I have read a few negative articles lately, and I detect a simmering vibe from the naysayers that our collective work here in Miami is not where it should be. I wholeheartedly reject the idea that Miami’s innovation economy is anything but excellent. World-Class even, and I don’t apologize for it.
I think there are a few trends that make Miami special:
Culture, homegrown talent and “brain-gain” are in abundance.
There was an article recently released that said Miami is not a great innovation economy. It mentioned a few criteria, principal of which was the lack of “major, world-ranked institutions that have played a big role in terms of churning out some very, very well-qualified, bright people.”
Don’t fall for that slight, Miami. It’s elitist and disgusting. The idea that “bright people” only can be found at Harvard, MIT and Stanford is thinking of the past. Two factors work in Miami’s favor here.
- Boston, Philadelphia and other Ivy League cities are seeing an immense amount of brain drain to places like San Francisco, Houston, Dallas and Miami. These older cities are where a few bright people go to learn, however, they tend not to stay. Like LeBron once did, they bring their talents to South Beach. This brain gain to Sunbelt cities will only continue to strengthen our bench of amazing talent.
- There are cultural reasons that some of our most brilliant minds in Miami don’t apply to Harvard, Stanford, Penn, etc… Here, many young people are working and pay bills in the home and help the family AND go to school. I’ve met so many brilliant students at FIU, UM and MDC who could go to school anywhere, but choose to be close to home. That cultural phenomenon does not exist as commonly in other parts of the US, and as such, you can’t judge Miami in the same way you would judge Cincinnati.
I once spoke to a young brilliant girl who really loved Kairos and wanted to intern for us, however our internships are unpaid. She said, tearfully, “Brian, in my house, we all pay the bills, the electric bill for the family is my responsibility, other family members have other responsibilities.” That young lady, with her Harvard, pedigree, attends school locally, and after her matriculation will probably stay in Miami. I hope to hire her full-time one day. Her story is not uncommon, and the folks who write these articles who rank cities will never understand her, or us.
Latin America is a source of funding, talent and trade.
One of the keys to San Francisco’s success is its proximity to Asia, its trading partners in Asia, and its immigrants from there. Sound familiar? Like San Francisco, we have all of Central and Latin America moving here, investing here, buying goods and services here, and are great trade partners. That outside influence is one that cities have. Because of our status as the “Capital of Latin America,” Miami companies think bigger, our staffs are more commonly multi-cultural and multi-lingual, and we have networks and partners who are based here that we can leverage to move into new markets abroad. Add to that, folks like Juha and Johanna Mikkola, who emigrated here from Canada. They started Wyncode at the LAB Miami, and now have three sites, employ a number of Miamians, and are churning out coders for our companies left and right. About 7,000 Juhas and Johannas move to Miami a week. Think about that, how can we not win?
People have forgotten what made Silicon Valley great.
Stanford University was not a bastion of entrepreneurship and technical excellence when Robert Noyce (founder of Intel) and team left New York to start Fairchild Semi-conductor in the Valley, New York met the very criteria that the naysayers suggest is necessary for tech growth, The New York area has a league of excellent universities, and had anchor organizations like IBM in 1957. San Jose at the time was mostly fruit farms.
It was the innovative thinking, and some early angel and venture capital investments, that lead Robert and others to found one of the great achievements of our time. They INVENTED a semi-conductor market and they INVENTED Silicon Valley as we know it. We don’t need anyone’s help, model, or permission. Miami is already seizing the day on our own terms. We are inventing the next generation of great companies and industries right here, in Miami, in our own way and on our own terms. Just like Bob Noyce and crew. The same naysayers are at it again with Miami, and again, they will be proven wrong.
Let’s not forget the tenants of disruption and exponential growth.
Our growth curve started low, and accelerated in such a way that it seemed impossible. In fact, Salim Ismail of Singularity University (a recent addition to the Miami scene) has taught us about disruption and how the curve is sharp. It’s hard for humans to understand exponential growth. I’d offer that we are seeing exponential growth first-hand. When I first met Wifi and Danny, at the original LAB Miami, it was an 800 square foot space, with a few dreamers like WIllie Avendano working there at handmade pallet desks. Fast forward a few years later, and I’ve lost count of the co-working spaces and LAB is now 10,000 square feet. WeWork is opening five locations in Miami; their 2nd one is 95,000+ square feet and can hold up to 500 companies. From one to 20+ in 3 years is not logical, it’s not rational, it’s disruptive growth. On average, 7,000 people move to Miami a week, as mentioned, and the majority of them have post-secondary degrees. That’s exponential growth. I welcome each one of them. They are part of the story that writers outside of Miami can’t understand, because they are not exponential thinkers. We are.
Pattern matching does not work, not with people, and not with ecosystems.
What we have learned as part of this diversity in tech discussion is that we don’t all have to be Mark Zuckerberg to be successful. Same is true for the innovation economy in Miami. We don’t have to look like Silicon Valley and the cities of the past to be bigger and better than them in the future. Miami is certainly in the top 25 innovation cities in the world. I personally believe it’s in the top 5. Let’s embrace that, and scream it from the rooftops. We are not trying to become a great hub of innovation, we are a great hub of innovation, and now we are growing into being #1. No apologies.
Brian Brackeen is the founder and CEO of Kairos.com, a San Francisco born, but locally raised Human Analytics company. Kairos uses facial recognition and emotion analysis to help its customers better understand humanity. In 2015 Kairos became an Endeavor company and is proudly based in Miami, Florida.