Miami’s magic lies in its entrepreneurial spirit of innovation


Miami is hot in more ways than one. The area’s growth and vibrancy are felt in many the traditional industries such as real estate, tourism, healthcare and education. A renewed interest in urban living has heated a condominium market that was hard to imagine just a few years ago.

Currently, there are more than 63 buildings under construction, providing close to 10,000 new condominium units that are selling well. Thank foreign buyers for fueling this new economy. They are ushering life into Miami, spurring culture, arts and entertainment that enrich in more ways than one.

There is also a new business buzz. Entrepreneurs have been attracted to Miami’s sandy beaches for decades. Today, a new type of entrepreneur is entering the market with start-up companies and technologies that are innovating the healthcare, hospitality, trade and creative industries. A growing number of investors are betting that Miami can develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem that plays to its strengths and will thrive.

Enlightened leaders have long understood that the day of the traditional manufacturing job is over. The challenge is to generate economic growth through meaningful employment that comes from a sophisticated class of entrepreneurship. A good business climate, however, does not just materialize; it is the outcome of stakeholders agreeing on a common objective. It takes a countywide initiative to get investors, foundations, bankers, businesses, colleges and universities to work collaboratively with government to build upon the strengths of the community. Investors appreciate that collaboration because it shows a public/private commitment to succeed.

One of the keys to developing a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem is marketing local strengths. Respecting the local culture can be profitable. For Babson College’s Daniel Isenberg, who heads the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project in Massachusetts, “It’s about empowering the ‘flora and fauna.’”

That empowerment requires a reboot to local educational systems to better prepare this new generation of creative thinkers with the savvy skill sets needed to attract the necessary capital to grow and prosper. Miami, as a start-up city, could learn a few lessons from Israel to get to the next level.

It wasn’t that long ago that Israel was a socialist nation influenced by the values of Kibbutzim, which, in simple terms, was based on agricultural, communal living. Surviving in a hostile region forced them to change. Israelis made important choices, one of the most significant being self sufficiency in areas such as food production and defense. They improved their educational system, creating the pool of talent capable of designing and developing the infrastructure to help them survive and flourish.

It was a process of trial and error. In the end, Israel got creative, learning to commercialize military technologies and communications systems in fascinating ways. Gilat Satellite Networks, for example, combined a communications system with military satellite technology to let retailers process credit-card transactions quickly.

Entrepreneurship began to flourish, and foreign investors found in Israel companies that were worth the investment. By 2012, more than 50 Israeli start-ups were acquired by companies such as IBM and Apple. Today, Israel has more companies listed on NASDAQ per capita than any other country in the world. These investments have spurred more research and development. It is a remarkable transformation, and more than a few in Miami have noticed.

Smart creativity is being rewarded. There is a lot of encouraging activity stemming from the Knight Foundation, eMerge Americas, Endeavor Miami and Venture Hive that shows a confidence in Miami as a good location for serious, institutional investors looking to fund high-impact entrepreneurs.

This shows the high value placed on community collaboration that plays to its strengths and creates policies that support smart start-ups. It is also attracting successful mentors who are ready to give back to the community and help others to grow. It is a truly positive trend that bodes well for 2015. If it continues, Miami will show that, despite its many challenges, it is still a magic city.