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Miami's promise as a hub for healthcare

By Joseph Sawyer

Joe_Sawyer_02 - CopyIs (fill in the blank) the next Silicon Valley?

This question is a perennial staple of business headlines and consulting reports.  If you don’t believe me, go to Google and type in “next Silicon Valley,” then the name of a place you think is as different from Silicon Valley as, say, a baby owl is from a great white shark.

St. Louis?  Check.  Suburban Moscow?  Check.  Saudi Arabia?  Accounted for.  All of these places are spending time, money, and energy reaching for Silicon Valley’s crown.

Here’s the problem: the world doesn’t need a “next Silicon Valley.”  Last I checked, Silicon Valley wasn’t going anywhere.  Its decades-old wealth of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, engineers, operating executives, and companies of every size are flourishing.  Trying to deconstruct and reassemble a similar hub is as futile as training to become the next Steve Jobs simply by studying his biography.

Building A Health Tech Hub

Miami, CareCloud’s hometown, is taking a different – and more thoughtful – approach to tech hub-dom, one that was on display last Thursday at the Miami HealthTech Showcase 2013.  That difference?  Creating a model for success that plays to Miami’s unique strengths and aims at a specific (massive) target in dire need of innovation: healthcare.

The Showcase was developed by ProjectLift, a seed and access accelerator dedicated to health tech in greater Miami, with sponsorship from the Miami Innovation CenterU InnovationMiami Children’s Hospital, the Technology Foundation of the Americas, and Lift1428.  Two panels highlighted key topics central to the growth of health tech in Miami, followed by a showcase of demos by six start-ups that are the first to “graduate” from the accelerator program.

CareCloud was honored to take part in the first panel, which focused on the importance of investing in the Miami HealthTech Hub, alongside executives from leading innovators at various stages in their growth – KairosCirle, and Nueterra. The panel was moderated by Sol Saad of Ladenburg Thalmann.

We shared our funding story, highlighted by our June 2013 Series B round of $29 million, and segued into a discussion of Miami’s continued growth prospects.  Along the way, we discovered some common ground that shed light on Miami’s strengths:

-       Healthcare lives here.  This point is easy to grasp when you’re sitting in the middle of the nation’s second largest health district.  Technology innovators need healthcare customers and partners – and there is no shortage of either in South Florida.  Witness the important role that Miami Children’s played in the evolution of both CareCloud and Kairos, for example.

-       Angels tolerate risk.  We all felt that investors in Miami had been more supportive in our early days than their peers in other cities would have been.  Case in point: CareCloud’s founder and CEO, Albert Santalo, making the rounds during the economic doldrums of early 2009 with a bold vision and a PowerPoint in search of the initial funding to build our products.  The result?  A $2M round that was 50% oversubscribed, allowing him to get CareCloud ready for commercialization.

-       Doors are open.  Miami’s health tech community is big enough to attract national attention, but small enough so that its participants don’t feel lost in the shuffle.  Interestingly, most of the panelists were relatively recent arrivals to Miami (including myself, having relocated from Boston a year ago) and this appealed to all of us.

We were also asked what Miami could do better to grow as a healthcare hub.  My take:

-       Line up operating expertise.  Early-stage ventures tend to focus on fundraising and commercialization – areas where Miami has swiftly built infrastructure.  As these companies grow, however, their needs will change.  Incubation gives way to scaling, and then relentless execution, which is where “been there, done that” executives, employees, and advisors become critical.  The availability of such individuals is one of the underappreciated virtues of the Valley and has been a huge focus powering our recent growth at CareCloud.

-       Engage one of Miami’s most powerful assets – its alumni.  Since I joined CareCloud, I’ve been amazed at the number of times I’ve sat down for a meeting or dialed into a conference call with a leading company in the Valley or Boston … and found a former Miamian on the other side.  Often, they are surprised to learn that health tech has taken root here. In the rush to fulfill our “gateway to Latin America” potential, let’s not overlook the remarkable alumni network already in place Stateside.  Bring these people back!  Or, engage them as mentors and partners who are already vested in our success.

No Need to Reach the Silicon Beach

Yes, Miami has a unique energy, a multicultural outlook and of course, a lot of sunshine.  That’s what makes it a great place to live.  But the best talent isn’t thinking in terms of whether these ingredients could add up to the next Silicon Whatever.  They are looking for specific opportunities to grow themselves and their careers, in an environment that will support their aspirations – today.  Last week’s diverse collection of participants at the Miami HealthTech Showcase demonstrated the extent to which a focus on fostering connections across the region and jump-starting the next generation of businesses in South Florida is paying off.

Joseph Sawyer is  vice president of marketing for CareCloud. His post was first published on CareCloud's blog.