Saif Ishoof said there’s one question most locals he knows tend to ask him about Miami’s highly publicized tech sector: Is the hype real?
So Ishoof, the founder of Miami-based Lab22c and an adviser to Mayor Francis Suarez, had a strong message for the audience last week at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 South Florida Economic Summit.
“It’s absolutely real,” he said.
At the event, Ishoof moderated a session about South Florida’s technology movement that included panelists Felice Gorordo, CEO of eMerge Americas; Jalak Jobanputra, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Future\Perfect Ventures; and Anthony Vanaki, CEO of fintech Deliver Capital.
Here are three takeaways from the discussion:
Movement is real, but there are challenges
Investors and entrepreneurs relocated to Florida in droves during the Covid-19 pandemic in search of larger homes and fewer restrictions. The trend helped fuel the region’s explosion, but has already resulted in some consequences, like skyrocketing housing prices.
That’s a problem for locals and small businesses getting priced out of downtown neighborhoods, Vanaki said, noting the rent for his company’s space doubled over the past year.
“That’s bad for businesses because it forces you away from hubs” where innovation is occurring, he said.
The lack of reliable public transportation infrastructure makes that distance even more difficult for students and entrepreneurs who either don’t have cars or can’t afford to drive long distances every day, Jobanputra said.
Huge funding rounds matter more than you think
South Florida startups raked in more than $4.6 billion from venture capital and private equity investors in 2021 – twice as much as the year before.
Anyone who follows tech knows it’s no longer unusual to see early-stage Miami startups raise $10 million, $50 million or even $100 million from investors. But those multimillion-dollar capital raises benefit more than founders, Ishoof said. The capital trickles down to office landlords, real estate agents, academic institutions, recruiters and employees hired by those firms as they grow.
Status as crypto capital could spawn more businesses
The movement of new companies and events such as Bitcoin 2022 has made many people aware that Miami is becoming one of the cryptocurrency centers of the world. But what does it really mean to be a hub for an industry that most consumers still don’t understand?
Jobanputra said the audience should compare it to the early days of Silicon Valley, when tech companies descended on the Bay Area. One successful business, she said, often leads to the creation of another.
The relocation of industry heavyweights like cryptocurrency exchange Blockchain.com could spark spin-off companies by employees who depart to launch their own ventures, she said.