Among cities seeing the highest growth in startup funding, Miami is truly having its moment in the sun.
Rising buzz comes as regional funding is on a tear. Seed and early stage investment in Florida companies has already surpassed $2 billion in 2022, per Crunchbase data, and is on track to eclipse even last year’s record-setting levels.
Miami companies have played the biggest role in boosting totals. Up-and-comers with headquarters in the city include MoonPay, Yuga Labs and Recurrent Ventures, which collectively raised $1.2 billion in private funding this past year alone.
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They’re the kinds of numbers that one might envision having a ripple effect across local labor markets, office rents and even commuter traffic. Well, except there’s this to consider: None of the above-listed companies require employees to actually show up for work at their Miami headquarters.
Come to Miami! Or, just stay where you are and collect a paycheck
Yup, MoonPay, Yuga and Recurrent, are all self-described remote-first or remote-friendly companies, where applicants are encouraged to apply for jobs from anywhere.
So are a host of other high-profile locally headquartered funded companies. This includes two other heavy funding recipients—senior care provider Papa and digital banking platform Novo—that are also remote-friendly. Neither has any listed jobs that require working in Miami, although that is offered as an option.
And let’s not forget Bird, the one-time scooter unicorn that recently relocated its headquarters from Santa Monica to Miami. The Bird website’s career page lists exactly zero jobs that are physically based in Miami.
So, before we go further, let’s pause to observe that remote-first obviously isn’t just a Miami thing. Distributed workforces are increasingly the norm for U.S. seed and early-stage software startups. In some sectors—crypto and Web3 in particular—it’s increasingly rare to find a startup that doesn’t embrace remote.
What’s unusual in Miami’s case, however, is that the rise of working at home in pajamas has occurred simultaneously with the city’s push to brand itself as a startup center. Buzz around the city intensified exponentially during the depths of the pandemic, as several high-profile investors moved to the metro area, and Miami Mayor Francisco Suarez made a publicity-generating push to attract crypto and tech entrepreneurs.
A hub in a remote world
The push sort of worked. Certainly there are more VCs, tech and crypto events, and locally headquartered startups compared to a few years ago. The pitch of lower taxes, pretty beaches and a famously cosmopolitan environs has its appeal.
Today, executive teams of Miami-headquartered companies, as well as many VCs, are physically located in the city, observes Kat Wilson, managing director of the Miami Angels.
“This means that early employees are, more often than not, in the office, in-person building the company culture,” Wilson said. The local startup scene is also robust enough to make it easy to build a network of fellow founders and investors for advice and collaboration.
But because so many teams are partly or mostly remote, the offsite seems to be overtaking the office water cooler as the place for employees to bond in person. Wilson said companies are increasingly transferring office expenses to off-site expenses “to ensure there is still a sense of community at the workplace.”
That’s been the case for Recurrent, which runs a portfolio of media brands with a mostly remote workforce. The company set up headquarters in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami in 2020, and has done several offsites in the area since. A number of employees decided afterward to relocate to the city, even though their jobs didn’t require it, said Recurrent co-founder Andrew Perlman.
Local networking events also abound. A recent perusal of goings-on in Miami leaned heavily to the crypto/NFT crowd, including options like Crypto and Cocktails and DeFi and Drinks. Other events focused on wearable tech, spacetech, travel entrepreneurship, food-tech and health care startups. Miami is also attracting a bigger share of major tech conferences, such as the Bitcoin 2022 gathering earlier this year, which is returning in 2023.
Tech hubs and techies
But the thing about tech hubs is that in addition to events, VCs and executive offices, they also have actual techies. That is, people with job titles like programmer, platform engineer, data scientist, product designer and frontend developer.
Typically, the most talented tech workers live in places with an established high concentration of Big Tech and startup employers. Miami historically hasn’t been one of those locales.
Could it become one? Perusing a months-old thread about whether Miami is a “legitimate tech hub,” it seemed like no one was fully buying into the idea. Repeatedly, posters critiqued the city as a suboptimal spot to grow professionally as a developer or engineer, as well as a challenging place for recruiters to find and hire top technical talent. (Yes, it is possible for a thread to engage only like-minded posters, but in this case we thought the preponderance of critical responses was noteworthy.)
The road ahead
Given its attractions and challenges, it will be interesting to see how the Sunshine State’s most iconic city fares in coming years in its bid for a bigger role in the startup scene.
Personally, I think the role of headquarters hub in a remote world suits Miami pretty well. It has attributes—such as zero state income tax and a selection of hip and upscale neighborhoods—that appeal to the investor, founder and C-suite crowd. But it doesn’t have the same concentration of tech talent as more established hubs, making local hiring a challenge for the foreseeable future.
Miami also seems like an attractive location for off-sites and periodic office visits. It’s got a major international airport, a beachy vibe and trendy eating and drinking venues galore. Plus, its high inventory of rental apartments means that those who want to stay can find plenty of options for a place in the sand.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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