Miami: Innovation Gateway to Latin America

March 20, 2013

Known has the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean, Miami continues to play an increasing role as an important global hub for international commerce. In this segment of InnovateCity, we take a look at the emerging opportunities in the “Capital of Latin America.” 

About Miami 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Miami-Dade County is home to 2.5 million people. This number doubles when accounting for the metropolitan region. Miami has a gross metropolitan product of $257 billion and is home to more than 1,400 multinational corporations in industries as diverse as finance, culture, entertainment, fashion, international trade, and education. All of this and more makes Miami the second richest city in America by purchasing power. 

As a gateway to Latin America, Miami enjoys a large amount of diversity among its people and businesses. The Port of Miami serves as one of the epicenters of business activities in the country, and contributes $18 billion to the local economy. To the west of the port, Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami is host to the largest concentration of international banks in the United States. Just five minutes north, the Civic Center area is home to the 2nd largest concentration of medical and research facilities. These are some of the abundant business activities that drive the regional economy of South Florida. 

Startup + Tropical = Startropica 

There is plenty of evidence of startup and innovations brewing in “Startropica.” For instance, Miami is known for its high-profile nightlife; as a result, local entrepreneurs have launched a website connecting nightlife establishments and individuals, a social nightlife smartphone app that allows you to send and receive drinks, and industry-specific programs like NightPro utilizes cloud-based software to manage nightlife activities. These types of innovations are created by the lifestyle of the city. Businesses have recognized the enormous of data that patrons of bars and clubs possess and will the right technologies they will be able capture, analyze, and expand product and service offerings. 

Incubate Miami (IM) was started in 2009 to give start-up technology companies the opportunity to turn their business plans into reality. The organization offers targeted resources in a structured environment to entrepreneurs. During IM’s DemoDay, for instance, program participants present their plans to audience of local investors. Among the concepts presented were iCare Intelligence, which provides cost-efficient solutions for health care insurance companies, and RentJiffy, which helps facilitates property management and maintenance procedures. 

Miami’s Innovation Week also produced several events showcasing Miami as an up-and-coming regional innovation hub. One of the major events was sponsored by Endeavor, who seeks high-impact entrepreneurs for sustainable economic growth in emerging markets. 

ProjectLift is a Miami-based seed accelerator focusing on innovative ideas and business startups at the intersection of healthcare and technology. This group looks for entrepreneurs who will transform healthcare. The focus of the 2013 program is on mobile apps, mobile-enabled tablet devices, clinical data, EHR data, and other web-based technologies. 

The Miami Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship provides a “Silicon Valley-in-a-Box” approach that delivers coaching, classes, and capital necessary for a successful start. This concept brings new capital and resources to developing marketplaces.

Recently, The Atlantic gathered leading entrepreneurs and tech experts from London, New York, California, Kansas City, and more at the New World Center in Miami for a day of discussions about different aspects of the city’s innovation ecosystem. Hosting the program at this location had a strategic importance that brought national attention to the City of Miami as a region full of potential in urban innovations.

Richard Florida, Senior Editor at the Atlantic pointed out the following:

“Look at what’s happening in San Francisco, Berlin, Tech City in London, New York. The shift to urban tech is happening. Cities are incubators of innovation. In Miami, we’ve made these investments in arts and culture. Now is the time for the next step.”

Former mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz said:

“We need to stop thinking of landing an IBM, and instead think about incubating the next group of entrepreneurial startups who will create the technology and solutions of tomorrow,”

Finally, our very own Chamber Foundation Fellow, Leslie Bradshaw, serves as the Chief Operating Officer for a Miami-based startup called Gui.de, which is aiming to change the way we receive online news today. 

All of these initiatives represent some of the building blocks that will lay foundations for long-term sustainability of creativity and innovation in the Miami area. This type of welcoming environment—along with the weather, of course—makes Miami attractive for the kind of development that will generate greater economic activities and prosperity. 

Beyond Miami

Remember that Miami’s geographical location can connect U.S. business to Latin America and vice versa. Among them are the 18 Latin American tech hubs that you should know about for business development and expansion as well attracting foreign talent, ingenuity and investment. 

European visitors make up an important share of the area’s visitors. And since four of the top 20 startup ecosystems in the world are based in Europe. It is a great opportunity to cultivate relationships with entrepreneurs and investors from that part of the world and showcase Miami as a new “work/play” environment – full of emerging opportunities and fun-in-the-sun. 

Social Innovations 

Miami is also known for its culture and arts. The Knight Foundation is sponsoring The Knight Arts Challenge, a Miami-based initiative to draw from the best and most innovative ideas found in local organizations as well as individuals seeking to transform the community through the arts. In the past five years, the Challenge awarded $20 million to more than 143 organizations, including last year’s recipients who aim to teach hip-hop, introduce Broadway theatrics, promote visual arts, and expand a range of other programs and initiatives that involve the arts. 

Innovating in social interactions leads to creativity, which is one element that fuels innovations. It can also enhance productivity. One of the common styles among startups across the country is their office spaces. Majority founders have opted for a new style of work spaces. Rather than the traditional quiet, divided, isolated work stations, these companies have fostered a collective atmosphere that breaks all the traditional rules. The Buro Miami and Gui.de in Midtown are some of Miami’s coolest workplaces. You’ll see creative floor and wall designs, open spaces, tall ceilings, large windows, plenty of natural light, relaxing amenities and much more. 

Education 

The State of Florida’s K-12 educational system is one of the top 10 in the country. The Miami-Dade County Public School (MDCPS) is the fourth-largest district in the country. MDCPS has 415 institutions, including seven high schools, ranked among U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best High Schools”. Furthermore, two of Miami’s schools are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the state of Florida. This district also housed several specialty schools with disciplines in STEM, robotics, bio-medical, and agriculture. 

There are many higher education institutions in the region as well. Miami-Dade Community Colleges is one of many local colleges offering STEM-based skills in the fields of environmental sciences, engineering technologies, informational sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, and many more. 

The University of Miami is among the leading private institutions in the country, boasting one of the highest growth rates in sponsored research funding. One of its strongest assets is the Life Science and Technology Park, where 1,500 projects currently being worked on to foster innovations in the life sciences, technology, and biotechnology fields. 

Florida International University’s (FIU) Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center provides technical assistance and resources to the South Florida and international community. In December 2012, FIU hosted the Americas Venture Capital Conference with the theme being “Data, Design & Dollars,” and brought 29 companies from all over Florida and Latin America to Miami. 

Richard Florida of the Atlantic uses the term “brain circulation” and believes that its key to development of Miami’s startup scene. He thinks that that Miami should attract entrepreneurs and individuals with ideas as well as sending some of local talent elsewhere to learn from other tech scene. 

“The more people who go out and say, Miami is this amazing laboratory for urban transformation, the better for Miami. My hope would be that some of those people figure out a way to incubate start-ups [in Miami]. Not just high-tech start-ups — social innovation, social enterprise, urban transformation, arts and cultural organizations.” 

Lifestyle 

Endless beaches and warmer weather is enough for anyone to visit or relocate to South Florida. The architectures, open-air dining, entertainment, and other amenities supplies lots of things to do. Miami was selected as one of the  smartest cities in the United States and is among the top 30 most literate cities

Nest Stops: Austin, Texas – #1 on Forbes’ “Next Biggest Boom Towns in the U.S.” 

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About InnovateCity Project 

An analysis on venture capital, entrepreneurialism, technology, R&D, research and development, new business, startups, exports and more. Topics include venture capital, entrepreneurs, cluster mapping, research and development, patents, manufacturing, broadband deployment, STEM attainment, technology transfer, and much more.