A day-long forum led by Richard Florida explored ways to build an innovation hub in South Florida.
Can Miami become one of the great cities of innovation?
Richard Florida, an urban-affairs expert and now a South Florida resident much of the year, brought in an all-star lineup of national and local thought leaders Wednesday to explore how to build a robust technology community in Miami — and learn from the experiences of other hubs.
More than 1,100 people registered for Start-Up City: Miami, a free, day-long seminar on presented by The Atlantic magazine, Atlantic Cities, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It was held at the New World Center in Miami Beach, where the main performance hall was full and lobbies were buzzing much of the day. the event was live-streamed, and watch parties took place in Miami and around the country.
“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,” said Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class. “In Miami, we’ve made these investments in arts and culture. Now is the time for the next step.”
The conference builds on the momentum to accelerate the Miami tech community. The Knight Foundation’s Miami office, led by Matthew Haggman, has already committed several million dollars to projects aimed at fueling entrepreneurship, including bringing in the global nonprofit Endeavor; investing in the co-working campus LAB Miami; and sponsoring dozens of events around town, including Start-Up City. Miami-Dade County and the Miami Downtown Development Authority have invested $1.5 million in Launch Pad Tech, a new downtown accelerator.A wave of co-working spaces catering to entrepreneurs has swept into Miami’s urban core.
“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,” said Manny Diaz, former mayor of Miami, in his opening remarks.
When it comes to building startup communities, the keynote speaker, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, knows a thing or two. He has been on a mission to build one in downtown Las Vegas — what he calls the “the anti-strip.”
Hsieh has committed $350 million, mostly his own funds, to help make Las Vegas one of the world’s great cities and a technology hub. For a city almost entirely dependent on tourism, and one that was a poster child for the housing crash, these goals might seem ambitious. Sound familiar?
As part of The Downtown Project, Hsieh is moving his own company — the giant shoe retailer — from the Las Vegas suburbs to the former City Hall. Nearby, he told the crowd, he is also amassing other real estate for co-working and traditional office space, more affordable housing, retail and restaurants — all to ensure an “entrepreneurial energy” and places for “serendipitous collisions.”
Some of the projects in Las Vegas have included a shipping-container park, bike-sharing and car-sharing, 60 furnished apartments for visiting entrepreneurs, and an “Inspire Theater” that hosts thought-provoking speakers throughout the day.
Hsieh has also established a $50 million fund to help tech startups — just two years ago there was no startup scene in Las Vegas, he said. He’s also investing in the arts and small business.