The Miami technology sector is growing up — fast. Taking a quick look back, we can see that this momentum was started in 2013, a banner year. It started with Rokk3r Labs taking it to the next level in the heart of Miami Beach, followed by The Atlantic’s Start-up City: Miami, which brought together a world-class line-up of speakers that firmly announced that we were ready to raise the bar. SIME MIA closed 2013 by letting everyone see our unique take on innovation with over 600 high-profile attendees.
In between, we saw Refresh Miami continue its growth and maturity, LAB Miami become a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation, Venture Hive graduate its first class of startups and Endeavor Global launch its Miami office.
We also saw the launch of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami-Dade College, Miami-based Kairos become the Wall Street Journal’s Startup of the Year and local hackers make serious noise in Paypal’s Battle Hack in San Francisco.
There were “green shoots” of activity and optimism everywhere, and while there is reason to believe that we are on our way, the reality, as usual, is more complicated.
As we look back at 2013, we can say that, yes, we made great strides and momentum is on our side. However, it is critical to realize that we’ve only just begun, and that there is a lot of hard work ahead if we are to prove that all of the sizzle is more than deft marketing, but in fact, a demonstration of a vibrant community of ideas, entrepreneurship and investment that is poised to transform Miami’s economy.
Now we need to step up our game and prove that our entrepreneurs and companies are ready for the serious business of growth by forging of a unified community strategy that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, educators and government officials.
First and foremost, we need to help local entrepreneurs continue building their businesses through access to mentoring and financing. It is through the successful growth of homegrown technology and innovation businesses that we will ultimately prove that we truly have a real and thriving ecosystem worthy of the buzz.
Through these budding entrepreneurs we will capture the attention of the global venture-capital community as well as the imagination of the next generation of entrepreneurs.
On the education front, we need to continue encouraging local institutions at all levels — colleges and universities, high schools and elementary schools — to focus on preparing our most important resource, children, to compete and participate in the innovation/technology industry. This begins through the promotion of a strong STEM curriculum — science, technology, engineering and math — as well as promoting innovation through creativity and design.
These institutions also need to work closely with the private sector so that each side understands the needs of the other and are able to coordinate an education strategy that prepares local talent to meet the needs of local industry.
It is clear that part of our political establishment needs to catch up and get on board with the work of the private and academic sectors. While there is growing awareness of the great economic-development potential of the innovation/technology sector among the local political class, it will be imperative that this awareness be transformed into a solid commitment to doing its part.
Whether it is developing a plan to promote Miami as a relocation option for entrepreneurs, especially those in Latin America or creating incentives that stimulate the construction of world-class technology infrastructure, having an informed and engaged local government will be a critical component to the long-term viability and sustainability of the ongoing efforts.