Entrepreneurship and venture capital are global. No matter where you go, each city has something to offer for founders and investors. But if you are a fresh arrival or just not an active member of the ecosystem, it can be difficult to navigate. This is precisely why we created the OpenVC Guides.
We reached out to founders and investors around the world and asked them where to go, who to know, and more. We hope that these primers help you navigate the ecosystem in your city and make your own mark. If you want to contribute to your city for a future guide, click here.
Today we cover Miami, or as I call it, Silicon Swamp!
Table of Contents
Intro to the Miami Ecosystem
When you think of startup cities and even startups in general, Miami rarely made the cut. Known more for the hospitality industry, startups and venture capital were the last things that came to mind with Miami. This changed with the pandemic, with many founders and funds coming to Miami and South Florida for the lax pandemic rules, tax benefits, and of course, sunshine. Here are some quick facts:
We asked our friends in Miami for their opinions. Here is what they had to say:
Best thing about the Miami venture scene
Worst things about the Miami venture scene
Best spots in Miami to work from your laptop
Located in the heart of Wynwood, Panther Coffee offers a chill atmosphere whether you are working remotely or taking a meeting with your team.
Büro, Coconut Grove
Büro offers 10,000 square feet of working space in Coconut Grove, one of Miami’s nicest and most walkable neighborhoods.
Various locations throughout Miami.
I use the Spaces coworking offices in Wynwood (pictured above in the Cube), Miami Beach and Brickell. I like to hop around to meet new people and get different vibes from the different parts of the city.
While the Brickell WeWork offers convenience and views, the Wynwood location stands out for its convenience and sheer cool factor. But understand that both have a good vibe, but the Wynwood neighborhood provides the perfect reliable ambiance for getting things done between meetings and events.
One of our contributors recommends exploring the city as you will stumble on many different and unique locations, each offering something for everyone.
Best place in Miami for an investor meeting
Moloko in Sunset Harbor is a good place and is aesthetically pleasing.
Amara is a good place for serene views and an amazing atmosphere.
The Deck at Island Gardens
The Deck during more quiet hours is fabulous for a meeting, especially at sunset.
1101 Brickell Avenue. South Tower, 8th Floor.
Pipeline is not only good for working, but they offer great rooms with great views to have meetings.
Pura Vida is an elevated coffee shop with various locations throughout the city. It is great for meetings.
Baia Beach Club
Located at the Mondrian South Beach, Baia Beach Club has sweeping sunset views that are great for meetings or just relaxing after a full day of them.
The Lido Bayside Grill
Located at the Standard Spa, Lido is a relaxing and calm place for a meeting that still embodies what Miami is all about.
One of our contributors recommends avoiding any supper clubs/clubby restaurants. There are plenty of places in Miami where you get the energy of the city without the loud music and fire dancers. Remember, Miami is known for partying but if you want to build a business, save your partying until after your funding is secured.
That person in Miami every tech founder should know
Shaun Gold - Super Connector
Shaun Gold, formerly the premiere promoter of the Miami nightlife scene, before morphing his move into startups and venture capital.
Alex Tang - Vice President at IPD Capital
Alex Tang from IPD Capital has covered a lot of events and sectors and is super helpful on any initiatives you may be pursuing.
Brian Breslin - Miami Tech Pod
Brian Breslin has been in the Miami startup scene before the world knew it was cool.
Fernando Silva - Vice President at Lockton Companies
Fernando Silva is an exceptional individual to know in Miami and has an amazing network.
Francis Saurez - Miami Mayor
So many honorable mentions, but Mayor Saurez 's acclaim and the following are well-deserved and hard-earned.
Benny Pekala - Head of Development at Cryptan Labs
Benny Pekala seems to be the man for me when it comes to early tech founders. He's very active in the Web3 scene and always exudes positivity.
Harry Hurst - Founder at Pipe
Harry Hurst is the founder of Pipe and a recent Miami transplant who should be on everyone’s radar.
Chris Adamo & Natalia Martinez-Kalinina - Miami Tech Happy Hour
Chris Adamo & Natalie Martinez-Kalinina host the MiamiTech Happy Hour and should be in the rolodexes of any founder in the 305.
Thalius Hecksher - Founder at Hecksher Partners
Thalius Hecksher has been championing the South Florida area for nearly a decade and is a person to know in the finance and startup scene.
