Wet labs for biomedical startups, an emerging "elder-tech" scene, and a pipeline to Latin America are just a few of the reasons Miami is heating up as a destination for founders. If you have 24 hours in this Art Deco metropolis, here are the insiders to meet, up and coming neighborhoods to check out, and some insider tips on where to grab that watermelon cucumber margarita.
Just eight miles from South Beach, office-tower-and-luxury-condo-plush Brickell is a financial hub-turned-startup magnet. "It's a little New York City," says Andrew Parker, CEO of elder-tech startup Papa, whose offices are headquartered in the neighborhood's WeWork.
Vibrant Wynwood marks the intersection of Miami's arts community and its tech scene. Galleries, cafés, craft breweries, and restaurants sit alongside coding boot camp Wyncode, Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) Miami, and co-working space Lab Miami.
With upgraded transportation options and the city's best new restaurants--NIU Kitchen, Alloy Bistro, and Soya & Pomodoro--Downtown has become a new draw for young companies. Startups including software firm Octopi are now sharing the area with cultural institutions like the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
You can land seed and Series A funding here, but it can be hard to find growth-stage investors in South Florida, says Rebecca Danta, managing director at Miami Angels. And according to Brian Breslin, founder of tech entrepreneurship nonprofit Refresh Miami, one of the biggest challenges is finding and retaining talent: "A lot of our top-tier people leave and go to San Francisco because they can earn a much larger salary or because they want to put Facebook or Google on their résumé and build their pedigree."
Where to Talk Shop
One of the first third-wave coffee shops and roasters to open in Miami, Panther Coffee flaunts single-origin pour-overs, coffee cuppings, and founders and investors getting their caffeine fix in all of its five locations. Insider tip: Its Wynwood café is the buzziest.
Why bother working in Miami if you're not poolside at an Art Deco hotel with a watermelon cucumber margarita? Soho Beach House, the Miami Beach outpost of the London-based Soho House, is limited to members, their guests, and hotel guests, but you can pretend you're an insider at Cecconi's, the Italian courtyard-style restaurant on its ground floor.
The powerhouse duo behind Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) Miami and non-profit partner Venture Café Miami are Natalia Martinez-Kalinina and Leigh-Ann Buchanan. Buchanan, among other things, runs Venture Café's weekly gatherings for entrepreneurs and investors over an open bar and can't-miss programming. Martinez-Kalinina oversees CIC Miami, a co-working space for startups--including South Florida's only shared wet lab for biomedical startups--and runs its Latin American engagement program, which has agreements in five countries to bring investments to the city.
Felecia Hatcher is not only co-founder of Blacktech Week, an annual weeklong conference for minority tech entrepreneurs, and coding camp nonprofit Code Fever. She also runs A Space Called Tribe, a co-working space and urban innovation lab that serves black entrepreneurs in the Overtown neighborhood. Its venture-capitalist-in-residence program gives black entrepreneurs unprecedented access to VCs.
Companies to Watch
Papa provides seniors with "grandkids on demand"--vetted college students mostly in health care-related fields--to run errands or just hang out. Andrew Parker launched the app in 2018 and plans to expand beyond Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in early 2020.
Boatsetter co-founders Jaclyn Baumgarten and Andrew Sturner were Endeavor Miami Entrepreneurs of the Year in the tech category for their peer-to-peer boat-sharing platform, which operates in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and even the Andaman Sea near Thailand's Phuket Island.
In 2017, Olivia Ramos founded Deepblocks, which aims to master the art of closing a real estate development deal. Using A.I. and machine learning, it provides real-time analysis of financial and market data in combination with local building codes.
Weston-based HR and payroll software firm Ultimate Software to a private equity group led by Hellman & Friedman, for $11 billion (2019).
Plantation-based construction software maker e-Builder to Trimble, for $500 million (2018).
Fort Lauderdale-based pet products provider Chewy to PetSmart, for $3.35 billion (2017).
A digital and physical hub for the local tech scene, Refresh Miami hosts workshops and speakers for founders all over town. It's also a clearinghouse for jobs, startup news, and events--from Women in Miami Tech drinks to a Rise of the Rest pitch competition.
Founded by husband-and-wife team Johanna and Juha Mikkola in 2014, Wyncode was the area's first coding boot camp. It now has more than 700 grads--many with no previous computer-science background--who are working in over 300 tech companies, including local players like CareCloud, Magic Leap, and MDLive.
The first U.S. outpost of the global nonprofit accelerator-alternative, Endeavor Miami doesn't take equity and focuses on "scale-ups"--companies with the demonstrated business traction to deliver exponential growth--like edtech firm Nearpod.