Over the weekend, The Starting Gate published a viewpoint about accelerating Miami's tech community. Here is a counter-view by entrepreneur and programmer Auston Bunsen, who also puts on SuperConf. Viewpoints and guest posts are welcome on The Starting Gate. What's your view?
This post is in response to the thought provoking piece written by Juan Pablo Cappello and published in The Miami Herald.
Mr. Cappello, I'm pleased to hear about your interest in the Miami Tech Scene. Before I get started, I'd like to commend you on your accomplishments; Patagon.com was once described to me as the e*Trade of South America, you're a practicing lawyer, and if I recall correctly, an angel investor. I hold your accomplishments in high esteem.
However, I feel as though you may be harboring several misconceptions. Let me start with what I believe is a fundamental flaw in your thinking -- no one here is complacent." South Florida is teeming with hustling entrepreneurs -- I can literally name dozens of them (Will Weinraub, Demian Bellumio, Stonly Baptiste, Davide di Cillo, Sasha Nabutovsky, Manuel Kreutz, Igor Guerrero, Dev Jones, Chris Brisson, Matthew Wensing, Juan Diego Calle, Jose Raasco, Mary Foden, Richard Grundy, Chris Davies, Rosston Meyer, Eduardo Garcia, Adam Laufer, Ulises Orozco, etc. -- here are a dozen more examples). These are people who may have persevered through the dot-com bust and have had no problems hustling right through a deep recession.
Additionally, the idea that South America is some sort of panacea for our community is in my opinion, a narrow view of the community and a huge discount to the absolute ability of the talent already existent within it. South America has most definitely experienced an economic renaissance in recent years -- but that growth is slowing and (again, in my opinion) it is not necessarily an opportune investment for us to attempt to attract that pool of talent & business as a community.
When you use words like "...getting Miami’s technology community back on track will be a long-term project..." I feel two very strong emotions: failure and disappointment. Failure because seeing
those words means that I have failed at my part in making sure the people here know we have a thriving community. Disappointment because I feel written off! Miami's technology community is on track -- the strides are small, but compounding; people like Brian Breslin and Alex de Carvalho have been pouring their hearts into this community since 2007. More recently, I have to commend the work of people like Ed Toro (for updating every single event on miamitechevents.com), Andrej Kostresevic, Marc Billings, Michael Greenberg, Diego Lapudiz, Mark Laymon, Seth Elliott, Peter Martinez, Susan Amat, Bryce Kerley, Dave Noderer, the people at LAB Miami and BURO and the countless others organizing free events for all of the people in South Florida -- in my mind, they're the thought leaders who have been pushing us forward. This is all without even mentioning the 940+ members of Refresh Miami or the 1,100+ Social Media Club members or the fact that there are back-to-back events for web developers and entrepreneurs the next two weekends.
Now, I'd like to take some time to address your plan for "restarting" our engines:
1. Leadership: You fan the flame here by suggesting we need new leadership that consist of University heads (Susan Amat and The Launch Pad are already HUGE contributors to the community), C-level executives and municipal government. While I (and literally every single person I've mentioned) welcome open collaboration with every single role you name, I (just me here) don't necessarily believe that bringing people in who have not been part of the community to lead it is the best course of action for accelerating said community.
2. Coordination: I agree that we need coordination -- had we put some in place, you may have been able to uncover some of what I have been ranting about before publishing your piece with the Herald. However, a management office really shuts out the community -- we need a better place for
open, focused discussion on topics, events & information.
3. Funding: Could the entrepreneurs down here use funding? Sure! It's important to note however, that funding is a non-essential aspect of business. Do I encourage funding? 1100%! In short, I think not having funding will lead to a much stronger entrepreneurial backbone than if we just start
throwing money at people (although, I must admit that it works -- 20% of the time).
4. Positioning: I don't know that money can fix this, but you have my co-sign here. We have serious brain-drain, I've seen some REALLY talented people leave South Florida, including the guys from OnSwipe, ScienceExchange, Marquee & many more SERIOUSLY talented individuals (Brian Benitez, Josh Guffey, Chris Jennings, Joshua Sortino, Brian Beavers and Willie Morris).
5. Marketing: I understand how this plays into your plan for a Latin American hub, but I don't know that it will be of very much help to many of the startups down here.
While I'm in partial agreement of your plan, I'd like to know what sort of action you have been or are going to be taking. I'd love to be able to have lunch with you to discuss your ideas with a few of the people doing amazing things down here -- I think you will leave impressed. I'll leave you with my thoughts on the situation, which utilize a much more organic view of the matter: http://abunsen.ruhoh.com/south-florida-tech/
Auston Bunsen is a programmer and entrepreneur who runs SuperConf and the newly minted startup: Munchables.me.