I just received and read The Miami Startup Up Guide. This book is a great initiative from The Knight Foundation and thank you to Alberto Ibarguen and Raul Moas for this fantastic idea. It’s a must-read guide for any entrepreneur looking to launch, grow or relocate their startup to South FL. I was thrilled and proud to see many entrepreneurs, investors, and community members that become trusted friends along these years trying to create a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem in our city and region represented in this book and I’m sure that there will many more joining the website and book shortly. The video that they presented is also very cool and fun to watch and was super proud when The LAB Miamiwas mentioned as the place where “all really kicked off”. I certainly remember those early The LAB Miami days very well, and the Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem was VERY different back then.
I started to connect with the local ecosystem only six or seven years ago. Before that, I was the classic expat living in Miami but doing business outside Miami. I remember that my first impression connecting with the entrepreneurial community during those days was quite shocking and frustrating. So many smart people, resources and opportunities and so little collaboration, and long-term goals. I started making my first investments with some friends who invested time, money or both backing great entrepreneurs building their ideas here instead of Silicon Valley, New York, Boston or many other places around the world and my frustration on the ecosystem was growing during the early days of those investments based on lack of resources to support those startups.
Just by luck, I reconnected with Alberto Ibarguen who I met many years ago during his Miami Herald days, at an event. During our conversation, I shared my thoughts and feelings about the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and Alberto immediately introduced me to Matt Haggman (in charge of the Knight Miami office during those days), and the chemistry, alignment and passion was evident. During the following days, we met with some friends and partners, and since then, we decided to collaborate with the Knight Foundation and many local entrepreneurs and partners building startups and ideas together in Miami. Many of the initiatives presented in this Miami Startups Guide would not exist without Knight Foundation and the amazing people who worked and work there along the years. And I’m not talking about their grants which of course helped tremendously. I’m talking about the hard work, passion, trust, and collaboration that many of these initiatives generated in many entrepreneurs to launch their startups here, many investors and mentors to back these entrepreneurs and now, also many regional corporations working and collaborating with the ecosystem.
I had the pleasure and privilege to support or participate in some of these initiatives like The LAB Miami, AGP (now Miami Angels, a 100+ angel investor network), Endeavor Miami, LAB Ventures, Emerge, 500 Startups among others and work with some fantastic startups and founders FL based like Nearpod, Live Ninja Preview, Kairos, AmenityLink and Next University. I’m sure that some of these startups will be hugely successful and some of them will fail, which is fine and totally normal in the startup world. In any case, the impact on the community is and will be massive, and those startups who will survive and scale will change many peoples lives and those who fail, will learn and most likely try again, and again and again. I was also lucky to visit each local university and participate in events with students talking about entrepreneurship and engage with very enthusiastic students that now they know that they will be able to join or build a startup here.
The list of amazing people that I was able to meet during these years is so long that I don’t want to mention any specific name because I know that I will forget many of them (yes, I’m getting old).
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that Miami is the perfect place to launch your startup. We are far from perfect. But we are making progress. We are listening and we are learning every day. Our challenge for the next couple of decades will be consistency and execution. All the right elements a thriving startup community are currently available in Miami, but we need more time and effort to keep building successful startups that will validate our ecosystem. In the end, successful exits and long-term sustainable companies are what matters for any startup community. And building these companies take a long period of time.
If you live in South FL or you are thinking to move here, and you are looking to launch your startup in Miami, you are lucky. Only six years ago, many of these fantastic people and institutions were not there or were impossible to find. If you are a young College student or MBA originally from Miami studying in any other place you are also lucky. Now, you can come back home and join many of these fantastic startups eager to innovate and disrupt industries. Or you can start your own startup here.
If you are an investor, a mentor, or you are passionate about helping startups, you are also lucky, and you are no longer alone or isolated in South FL.
Successful startup communities take decades, not years or months. We are in our MVP days in entrepreneurial terms or pre-seed round in investor terms. Our long-term success rates are still uncertain, but I would invest in the Miami story after reading this book. I hope that you too.