Can Miami become a sort of “Silicon Valley” with a Latin accent and sun?
Or, in other words, can this city and all of South Florida become the permanent home for start-ups able to develop successful and transcendent innovative technologies? The answer is that not only could Miami be included in the list of the most influential North American cities for technological growth, next to Seattle, Boston and Austin for example, but could in fact do it with personality and some unique characteristics.
From my point of view, Miami really has some singular traits that could make it the new center for technological innovation. The most important of all lies in its ties with Latin America.
For historical and cultural reasons, the city has been a true second home for thousands of Latin Americans who have given South Florida a distinct cultural signature. Entrepreneurs haven’t stayed behind. The majority of them have benefited by being able to develop their projects in a much friendlier environment for business. The real access to risk capital, the absence of tedious bureaucracies and a sensible tax system are, and will continue to be, more than attractive conditions for them.
With this being present, there are many enthusiasts of the city’s increasing technological profile. The business accelerator, Launch Pad Technology and the entrepreneur space provided by The Lab Miami are some of the actors that fuel the reigning optimism. Besides them, the arrival to Miami of the Endeavor organization and the success of Open-English, a company of Latin American capitals, has revolutionized the market with its online language teaching methods.
However, even though these facts seem encouraging, it is necessary to recognize that, in any case, we are still in “early” stages. Jerry Haar, Director of the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center from the International University of Florida, admits that one of Miami’s weakest points is that, as opposed to other American metropolis, it lacks “flag ships” that generate a start-up ecosystem to surround it. It is important to remember, by each case, the undeniable influence that Google has had on Silicon Valley, Microsoft’s role in Seattle and Dell’s importance for Austin.
Talent in order to foster talent
Beyond the current circumstances, it seems clear that Miami’s future as a technological center will depend on its capacity to incentivize the talent of Latin American entrepreneurs, in other words, in its talent to foster talent. If other regions of the world like Estonia and Israel have stimulated the development of small start-ups that will then go on to become significant players in the digital era (I think of giants like Skype and also of Waze, the Israeli app about traffic that Google bought recently) we can expect that Latin America, propelled by the qualities that Miami has to offer, can reach similar results or maybe even better.
To reach this goal, nevertheless, it requires something more than tax breaks and capital availability. We have much to learn from Israel, who has become the third country with the highest amount of companies within the Nasdaq (only behind the U.S.A. and China). The incentives to have a culture of innovation and generation of stimulating environments from their initial stages have been some of the keys of the technology boom. The success of the book, “Start-up Nation: the Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” explains without a doubt the rest of this recipe.
Skype’s case and Estonia are not very different. Focused on the connectivity of its citizens but at the same time in the easiness to create businesses, the ex Soviet Republic has given, since its independence in 1991, certain steps to encourage innovation. When eBay bought Skype in 2005, Taavet Hinrikus, their first employee, said that the moment served as an example to the world of the potential of launching a business in a small but advanced country.
An encouraging horizon
Israel and Estonia’s examples enable us to be optimistic but, at the same time, force us to think of the responsibility to create an environment that stimulates creativity. Fortunately, Miami counts with the economic strength needed so that innovative ideas can find capital to allow them to launch.
On top of that, Miami can expect big advantages from its implicit condition of serving as a link between the United States and Latin American countries.
In this scenario, Miami’s horizon as an authentic start-up incubator is very optimistic. Even further from the essential efforts needed to strengthen the surge of innovative projects, the city counts with sufficient financial power and, above all, with the push of an emerging region.