model that worked 14 years ago. JPC further argued that even though we are making progress, we aren’t making enough to make a real dent(this honestly annoyed me, I’ll get to that in a bit).
Now I am going to admit upfront that I am biased on this issue. As someone who has spent the last 6 years pouring my heart and soul into building a viable community in South Florida, I intrinsically have to side with Auston. However I think there is a lot of value in both arguments. Here is my stance on the issue: we need to double down on the organic locally grown community, supporting the leaders who have sacrificed their time, money, energy, and resources to build what we have so far, and find them the resources to grow even faster. If we are to ever be an attractive destination for the LatAm and Euro communities to make Miami their hub for business in the region, we have to make the infrastructure and the community stronger first. The community is the landing strip for any effort we may undertake to grow globally, without a strong organic community, we won’t have the tools foreigners need to let their roots take hold here. Auston brought up the great progress we’ve made, and that it was a sign of a growing community, let’s leverage this and keep the momentum going!
One of the key things I picked up this summer while on Geeks On A Plane was that Miami isn’t necessary anymore from a gateway perspective. People in mexico, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires all told me they didn’t NEED Miami; they could do business directly from their hometowns and fly direct or with a quick layover to SF, NY, or any other big market in the US. So we need to strengthen Miami to emphasize its benefits if we really want to compete globally and more specifically regionally.
Juan Pablo also mentioned that none of the 150 top VC firms have an office in Miami, to that I ask, then why hasn’t Greenberg Taurig, your law firm, tried to bring any of them here?
This is effectively my call to arms. If you are one of the 75+ suits who were in that room, then please put your money where your mouth is and come out to the community, invest in it, and it will bring you returns. This is a new Miami, if you’re going to talk a big game, you better have the money to back it up. We all need to collaborate more.