The following post was contributed by Rowan Benecke, Chair of Burson-Marsteller’s Global Technology Practice.
I was fortunate to be asked to return to Miami recently to experience first-hand the emerging technology industry sector that, during the last few years, has blossomed into one of the leading innovation hubs not only in the US, but also across the entire Latin American region.
South Florida-based startups have been experiencing notable success in recent years. Examples include:
- Magic Leap, the enigmatic mixed reality company – called “the world’s hottest startup” by WIRED – which has raised more than $1.4 billion from the likes of Google and Alibaba and is scheduled to release its first product “soon,” according to Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz.
- PetSmart’s acquisition of Dania Beach-based pet food and product site, Chewy.com, for $3.35 billion, the largest e-commerce acquisition in history.
- The recent launch of Cyxtera Technologies, formed through the $2.8 billion transaction that combined CenturyLink’s data center and colocation business with Medina Capital’s portfolio of security products – a deal that quickly made Cyxtera a formidable cybersecurity industry.
- Modernizing Medicine, a mobile-based electronic health record (EHR) provider and driving force of South Florida’s fast-growing health tech startup community, which last month raised $231 million in private equity from Warburg PIncus to bring total funding to $318 million.
Successes such as these and the region’s overall growing influence as a technology and innovation hub is the focus of eMerge Americas, a two-day conference in Miami that convenes entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders from North America, Latin America and Europe. The fourth annual eMerge Americas conference, which took place earlier this month, attracted more than 13,000 attendees and showcased 125 exhibiting early- and late-stage startups on the expo floor in a celebration of innovation. Not to mention, the event featured an impressive lineup of speakers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, Waze co-founder Uri Levine, hometown hero Armando Christian Pérez (AKA ‘Pitbull’), and many more.
A few of these speakers had especially interesting points of view:
- Marcelo Claure (CEO, Sprint): Focus on the impact of innovation, not just on the technology or the product. For example, Sprint, along with other carriers and private investors, are committing $2.75 billion to build the fifth generation of cellular networking. 5G deployment will not only enhance connectivity but will also create 3 million jobs.
- Steve Wozniak (Co-Founder, Apple): The key to innovation is motivation. In order to be inspired to innovate, you must have the drive and the passion, which in many cases outweighs skills and knowledge. While ambition is a contributor to innovation, “The Woz” also argued the greatest enemy to innovation is getting too large. In response to questions regarding recent accusations surrounding Apple’s lacking innovation, Wozniak cited Newton’s Second Law, likening Apple’s beginnings and momentous innovation to a marble that is easy to push, and the company’s current state to that of a boulder, which requires much more force to move forward.
- Uri Levine (Co-Founder, Waze): Successful entrepreneurs fall in love with the problem not their solution. If you fall in love with your solution, you forget entirely the problem you’re trying to solve. Levine – a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur who is “constantly creating startups” – explained he allows himself to remain frustrated about a problem with no solution until frustration turns to anger and then to obsession with the problem, eventually pushing him to create the solution.
- Dave McClure (Founding Partner, 500 Startups): McClure – the founding partner of a global venture capital seed fund and accelerator with investments in nearly 2,000 tech startups – believes that in order to compete with Silicon Valley and other major tech hubs, communities must invest in building their own startup ecosystems. McClure advocates that its smart business for cities to invest in a local start-up community, as just $50 million in seed and venture funding invested in a given market will generate 2,400 jobs within 5 years.
While the speakers told their own unique stories, explained their individual perspectives on innovation – locally, nationally and globally – and shared their personal advice to the crowds of entrepreneurs, there was a common theme throughout the entire conference: South Florida has the opportunity to evolve into a recognized technological and innovation center. Several factors contribute to this statement, including the region’s:
- Location: South Florida is geographically positioned as a strategic gateway between the Americas. Companies are basing operations in Miami and other South Florida cities in an effort to reach Latin American audiences or to provide a U.S. foothold for Latin American entrepreneurs.
- Talent pool: Miami boasts one of the most diverse workforces in the country and relies on its high-skill immigrant talent base for economic and innovation growth. According to a recent study by Florida International University (FIU) and The Creative Class Group, nearly 40% of the professional workers in business, technology, healthcare, the sciences, media and the arts in the Greater Miami area are foreign-born.
- Startup activity: As reported by the Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 Index of Startup Activity – which analyzes new business creation activity – the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area ranked first among the 40 largest U.S. metropolitan areas for startup activity. Notably, the Miami metro area (tied with Los Angeles) reported the highest rate of new entrepreneurs, which measures the percent of the adult population of an area that became entrepreneurs in a given month.
While the Miami metro area is clearly a hotbed for startups, as exhibited by the area’s venture creation statistics, few of them are actually growing. The 2017 Index of Startup Activity revealed the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area ranked second from the bottom of all metro areas studied in the growth of scale-ups. Clearly, while the region has made significant strides in building its startup community and remains dedicated to developing a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem,1 there is still much work to be done.
For further perspective on eMerge, visit our Burson-Marsteller Miami Blog for a recap from Burson-Marsteller Miami’s Jorge Ortega, Executive Vice-President, Managing Director and Market Leader.
1 According to the Miami Herald, “In the past 3 ½ years, the Knight Foundation has committed more than $20 million to more than 160 entrepreneurship projects and organizations in the city. Several organizations focused on scaling up companies have recently been expanded to Miami, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses endeavor and the WIN Lab for women-led companies.”