Is Miami losing its edge?

By May 21, 2012 Miami 19 Comments

One of the things that stuck out to me on this trip was the idea that Miami has lost its edge and advantage in the quest to become the gateway to the americas. With the advent of internet, the advantage of being in Miami for its role as gateway is changing. Previously you needed to be here to do business with all of South America, but it seems that cities like Sao Paulo are taking the crown slowly and surely. The amount of money being poured into Sao Paulo startups makes Miami look like kindergarten.

Many investors I met along the way thought it no longer an advantage to be in Miami, and are skipping us over to invest directly in South America on its own. From a transportation and access standpoint, Miami still makes tons of sense, but if we sit on our laurels we could soon be passed over for cheaper locations like Panama for instance. Miami is still the only US city with direct flights to almost all the major cities in South America. San Francisco has no direct flights to BsAs or Sao Paulo. It is also 4 hours less flying than to the west coast.

So how can Miami re-establish itself from a gateway perspective and make itself the defacto place you setup to do business in all of South America?
- Leverage govt incentives for setting up in Miami (beacon council perhaps?)
- Leverage lower costs (salaries, living, etc)
- Access to easy transportation to area (hello American Airlines)
- Easier business rules (labor, bureaucratic, etc)
- Multilingual workforce (nowhere else can you as easily find enough spanish speaking developers)
- Better timezone balance to both europe and south america vs West Coast

I think Miami can stand a chance of being a viable competitor for startups, it just needs to get its ass in gear. How do you think Miami can improve to stay competitive?

  • dadedude

    The problems originate in Washington, with ‘ absurd visa rules for business travelers, as well as increasingly complex  banking regulations – designed  to stop terrorism, but actually ensnaring legitimate business interests. 

  • http://twitter.com/shinsyotta Matthew Lally

    Move to San Francisco?

  • http://lessaccounting.com Allan Branch

    There’s a hurdle with each step of the process of building a company. From idea to getting founders to launching to getting customers to getting $ and being profitable then hiring and staying profitable. A scene needs to help with each hurdle to become attracting.

    South Florida has the same issue as most parts of the country except NYC, SF and maybe Chicago. I think Omaha & Philly are up and comer startup cities because they’re communicating and focusing on helping each other.

    It seems there are a lot of startup blogs, but no one is talking about people that have built their companies into profitable. For me, reading about startups is gross, it’s so easy to come up with an idea and talk about your lofty goals. The real meat, the real attraction are profitable companies. 

  • http://carlosacabrera.com/ Carlos A. Cabrera

    Investing and supporting local startups. I used to work with a startup from LA that works directly with Venezuela. In the tech world Miami is not a port (we don’t need a port in a flat world) Miami has a lot of potential working with South America but we need more startups leading the tech field and they won’t do without good support and positioning.

  • Patrick Kedziora

    I think every startup in Miami should move to Silicon Valley, grow to 1,000 employees and then open a satellite office in Miami with 100 people. I think that’s the fastest way to grow a tech company in Miami. IMHO.

  • http://twitter.com/CarlosAOrdonez Carlos Ordonez

    I think this goes back to the point I am trying to get across in a few other forums, and my personal efforts trying to meet with the people involved in Miami that has the same goal as I do to develop a tech community here and is:  Miami needs to work in a united front avoiding imitating SF, NY or Chicago and trying to understand its competitive advantage leveraging the close ties it has to Latin America. A united front involving Universities, local Government, established businesses, entrepreneurs, tech developers and VCs etc, under 1 big umbrella. Miami needs to leverage the favorable business environment exist in Florida- 
    even better that the one in California-,  the close ties businesses have here with the region as whole, and the fact that if you ask most of these entrepreneurs in Latin America if they would like to establish their headquarters in Miami to expand their business most likely they will say “yes”. As an example look at .CO, an spin off from the Colombian Government, now with headquarters in Miami, with a tremendous  growth in the last few years. I am open to meet with anyone willing to brainstorm how to create a sustainable tech community in Miami.

  • Boilingice

    The tech community won’t begin to grow in Miami until there’s a world class engineering school in South Florida. Just look at Central Florida. UCF is very strong and has links that take the technology out of the labs into industry. There’s nothing like that in South Florida and until there is it’s an uphill battle.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    I agree we don’t need ports anymore, which was the underlying point of my article. you do need to still do face to face business, and being a quick flight away is an advantage.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    I don’t honestly think UCF has better engineering than South Florida Schools. They are all on par. UF has a much stronger engineering program than all of them, but gainesville is a back-country farm town, not a tech hub by any stretch of the imagination

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    if you are building for LatAm, SFO is not an option. 

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    All of the big tech companies have those, and they don’t facilitate the tech community much because they are just sales offices. Furthermore those offices aren’t allowed to spend money on local efforts. Because budgets need to be spent in their destination markets, not the place they work.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    I think the idea of Miami being comparable to even Chicago is hard to swallow. Chicago has 10M people, and pulls from that entire region all of the talent of the midwest. 

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    I agree we need to focus on the profitable companies. That gets tough as the profitable ones are all B2B companies in Miami, and people don’t find those sexy or interesting. 

  • Jorge Ramirez

    I’ve been trying to educate and make Miami tech savy, maybe even a hub and tech friendly for many, many years. I could go on about what I have seen and heard over the years but would take a while. I think those of us that do see Miami as a potential tech gateway and to Americas should meet. It will be the future if we really want it, I’m ready.

  • http://lessaccounting.com Allan Branch

    But who wants to live in Chicago? Miami is an international city with beautiful people. I just looked at the Miami population, it is really only 399k people?

  • http://lessaccounting.com Allan Branch

    I agree it’s not as sexy to build an accounting app as some funded b2c app that never makes a dime and dies away after a year. People building apps that want to change the world bore me. We’re so flooded with 22 year olds with lofty goals that are great at talking about ideas but can’t run businesses. 

    Also look at Atlanta, MailChimp is the reason there’s any community at all in Atlanta.

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    City of miami is 400k, but greater miami is like 5.5M http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami

  • http://twitter.com/DaveNotik David Notik

    Reminded me of this article I read recently.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/15/v-fullstory/2896906/getting-back-to-business.html

    [snip]
    As I attended technology conferences in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, etc., I was always amazed how any one of them would attract from 100,000 to 250,000 participants. Some conferences actually transform the entire city.I began to ask why we couldn’t do this in South Florida. The answer was always that we could not compete with Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle, etc. My view is that we do not need to compete, we need to use our number one asset — that we are the undisputed capital of Latin America for everything except technology. Therefore, why not launch a Tech Conference in South Florida to serve as the technology bridge between Latin America and the rest of the world?[/snip]

  • http://www.infinimedia.com Brian Breslin

    i saw that, manny medina does have the funds to make it happen. but even 50k visitors seems unfathomable for tech in south florida. he is shooting 2 years out though. most tech conferences here can’t pull more than 500 guests.