Following up on this, one of our contributors has some great advice:
I am not a big fan of the “one person.” Get to know as many new people as possible. Everyone is going to resonate differently with the people they meet. You need to go out and meet as many people as possible in this ecosystem. Leave the ego at home and remember that everyone has something amazing to contribute, and it is our job to figure out what that is. Try to talk to someone new everyday and look for that person that is not surrounded by others (enter every tech conference I have been to and tier 1 founders and tier 1 VCs surrounded by people), but that person who is sitting by themself. I find quite often they are the most enjoyable.
Miami investors that truly add value
Fuel Venture Capital
Fuel Venture Capital has been in Miami for quite some time and have helped local start ups long before the pandemic (even deploying $100 million to South Florida startups alone).
Founders Fund adds value with prestige, promotion, and by actively recruiting founders & investors to Miami.
Iter Investments is one of few firms in Miami to focus specifically on psychedelics and is building a community around them.
305 ventures is an early-stage fund that invests in founders who have a presence in Miami.
777 Partners arrived in Miami in 2016 and has been offering value to its portfolio companies across multiple verticals ever since.
New World Angels
New World Angel investors focus on early-stage companies vertically agnostic, usually in Florida, that are seeking their first or second major outside investment. They typically make investments ranging from $250K through $2 Million. They are looking for entrepreneurs from interesting and diverse backgrounds and cultures. They seek entrepreneurs with products, technologies, and teams that can profitably create real impact for customers and across our society.
Although its headquarters are in Tampa, Florida Funders should be on the radar of Miami founders as its the most active VC firm in the state.
One of our contributors provided the following advice:
If you want to find a VC that adds value, go talk to them about something at a granular level. Finding a good VC is like finding a good romantic partner, until you have a conversation you are not going to really know if you have strategic alignment. Have the tough conversations, talk about your strategy, talk about concerns, talk about the technology, and make sure they really know what they are talking about. Just like with dating you do not really know what value add means to you, until you go out and meet a whole bunch of VCs (date a whole bunch of people). This is also a great chance for you to collect feedback, and do not take it personally.
Top Miami incubators and accelerators
While the Miami venture scene is still young and developing, here is what our contributors had to say:
Atomic was mentioned in our San Francisco guide and carries weight here in Miami. Our contributors are big fans of their business model in Miami and beyond.
They have a strong Web3 focus and the leadership there is very genuine and truly wants to make the whole ecosystem here in Miami much bigger and stronger.
Not an incubator or an accelerator, Endeavor Miami is still worth having in your contact list. Endeavor Miami has always been a strong supporter of the high-impact entrepreneurship movement in Florida. The organization as a whole has been focused on entrepreneurial ecosystems in emerging and underserved markets around the world,
The Techstars Miami program has a focus on diversity, designed to provide equitable access to funding and support for Black, Hispanic and Latino, Indigenous American, and Pacific Islander founders.
500 Startups is popular around the world but the value here is that they believed in the Miami scene years ago (before everyone came here) and have a great presence in the city.
Venture hive offers effective and efficient turnkey models to the community. They also are a veteran of the Miami scene and are out to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem based on educational principles.
Not an incubator or an accelerator but a 501c3 non-profit, Refresh Miami's mission is to educate, inspire, connect and grow South Florida’s tech and startup ecosystem. Founded in 2006, they are the oldest and largest startup community and tech hub in Florida.
The Launch Pad (University of Miami students and alumni)
The Launch Pad is the entrepreneurship center at the University of Miami and offers a variety of resources and programs to current students and alumni.
Some advice on accelerators and incubators from one of our contributors:
Accelerators is a tough question. These are usually your guides through the earliest points of your growth, and they typically are not cheap. There is a broad range but on average you are giving up to 5-7% of your equity value, and considering you typically give up 20% of your company with a full priced round, that 5-7% they take is pricey. I think my viewpoint here is to make sure you interview each accelerator or incubator in depth, make sure to talk to their alumni, review their track record (quantitatively not qualitatively), review their materials, and make sure you are clear with your expectations. The right accelerator can make a huge difference but there are a lot of them popping up that unfortunately do not always add as much value as promised. Make sure you also talk to current participants, because there are also accelerators that do not evolve over time. This can be just as problematic.
Favorite Miami meetups and events to attend
Miami Made (members only)
Miami Made has 150 South Florida founders who are set on building better companies and a more supportive ecosystem. Their events range from monthly meetings to sponsored dinners and mastermind sessions.
Tech Tuesday - Happy Hour in Wynwood/Brickell.
What began in Wynwood has since moved to Brickell. Tech Tuesday is a good place to meet new comers and early stage founders as well as locals, investors and later stage companies. It takes place on the last Tuesday of every month.
