Miami to become new powerhouse of tech startups

TheVentureCity CEO Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, right, and co-founder Clara Bullrich during a meeting in Miami. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2019

Miami to become new powerhouse of tech startups

  • That diversity offers startups access to markets on the US East Coast, Latin America and Europe, according to experts

MIAMI: Miami is famous for beach parties, gators that wander onto golf courses and iguanas that tumble out of palm trees.

But now the city of “Scarface” and “Miami Vice” is vying to become a new powerhouse of tech startups that some in the business hope will spawn a novel phenomenon — the “iguanacorn.”

The word is meant to represent the tropical answer to the Silicon Valley “unicorns,” startups that are worth more than $1 billion.

While still lagging behind San Francisco and New York, the Florida city is trying to position itself as a tech hub, and already has its first “unicorns” under its belt. They include ParkJockey, which has disrupted the car parking sector, and Magic Leap, which takes users into the world of augmented reality.

Looking to surf the Florida tech wave, so-called startup accelerators — firms that invest in fledgling tech ventures and speed up their early development — are starting to pop up in southern Florida.

Among the leaders is 500 Startups, which opened a Miami branch last year, as well as TheVentureCity, set up two years ago to offer opportunities to Latin American and European entrepreneurs who lack Silicon Valley contacts.

“Not everyone comes from Stanford or Columbia, from MIT, and has their own ‘network’ built up in San Francisco,” said Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, a former Facebook executive and co-founder of TheVentureCity.

The idea of her company is to “identify the best businesses outside of Silicon Valley and give them a boost,” she told AFP. She jokingly refers to such ventures as “iguanacorns.”

“‘Iguanacorns’ is the way we tag the unicorns that are coming from emerging tech hubs,” she said.

In keeping with that idea, her office is decorated with pictures of unicorns and their tropical, reptilian cousins.

Ana Gonzalez, head of 500 Startups Miami — which has its main headquarters in Silicon Valley — said that Miami’s “entrepreneurial ecosystem is at an inflection point.”

Her goal too is to “connect resources and expertise from Silicon Valley with Latin America and the Southeast United States.”

Miami is already an international city, home to a diverse mix of Latinos and Europeans who can snack on Cuban croquettes or cross the street and find Russian “syrnikis,” pancakes stuffed with cottage cheese.

Fifty-three percent of the city’s 2.7 million residents are foreign-born, and locals joke that Miami is the only foreign city Americans can visit without a passport.

That diversity offers startups access to markets on the US East Coast, Latin America and Europe, according to experts.

Additional draws include low taxes, a lower cost of living compared to San Francisco and New York, and a pleasant climate — if you don’t mind hurricanes.

“A big percentage of our entrepreneurs are not from here,” said Brian Breslin, head of the University of Miami’s Entrepreneurship Center.

“Whether it’s South America or Europe or other parts of the United States, they’re coming here for lifestyle reasons, cost-of-living reasons, safety/security, access to different markets. So there’s a lot of different value-adds of being here compared to, say, going to San Francisco, or New York, or Boston, or any of the other traditional tech hubs,” he said.

According to 2019’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report, which analyzes the health of tech ecosystems around the world, Miami is one of the ten cities to emerge as a hub this year, and ranks in the top 30 of the most important startup centers globally.

Tech sector workers in the city increased by 40 percent between 2012 and 2018, the report said, noting that “Miami is becoming a tech powerhouse.”

And Breslin said the cycle of growth in more established tech hubs indicates that more expansion is yet to come.

“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. I think there’s still growth to be had,” he said.

“People go work at Facebook, or Google, make a ton of money and go start a new business. And we’re just now getting to that point where people made a lot of money working at Chewy.com, at Ultimate Software, hopefully soon at Magic Leap, and then those people will turn around and start the next wave of businesses,” he said.


Dubai to support Emirates airline, closes tourist market

Emirates airline is vital to the Dubai and UAE economy. (Shutterstock)
Updated 1 min 13 sec ago

Dubai to support Emirates airline, closes tourist market

  • Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said the emirate’s government would inject fresh equity into the Emirates airline, considering its strategic importance to the Dubai and UAE economy

DUBAI: Dubai said on Tuesday it would help its state-run Emirates airline overcome the damaging impact of the coronavirus outbreak and enforced a full lockdown on a district famous for its gold and spice markets.
The UAE, the region’s tourism and business hub, has taken drastic measures to combat the spread of the virus including temporarily halting passenger flights and launching a nationwide disinfection drive.
It had already extended a nightly curfew to April 5 to deep clean the country, but Dubai announced late on Monday that a 24-hour curfew would be imposed on the normally bustling tourist and trade district of Al Ras for two weeks.
“I am glad they are doing this because it is for our protection,” said one rice trader who works in Al Ras but resides in the UAE’s Sharjah emirate. The trader, who declined to be named, told Reuters he is now conducting business online.
Dubai closed the main road entrances to Al Ras and halted public transport to the area, which abuts Dubai Creek, where dhows have been banned from shipping goods between Dubai and Iran, a regional epicentre for the virus. Authorities would provide residents with essential needs, the Dubai Media Office said.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Dubai to inject fresh capital into state airline.

● Historic Dubai tourism and trade district under lockdown.

● Coronavirus cases pass 3,700 in the six Gulf Arab states.

The UAE has confirmed 611 coronavirus cases, with five deaths. It plans to open more drive-thru testing centres after the first was opened last week in the capital, Abu Dhabi.
“We will never hesitate to take any measures against any potential threat to people’s life. At the same time, we won’t let development grind to a halt,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the country’s de facto ruler, said in comments carried on state media.
Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said the emirate’s government would inject fresh equity into the Emirates airline, considering its strategic importance to the Dubai and UAE economy.
The total number of infections in the six Gulf Arab states stands at more than 3,700, with 18 deaths.
In Kuwait, the first Gulf state to halt passenger flights and impose a partial curfew, the health minister said a clearer picture on the success of containment efforts would emerge by early June “If infection numbers stabilize, there may be a gradual easing of current measures,” Basil Al-Sabah told Al Rai newspaper. “But if the average rate of transmission increases then ... I do not rule out the cabinet enforcing a full curfew.”
Kuwait recorded 23 new infections on Tuesday to take its total to 289. Saudi Arabia, has passed 1,400, with eight deaths.