Entrepreneurs and investors are trying to make Miami and South Florida the next big U.S. tech hub – but, it may take a while.
With South Florida’s warm weather, affordability, and proximity to Latin America are enticing tech workers to Miami. Florida also offers tax advantages; no local or state income taxes, no local corporate tax, and a reasonable corporate tax rate of 5.5 percent, one of the lowest in the nation.
“It’s exactly where we need to be, exactly the right time, and it’s the absolute perfect place for a start-up,” said Brian Brackeen, who moved from Silicon Valley to Miami to start his company, Kairos, a facial recognition software company.
However, Miami has a ways to go before it even reaches a mid-level technology hub. According to the National Venture Capital Association, Miami brought in only about $14.93 million in venture capital in 2014. Neighboring Fort Lauderdale drew in an estimated $641.9 million. San Francisco drew $15.74 billion.
Miami’s tech industry has been encouraged primarily by John S and the James L. Knight Foundation, which has funded an emergent tech ecosystem.
“If there’s great diversity, it means there’s a greater sort of collision of people with different backgrounds and ideas and biographies and experiences that will ultimately result in greater and more impactful ideas. Miami has that in a big, big way,” said Matt Haggman, program director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting more informed and engaged communities.
Many groups have remarked that building Miami’s tech infrastructure will take patience:
“To really build Miami, it requires more investment, more infrastructure, and that just takes time,” said Bradley Harrison, managing partner at Scout Ventures. The company recently invested in LiveNinja and Rokk3r Labs.
“As we continue to build our technology-based companies and innovation here, more and more venture capital will be flowing in South Florida and in Miami in particular,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez
Although Miami looks promising, there is still an acute lack of talent. Often times, engineers and other professionals have moved elsewhere in search of areas with more job prospects. This has posed a challenge to many start-ups looking to hire.
“Miami is only in year two or three of a 25-year development cycle,” Harrison said. “I think Miami right now is looking for success stories. It’s so early in the ecosystem that until we start having success stories, it won’t really start to show the progress that we’ve made.”