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The Sunshine Economy

From Moment to Movement: The Technology Industry In The Sunshine Economy

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In 2015, the Sunshine Economy asked a group of Miami technology leaders to imagine what the industry could look like in 2030. Six years, a global pandemic and one viral tweet later, the five people are even more convinced that Miami’s tech movement has arrived now.

COVID-19 sparked a migration of influential, high profile technology investors to move to South Florida. Amid lockdowns, restrictions and the ability to work from anywhere, these venture capitalists —who once were tied to traditional tech hubs like San Francisco and New York — moved to the Miami-area.

Then came a simple four-word tweet from Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in early December in response to one of those investors musing about moving Silicon Valley to Miami. The mayoral message from Suarez’s personal account was a tweet that echoed South Florida’s hospitality industry, but aimed at taking advantage of the moment.

“How can I help?” asked the mayor.

It has catapulted Miami’s profile in the tech industry, and it comes after years of work building up the region’s tech potential.

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That future is now. So, the Sunshine Economy reconnected with five people we spoke with six years ago. In 2015, a few companies were attracting tens of millions of dollars from outside investors. There had been a couple of big buyouts of locally headquartered tech companies. Incubators and accelerators were working with small firms to scale them. The Knight Foundation was donating millions toward tech start-up efforts. It was a moment that was working to become a movement.

Six years ago we asked these five people to write a letter to the next generation of technology leaders here. We asked them to imagine the South Florida tech industry of 2030, to peer into the future and what the economy of tomorrow should know about today ... or back then.

Albert Santalo is the veteran tech insider. He has founded three technology companies in South Florida. His latest is called 8base. He started in 2017 as a platform to help other developers more quickly work on their software.

Tech Veteran

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Two weeks ago, an impromptu Miami Tech Week brought together hundreds of people at events ranging from a coffee meet up outside Miami City Hall, hosted by Mayor Suarez, to a morning bike ride that began in Key Biscayne. Within a few days, a formal Miami Tech Week was announced for next April, joining the region’s original tech conference — eMerge Americas — in bringing together startup companies, tech industry veterans and investors.

 

It is the latest development in the fast evolving regional technology industry. Notable tech investors from California and elsewhere have moved to Miami during the pandemic, bringing combustible attention to the region’s abiding technology industry ambitions.

 

Melissa Krinzman is a managing partner of Krillion Ventures, a local venture capital firm that invests in technology companies.

Venture Investor

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Stories of Miami and its dreams of becoming a technology hub go back to the last century. And Nancy Dahlberg wrote a lot of them. She was a business reporter for The Miami Herald. She chronicled the Internet craze of the 1990s, the focus on startups in the 2010s, and, as a freelance reporter now, she is watching this latest wave of attention and ambition.

Tech Reporter

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Six years ago the word cryptocurrency was not in Webster’s Dictionary. One of the standard-bearers of the English language didn't add the word until 2018. Today, South Florida is emerging as a center of digital currency.

The Miami-Dade County Commission created a cryptocurrency task force last week. It will explore how the county could accept the digital money for taxes and fees.

There may be no bigger sign of Miami embracing cryptocurrencies, and the industry embracing Miami, than the home court of the Heat. Beginning next season, the basketball team’s arena will be named FTX Arena after a cryptocurrency trading exchange.

Justin Wales is the co-chair of the blockchain and digital currency practice at Miami law firm Carlton Fields. Six years ago he didn’t have that title because the role didn’t formally exist when we first spoke about South Florida’s tech industry.

Tech Law

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"Vibrant, exciting, open" — that’s how Wifredo Fernández describes today’s tech scene in Miami. He’s been part of that scene for a decade.

In 2012, he was a co-founder of The LAB Miami — a space catering to technology startups. He also helped start a business incubator and accelerator at Miami Dade College and another one at Florida International University.

He’s now on the public policy team at Twitter, focused on federal and state governments. He has watched Miami’s tech dreams develop through the years, and he’s witnessed the role Twitter has played in generating attention to those efforts. After all, it was a tweet from Miami Mayor Suarez that helped spark this latest wave of activity that has brought venture capital investors and growing ambitions.

Tech Community Builder

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In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.