The #MiamiTech Happy Hour
Every other week, the MiamiTech Happy Hour takes place at the outside area of Freehold at 6pm sharp. This is a great event as it brings out the entire community.
Venture Cafe Thursday Gathering
Venture Cafe Thursday Gathering
Venture cafe’s Thursday Gathering is a great place to network with everyone from founders to students who are looking to build.
Every year the eMerge Americas expo takes place in Miami with the goal of transforming the city into a global technology hub. This is a can’t miss event with thousands of attendees, notable speakers, startup showcases, and more.
As Miami is known for its many events, both public and private, it pays to keep an eye on insiders event guides for Art Basel, Miami Tech Week, Bitcoin Week, and many others that seem to pop up every week.
According to one of our contributors, you should try to hit all of the events. You need to find your community and that will be different for each individual..
Any final tips for a founder who wants to build in your city?
I would say just come to any of the local weekly events and be friendly. Everyone here is willing to be helpful and make the right introductions. Especially with all of the new VCs in town, they are happy to help or point you in the right direction
Come with an open mind, leave the ego behind, and get to know the community. Also, realize that you are stepping into a new city, I understand that San Francisco and New York City (really any other city) are large vibrant tech rich cities, but be respectful of what is being put together in Miami. We can all learn from each other. This is not Silicon Beach, or the next Silicon Valley, it is the first and only Miami. Over compensation is what people do when they are insecure, and we have seen far too many "bro" cultures. Let's make Miami a great ecosystem, where people listen, share ideas, feel comfortable to open up about struggles and issues, and respect each other and help each other build the future.
DROOM. Don't Run Out Of Money. Learn to live in Miami on a budget because if you don't keep an eye on things you can quickly go dry. The second thing is to make sure to extend your network outside of the city for developers and technical members. The city is still lacking in that area but it's slowly getting better.
For people who like to build (entrepreneurs and techies), think of Miami not as a blank canvas, but as a place with a strong tech ecosystem, incredible diversity, powerful organizations and foundations, savvy and creative entrepreneurs, hard workers who are eager to grow and get ahead, and many locals and natives who are passionate about Miami and have been putting in the work for years because they see the city’s potential. Miami is a gateway city, so many large, international companies have their Latin American headquarters here. While we don’t have much investment banking (like NYC), we’re strong in private banking and wealth management, real estate and real estate development, healthcare, cruising, tourism, boating, aviation, and logistics.
Embrace the community. The entrepreneurial spirit and ecosystem are alive and well in Miami. Take advantage of the opportunity to make meaningful business connections, meet investors, and grow your local network of advocates.
Be actively involved in the city and try to go to as many events as possible. It would be also good to be a part of local charity organizations and find hobbies where you can link up with like minded people.
Miami has always been a sunny place for shady people. Make sure to personally vet who you meet and don’t believe everything you hear.
Did we miss anything? Feel free to contribute.
Kristina Zvyagintseva is a director of Sales at a crypto trading firm called Radkl. Prior to that she covered traditional finance for the last 10 years at JPM and Ares.
Bernardt Vogel was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up between Nicaragua and the United states. He got a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Purdue University, MBA from Babson College, Fintech specialization from Wharton & Sustainable Management from Yale. At the age of 21, He was the COO of a US Startup raising over $40M with operations in LATAM & South Africa. The last 7 years, Bernardt served as Investment Director for a LATAM PE firm focused on renewable energy. Today, he is a Venture Analyst for New World Angels, active member of the investment team focused on Fintech & Web3 at VU Venture Partners, Venture Associate at Republic, Founding investor of Sweater Fund, Startup advisor for Consilience Ventures, member of the Captable Coalition, Founding member of Web3 Venture House by Launch house and member of the Government Blockchain association. Bernardt can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]
Emil Jimenez is an award winning marketing executive and CEO of MindBank Ai. A personal digital twin platform that creates a dashboard of the mind using psycholinguistic models for personal development and self-care while giving us the ability to live forever through data.
Carlo is a serial entrepreneur and technology investor. He is the Founder & CEO of Select, a financial technology company that helps people elevate the way they experience the world.
Bjorn Erik Hansen
Bjorn Erik Hansen is Founder and CEO of Intiem, a Miami-based pharmaceutical company focused on sexual wellness using treatments, psychedelic medicines and other molecules. With a background in creating and developing businesses, he now seeks to market and distribute innovative therapeutics in the U.S. and internationally through Intiem. Can be reached by email: [email protected]