By Grant Deken
Tech is an increasingly discussed topic in South Florida. The recent “Great Debate” highlighted increasing meet-up attendance, new accelerator programs, and more seed funding for startups. In a different tone a South Floridian founder discussed the difficulties of tri-county travel. As a startup co-founder who moved from Miami to Boston this year, I’ve noticed some key factors behind what’s driving Boston’s startup culture and what entrepreneurs and business leaders could consider as they work to define and grow Miami’s tech community.
Get People Together, Now!
A Boston journalist covering startups once wrote that great things happen when smart people bump into each other. The phrase resonated with enough people that it eventually found itself written on one of the kitchen walls at the Cambridge Innovation Center (known in Boston as the CIC), the 16 floor home to 450 startups, VC firms, consulting firms, and technology companies. Each week there are events covering a variety of topics including growth hacking, programming, and workshops for fundraising to help founders overcome challenges and meet others dealing with the same issues. Most of Boston’s startup programs can be found in Kendall Square in Cambridge, the tech hub located next to MIT. Google, Amazon, VM Ware, Microsoft, TechStars, Dog Patch Labs, Matrix Partners, Highland Capital, and hundreds of other startups, venture capital firms, incubators, and large tech companies are within a stone’s throw of each other.
Centralizing where everything is happening makes it easier to get people together. This is tough for South Florida because it’s so spread out, but it’s an important component for building a startup community. The programs, events, and workspaces downtown need to provide enough value to overcome the issue of commuting while also creating a sense of a community. After all, we drove 25 hours to become a part of one.
Get Academia Behind the Movement
Boston’s universities support entrepreneurship in big ways. MIT’s Media Lab, Harvard’s Innovation Lab, and Babson’s #1 ranked entrepreneurship MBA program all provide students with the resources to build successful startups. South Florida universities can play a critical role in building Miami’s tech community by enabling students with the tools to build startups. University of Miami’s Launch Pad has been leading the effort to date. With more students considering entrepreneurship as a viable career option, other universities need to adapt. Stanford has a dedicated course for startups (Computer Science 183) taught by legendary entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Startups are motivated as much by academia as they are by stories of successful exits and blockbusters.
It’s also hard to build software without software developers. This is one of the biggest reasons for our decision to move to Boston. Ironically, the problem isn’t so easily solved. Sure there are more engineers in Boston, but there are equally as many startups competing for talent. Ensuring Miami’s universities have strong computer science departments will pay dividends to the city.
Playing to Your Strengths
Boston isn’t without its own flaws and Miami has a number of benefits for founders. The biggest factor without a doubt is the cost of living. Boston is incredibly expensive like its larger counterpart New York. Corporate taxes are also significantly higher in Massachusetts. Additionally, Miami’s proximity with Latin America –- both culturally and geographically –- offers unique opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to disrupt emerging markets.
Grant Deken is the co-founder of Knowyourbank, a funded, Cambridge-based early-stage startup creating a breakthrough online service that's changing the way people discover banks and financial products.