Miami’s Digital Future

By Emily Peck March 25, 2021

Miami’s digital landscape has exploded in recent years, as global companies continue to tap into Miami’s unique ecosystem of business-friendly conditions and highly qualified, diverse talent base.

To find out how the red-hot Miami tech scene will continue to evolve in the future, our Vice President and General Manager of BrainStation Miami, Johanna Mikkola, connected with Leigh-Ann Buchanan from aïres ventures, Adriana Cisneros, Chief Executive Officer at Cisneros, Shu Nyatta, Managing Partner at SoftBank Group International, and special guest Francis Suarez, Mayor of Miami, as part of BrainStation’s Digital Leadership Event Series.

Together, the panel explored how Miami can capitalize on this unique moment to ensure prosperity for businesses and tech talent.

You can watch the full panel discussion here:

Turning Miami Into a Tech Hub

During an active moment on social media, where people were discussing the possible future for tech in Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez typed four words that would shift the conversation for good: How can I help?

“I had no expectation that it would be the kind of viral sensation that it was,” said Suarez about his offer to help promote technological growth in the city. “We have been trying to systematically create a tech ecosystem in Miami for the past 10 years. Changing the reputation of a city is like moving a cruise ship…. I felt like I went out there and got a bunch of tugboats and just dropped them onto the cruise ship and just turned it as fast as I could.”

Shu Nyatta, Managing Partner at Softbank International Group, recently moved to Miami himself, and is excited about what the city has to offer. “We kind of understand that when you have a confluence of technological shifts and geography that’s ready, you get really explosive outcomes.”

“It’s been fun to see when you have a lot of smart people living in the same area,” said Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Cisneros. “The local initiatives, universities, and professors who are in touch and very smart people wanting to help up [Miami’s] game.”

Be Intentional With Inclusivity

With the increased buzz around South Florida’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem, there is then the issue of accessibility for those wanting to participate. Leigh-Ann Buchanan emphasized that diversity, equity, and inclusion opportunities don’t happen by accident. They require intentional and frequent communications in order to design the right solutions. 

“There is so much that we can do,” Cisneros added. “There is the notion of inspiring by example. We shouldn’t do things to tick boxes, we should do them because they’re good for business and are the right thing to do.”

“We have a blank canvas as we grow the ecosystem at a feverish pace,” said Suarez. “But to create an equal playing field is to empower particularly children…and adults who are supposed to have the same set of tools. We need to support organizations that are working and creating opportunities in an equitable fashion and Miami has the opportunity to get it right.” 

Between the needs and the current technical abilities, there are, however, a few gaps that need to be addressed to support the growth Miami has the potential to achieve. 

“There is no talent gap, but there is a skills gap,” said Nyatta. “[Softbank is] focused on bridging that digital skills gap in Miami. But there is also a permission gap, as ecosystems that are centred around entrepreneurship often don’t give permission for young people to take risks. This has been the secret sauce of Silicon Valley, giving people permission to screw up and unlocking that permission is the most powerful thing a person can do for growth.”

With post-graduate programs focused on providing digital skills training and Miami becoming a study destination for students, Cisneros is excited to see what is in store for the next wave of workers.

“Miami is still a new city. I’ve heard people say it’s like a silly putty in that you can shape it into what you want it to be. People want to hear about what you’re working on. Compared to other cities, it’s genuinely welcoming and you don’t need to have money or power to be accepted into a group you’re interested in.”

Embrace the Global Yet Local Opportunities

Buchanan described Miami as a visionary city in what it can support and what people can bring into the community. As it relates to digital talent, Mayor Francis acknowledged there is more than training alone that needs to be done to further Miami’s digital future.

“Our infrastructure [needs to] keep pace with the growth that we’re innovating,” he said. “We obviously want to focus on continuing to make Miami affordable, not just through public private partnerships on affordable housing, but making sure that we have continued supply of housing and which thankfully we do.”

Physical infrastructure plans have also included having direct flights to Asia, which would make Miami one of the most accessible American cities.

Nyatta noted, “A lot of the Miami talk has been about Miami and the U.S: Miami versus Silicon Valley, Miami versus Austin. The discussion I haven’t heard as much, but I’m sure it’s happening is Miami is a global metropolis…Miami is Hong Kong. Miami is Singapore. Miami is Dubai. It is a culturally situated city with very powerful cultural dynamics that are super interesting and unique and specific and authentic with global potential, with a global airport, with global access.”

With his sights on international connections, Mayor Francis is already thinking ahead on how Miami can get involved with the next generation of verticals such as deep machine learning, Cryptocurrencies, and HealthTech.

“We want to be positioned to be the city that is most forward thinking,” he said. “What that means is as our children grow, they have permission to dream, succeed, and fail and have the ecosystem to support that.” 

“I think this focus on talent is important,” said Cisneros. “Of course good companies always attract talent, but it’s also very cool to be able to grow the talent from the 305. It’s good for them and it’s good for the city.”

Nyatta noted that while the energy and excitement is excellent fuel, there needs to be continued strategy year over year to solidify the success Miami is poised to achieve.

“This is not even a marathon, it’s like an ultra marathon. Maintaining intention and strategic clarity over decades is actually the trick, not just a couple of quarters of buzz. Finding ways to build that intentionality into institutions that outlast political cycles, that outlast fund lives is the trick. I think trying to embed these ideas as much as we can into things that will outlive us is the task at hand rather than let’s just create a lot of attention right now.”

Mayor Suarez agreed, adding that an effective long-term plan starts with preparing Miamians for success. 

“The truth that we all understand is tech is here to stay. If we want to create an equitable economy, we need to provide the right tools and opportunities for people to access those tools.”

(This article was last updated in January 2022.)

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