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View: Can Miami become a tech entrepreneurship hub for LatAm?

Today's guest blogger offers another view on cultivating South Florida's startup ecosystem. Past views on this topic can be found here, here and here. See a discussion on Quora raised by this author here. What's your view?

By Carlos A. Ordonez

Can Miami become a technology entrepreneurship hub for Latin America?

CarlosOrdonezpicI posted this question in the popular site Quora some time ago and in my blog, trying to find an answer to one of the challenges I believe Miami is facing in finding its technical edge in the Latin American market.

 Some facts taken for granted:

  • Miami has been considered the capital of Latin America, a hub for goods and services.
  • Strategic location.
  • Bilingual city.
  • Latin America sales office for many large corporations.
  • The “banking office” for the region.

But amid today’s rapid development of tech startups, can Miami be the Latin America hub for tech startups?

 The news is not so promising. These are some facts:

  • Trade: In terms of trade, the latest 2012 Miami Trade Numbers report, presented that Miami is no longer the number one partner of many important economies in Latin America, being surpassed by Houston -- Ouch!!
  • Citrix Accelerator in California: Citrix, a South Florida tech company, opened its Startup Accelerator in Santa Clara, California, not here. Ouch again!!
  • VCs flying over: VC firms from the Bay Area are flying directly to Latin America, such as Benchmark Capital, a San Francisco firm, investing in Brazilian Peixe Urbano. They are stopping here for a drink, like in recent days with the Geeks on a Plane. There is no need to open branches in Miami anymore to take care of the region.

 What is happening in Miami's tech startup scene?

The tech scene in Miami is very scattered, and slow in comparison to other major startup hubs in the US. Yet there are a number of tech events, large and small, happening in different areas of the city throughout the year. The highlights are:

  • Americas VC Conference: The most interesting so far. Set for December this year, FIU's AVCC brings together a number of important experts, professionals and companies from the US and Latin America.
  • SuperConf: Bringing together local and out of town startups, interesting judges and panelists.
  • Tech Meetups: LeanStartup, Ruby Brigade, Android, Google Developers, BlackBerry Developers etc.
  • Tech-a-thons: There has been hack-a-thons, startup weekends, Code Retreats, Bar Camps etc.
  • Other players: The FIU Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, the Launch Pad hosted at University of Miami, incubators like Incubate Miami plus a small number of co-working spaces complete the environment. I might be missing more groups.

These are all great efforts from all the people involved. It's not comparable to the activity in San Francisco, New York or Austin, but it's much more activity than we used to have here.

  Bottom line: Something is cooking in Miami.

 The question is: Are we moving fast enough? Are there enough people in Miami interested in becoming a tech hub for Latin America?

 Carlos Ordonez is an entrepreneur, co-founder of @aeroinvest and MarketAero.com, tech evangelist, FIU Alumnus and Panther fan committed to helping develop and nourish the tech ecosystem in Miami. More at carlosaordonez.com and @CarlosAOrdonez.