Creating opportunity
3 Reasons Miami’s Sizzling Tech Startup Scene Is Here to Stay
Kim Lachance Shandrow | November 24, 2016

When you think Miami, you might imagine sun, sand, and a drink in your hand. Add to that beautiful vision tech talent and innovation, two things the multicultural mecca teems with today, and you’re closer to the area’s exciting new reality.

In fact, the Magic City is now the number two city in the nation for startup creation, with thousands of technology entrepreneurs vying to push the tropical metropolis to the top spot. Venture capitalists aren’t far behind them, injecting hundreds of millions into the fast-growing Southeastern tech epicenter last year alone.

Tech companies big (Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Uber) and small are flocking to the breezy cultural hub—not only to extend their reach into the lucrative Latin American and Caribbean worlds of trade but also to tap into its massive multicultural and aging markets.

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Attractive tax incentives (a 5.5 percent corporate tax among them), reasonable cost of living relative to other tech hubs, and balmy weather aren’t the only draws pulling technology dreamers and doers to the nation’s fourth most populated urban center. Of course, the legendary nightlife doesn’t hurt either.

What else is driving Miami’s tech explosion? Check out some additional key causes below:

1. A Promising Crop of Health Tech Startups Is Fueling Miami’s Innovation Boom.

A growing healthcare innovation ecosystem is firmly taking root in the most southerly major city in the continental U.S. The region’s recent spike in health tech startups isn’t exactly surprising when you consider that Miami is prime real estate for companies angling to connect with the many healthcare-focused institutions, enterprises, and resources dotting the seaside sprawl. After all, it’s home to eight hospitals, three research universities, and a flock of large (and deep-pocketed) legacy healthcare companies.

Startupbootcamp Miami is one of the more prominent health tech accelerators catalyzing healthcare innovation in the area. The U.S. chapter of Europe’s largest accelerator aims to bring 10 health tech startups a year to Miami over the next three years.

Other similar accelerators on the bleeding edge of Miami’s digital health sector surge are Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups, Chicago-based Healthbox, and TechStars partner PowerMoves, the latter of which focuses on increasing the number of startups created by African Americans and minorities.

Accelerators like these that strategically set up shop in Miami connect healthtech solopreneurs and startups with various business lifelines, such as mentorship, pitching, and access to venture capital.

Joseph Whitner, Startupbootcamp Miami’s director of business development, says Miami is particularly attractive to health tech innovators—increasingly over better-known tech hotspots such as New York and San Francisco—in large part due to its culturally diverse and aging populations.

“The problems we face in Miami in terms of healthcare are interesting because of the eclectic population mix here,” he tells Free Enterprise in a phone interview. “We’re heavily Hispanic, heavily Caribbean, and heavily MediCare- and Medicaid-eligible. People are living longer here, and our elderly population speaks to a unique market opportunity that will continue to bring about innovative solutions that cater to those who most need them.”

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2. Social Impact Startups Are Working For the Greater Good in Miami.

According to an extensive University of Miami climate change report, Miami’s Silicon Beach will face a rising tide of environmental problems in the decades ahead. In response, a new generation of social tech entrepreneurs such as Miami Science Barge founder and CEO Dr. Ted Caplow are working to spread awareness of the impact of the already-climbing sea level.

Caplow, a longtime STEM educator, is among a growing number of social mission-motivated startup founders working for the greater good of Miami—a low-lying city he says is poised to lead the way in critical sustainability solutions for the 21st century.

Another changemaking civic innovator-entrepreneur at the helm of a shared value startup that aims to make Miami a cleaner, greener, and more vibrant place to work and live is Rebecca Fishman Lipsey. The founder and CEO of the Knight Foundation-backed social impact accelerator Radical Partners says Miami is in the midst of a social startup renaissance, and just in time to tackle some of the city’s—and the world’s—most pressing problems.

“There’s a new wave of great enterprises growing in Miami that help locals gain skills necessary to gain access to meaningful jobs in the tech space…” she tells Free Enterprise. “Several of the social impact startups here focus on gathering tech-savvy locals to create open-source solutions that improve the way locals can engage with their government and address challenges. The growth that we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Caplow and Fishman Lipsey are among an estimated 721 social entrepreneurs transforming Miami for the better. Startupbootcamp Miami COO Cristian Robiou, co-founder of a sustainable juice startup called Caribe Exotic, is also a social impact-entrepreneur there. He says that simply accelerating more startups isn’t nearly as significant of a local social impact as he’d like to see.

“We’re still at a point where there’s a lot of growth opportunity here…” he tells Free Enterprise, “but it doesn’t go deep into sectors and doesn’t have the density that I feel it should have. Sometimes it seems like more media hype than what’s actually being practiced on the ground, and that needs to change to effect real change.”

3. A growing crop of co-working spaces are incubating innovation.

Fact: Seats in co-working spaces are quickly multiplying in the seat of Miami-Dade County. There are some 21 of these collaborative communal workspace startups now nestled along the shore of Silicon Beach alone, several of them having popped up in recent months.

These trendy office setups, often open-air and artsy in aesthetic, are magnets for tech and social entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers, and creatives of all stripes. Some are also home to satellite offices for employees of larger tech firms, such as Lyft and Airbnb.

A recent newcomer to the increasingly-crowded Miami co-working space scene is South Florida startup Büro Group. Not too far from Büro is competitor WeWork. The global co-working space pioneer now lays claim to Miami Beach’s largest co-working space and reportedly plans to open five to seven more locations in the city in the coming few years.

Jose “Hutch” Rasco is one half of the founding team behind another new co-working space in the area called Building Miami. The startup launched last summer in the heart of the city, specifically in the Brickell quarter. One of Miami’s estimated 77,000 minority entrepreneurs, Rasco wanted to start up in the bustling downtown financial district to zero in on his target market—young, motivated tech innovators and entrepreneurs.

“[Brickell] is the urban center of the city where young, working professional are moving to live and work,” he tells Free Enterprise. “Miami’s entrepreneurship scene is very broad—from creative freelancers, to food and fashion companies, to tech entrepreneurs—yet there is space for everyone here.”

Rasco says Miami’s promising tech scene has reached a point where it’s no longer a pitstop on the way to Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley. “In the past, if you reached a certain level of traction as a tech startup, you felt that your best chance of success was to move to San Francisco or New York in order to take advantage of the ecosystems there,” he says. “With the growth of co-working spaces, accelerators, and other ecosystem builders, we are creating a Miami tech ecosystem where tech startups can grow.” And stay.