Whether you call it “Wall Street South” or “Silicon Valley 2.0,” the Magic City is riding a wave of optimism and opportunity.
—By Erica Corsano
It all started with a tweet. In December 2020, a venture capitalist wrote, “What if we move Silicon Valley to Miami?” Miami’s mayor replied, “How can I help?” Their words went viral, and since then the business world has been buzzing about whether the Magic City is the new Palo Alto. With no state income tax, a sunny climate, and a development-friendly mindset, Miami was already winning over financiers. Why not tech billionaires, too?
At the time, no one quite knew the effect venture capitalist Delian Asparouhov’s cheeky tweet and Mayor Francis Xavier Suarez’s congenial reply (which received thousands of likes) would have. But soon after, the internet went wild, and branded Mayor Suarez T-shirts appeared bearing his photo and the catchphrase “How can I help?” The New York Times ran an article in January 2021 about the influx of titans and business magnates to the Magic City with the headline “Join Us in Miami! Love, Masters of the Universe.”
Why now? And why there? Some chalked it up to pandemic-weary citizens in cities under lockdown flocking to a seemingly more open South. But in truth, a larger shift had been underway for some time among Silicon Valley’s twentysomething CEOs, tech fortune seekers, and hot IPOs. After more than two decades as the world’s big tech incubator, the San Francisco Bay area’s high housing costs, taxes, crime, and drug use were triggering what pundits dubbed a “techxodus.”
Florida isn’t the only state attracting California expats. Elon Musk and about 82,000 others went to Texas, according to the New York Times. However, Miami has become a highly viable option for California tech giants.
Reinforcing his role as Mr. Congeniality, Suarez pledged to hire the city’s first-ever CTO (chief technology officer), a concierge for incoming techies, in January. And the mayor isn’t the only one with a friendly attitude. Miamians are known for their warm energy and laid-back vibe.
“I’ve had more meetings in two weeks in Miami than the entire past 10 months. Founders, CEOs, investors, email intros from mutuals, new connections. Everyone’s down here,” Benjamin Kosinski, an investor, said on Twitter last winter.
Miami’s surging popularity is obvious in the flood of potential home buyers, notes Bryan Sereny, a broker associate for Douglas Elliman serving Miami’s luxury market. Sereny recently arrived to show a Miami home and found about two dozen people sitting in the shade by the pool, many working on laptops, some congregated in small groups.
“Miami is an alternative for tech entrepreneurs and start-ups seeking a fresh environment.”
–Bryan Sereny, Broker Associate, Douglas Elliman
“These were not your typical Miami folk, rather, transplants from Silicon Valley,” he says. “I asked one what he was there for, and he told me about his blockchain art-delivery start-up. I don’t know if Miami will ever be a Silicon Valley, but the writing is on the wall: Miami is an alternative for tech entrepreneurs and start-ups seeking a fresh environment.”
THE PLACE TO BE
For locals like Miami food blogger and influencer Dana Rozansky, “Miami being ‘hot’ is a blessing and a curse.” On the downside are increased costs for everything from Ubers to restaurants and housing. “There’s more competition because more people are vying for the same things, whether it’s that Saturday night reservation on South Beach or that spacious, waterfront apartment,” she says. But for Rozansky, who just launched a small content consultancy, the upside is obvious: increased opportunity and excitement.
“Just a few years ago, many of these companies might have scoffed at the idea that Miami could be the next tech hub, yet we seem to be moving in that direction,” she says, “and I anticipate more growth.”
For hospitality professionals, the perks of the boom far outweigh any inconveniences. It means year-round business, not just spikes during peak season. Jules Trump, co-owner and developer of Acqualina Resort and Residences in Sunny Isles (no relation to the former president), calls Miami the “land of opportunities” and Silicon Valley 2.0.
“The perception of Miami as a vacation destination is outdated,” he says. “With remote work adoption and decentralization, people are more mobile. We’re thrilled with Miami’s growth and development that brings more opportunities for real estate developers and the hospitality industry. The influx has also helped us to achieve a faster sell-out,” Trump explains.
With real estate development at an all-time high, city officials are putting their heads together to improve and update building codes—and to solve problems created by environmental issues like flooding and hurricanes.
Related Group, one of the area’s largest real estate development companies, has always worked with elected officials on both the local and national levels to ensure that the company’s structures are safe and out of harm’s way, says Jon Paul Pérez, president. Now the group is taking things a step further and partnering withexperts in a variety of fields to make their buildings even more resilient to outside factors.
“The next few years will be critically important and will require close collaboration across both the public and private sectors,” Pérez says. “Things are certainly changing, but the entire Related team remains bullish on the long-term potential of this city and the region as a whole.”
BLUE SKIES AHEAD
In addition to business-friendly initiatives and warm weather, there’s the allure of the city itself. Glamorous, lively, and culturally diverse, Miami is as renowned for sizzling nightlife as it is for sizzling beaches. Here, cocktails at swanky rooftop bars are the new norm for entertaining prospective clients and investors—perfect for an era when open-air interactions are desirable.
Chris Adamo, chief business officer at publishing start-ups Letterhead and WhereBy.Us, says Miami is its own unique brand.
“Silicon Valley will always be Silicon Valley. What Miami is building is its own version of a tech-driven start-up ecosystem that is combining an ideal mix of Silicon Valley, New York, South America, Europe, and many other international places,” explains Adamo, a founding partner of Social Venture Partners Miami, a nonprofit fund focused on social impact while making strategic investments in Miami’s changemakers. “That’s what is so special—the fact that Miami welcomes in newcomers to our city and brings their talents right into the mix.”
Pérez sums it up this way: “Miami’s future is wide open. For some, it’s the tropical Silicon Valley. For others, it’s Wall Street South. No matter what lifestyle or business sector you’re in, Miami has it all.”