Miami Tech Week

Brian Zwerner
5 min readApr 26, 2022

I spent two days last week in Miami checking out their Tech Week events. Lots of people think Miami has a shot to be the capital of Crypto and web3. After a few days there, I would say it still has a fairly long way to go, but there is something definitely popping in Miami.

Let me roll it back a little. I grew up in the 305. Moved there in 1982 when I was 9 years old. Graduated from Miami Killian High School in 1995. Fun side note, Jason Robins (DraftKings CEO) is out most famous alum, but that’s not as cool as our rival Palmetto High who has Jeff Bezos. When I finished college, I never considered coming back to Miami for work. Around the early 2000s, there wasn’t much outside of tourism and companies that did business in Latin America. Some private banking work on the finance side, but not much else.

My parents spent a little time in New York after my sister and I left for college, but they moved back to Miami in 2000. I’ve been coming back to Miami consistently for the last 20 years to see my folks, but even with my extensive global business travel I made almost no work trips to the city.

I was down in Miami for Super Bowl week in February 2020, right before COVID hit. During the week leading up to the game, the NFL and NFLPA both host big startup pitch events. VCs and others throw tech events and parties too, lots of them. We even hosted a Beyond The Game meetup in the trendy new Wynwood area near downtown, an area that no one would have driven through much less stopped in when I was growing up. It was a great week for me and my Co-Founder Andre Fluellen. We met tons of great founders and other investors. However, most of the people were just visiting for the week, not Miami residents. We saw a few interesting consumer startup founders, like Max Tuchman from Caribu, but it was limited. Of the 12 startups that pitched at the NFL and NFLPA events, Max was the only one based in Miami.

We all know what happened next. A few weeks later, the world went into COVID lockdown, and everything changed. Florida became a very attractive destination over the coming months. As other parts of the country stayed in lockdown, Florida reopened quickly. With great weather most of the year, outdoor events started back up in 2020 while people elsewhere were stuck indoors at home. People rediscovered that Florida has zero state income tax, and the housing in Miami was much cheaper than New York or San Fran (but less so since the prices have accelerated recently). One of our portfolio companies, Eight Sleep, made the move to Miami in 2020, and many VCs and startup founders did as well.

Things in Miami really accelerated on December 4, 2020 when an investor from Founders Fund, Delian Asparouhov, put out a Tweet asking “ok guys hear me out, what if we move silicon valley to Miami”. The dynamic Miami Mayor Suarez responded with a simple “How can I help”, and things went into overdrive. People from San Fran could hardly believe that a city official was welcoming them and willing to assist, as this isn’t the treatment they are getting in Cali. Since that time, dozens of startup founders and VCs have relocated to South Florida.

This takes us to the present. Delian and a bunch of others organized a big Miami Tech Week event. The team at Eight Sleep was one of the title sponsors. There were about 1,000 or so people in attendance. It was great. In a huge change from the events that I attended around Super Bowl 2020 about half of the 25 speakers at the event actually live in Miami. The people from Miami were excited to tell how much they loved being there, and there was big encouragement to come to Miami and build.

Miami Mayor Suarez was one of the speakers at the event. He was super impressive. A fit, charismatic 45-year-old dude. He looked and sounded very different than most politicians. The host of his fireside chat tried about three times to get Suarez to commit to running for President in 2024, but he deferred on that topic for now. He touted the supportive business environment in Miami, with no state tax and friendly government that understands tech. He talked about the high quality of living there, with warm weather and low crime and homelessness. He was really inspirational.

There was a lot of talk about the diversity in Miami, especially relative to a homogenous place like San Francisco. With its large Latinx and international population, Miami is definitely more diverse than San Fran. However, Miami can’t touch Atlanta on this topic. The room was still mostly white and male. Go to a similar event in Atlanta and at least 25% will be Black founders and VCs. Only 4 of the 25 speakers were women as well, so some work to do on that front as well. Atlanta would likely be about the same on gender diversity, so no stone throwing there. The other big diversity point many people spoke about was diversity of thought. The San Fran departers talked a lot about group think on most political areas, while Miami was often described as a purple city. Mayor Suarez touted his near 80% landslide election victories and also his status as a leader for all people in his city, not just his own party supporters.

Now I want to swing back to the question I asked in the beginning, can Miami be the capital of Crypto and web3? I guess I would say there is really no one location that is likely to achieve this status any time soon. The Crypto and web3 market is one of the most geographically diverse ecosystems, which I suppose makes sense. The biggest companies in the space are spread across the US and even internationally. Coinbase started in San Fran. FTX is located in the Bahamas, and Dapper Labs is in Canada. Circle is in Boston, and OpenSea and BlockFi are in the NYC area. Miami has Bored Apes creator Yuga Labs, which just raised a huge capital round, and also MoonPay who isn’t not a household name like the others listed here.

All in all, it was a great trip to Miami. The city has made major progress as a tech hub since I was last there for work in early 2020. I am excited to see what happens in the 305 over the coming years, and maybe I’ll even convince my wife to make the move there in a few years when my kids get out of college.

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