BusinessCow Sharing // News from Source www.miamiherald.com
When I recently saw headlines in The New York Times, NBC News, Forbes, Bloomberg and other national media questioning whether Miami will become the next Silicon Valley, my first reaction was to dismiss it as a typical combination of media hype and pack journalism.
We journalists often act like birds sitting on a telephone wire: When one of them flies off, all of them fly off in the same direction.
But after reading these stories and talking with several tech-scene players, I’m beginning to think that Miami is already becoming a mini-Silicon Valley. And it could become something much bigger if city leaders convinced the Biden administration to dismantle stupid Trump-era anti-immigration laws that blocked foreign entrepreneurs from coming to the United States,
In recent months, Miami — alongside Austin, Texas — has been flooded with exiles from Silicon Valley and New York. They’re here to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic, while fleeing rising state taxes in California and New York.
Many of them are attracted by South Florida’s weather, multicultural scene and comparatively cheap housing. They could buy or rent bigger homes that are ideal for remote work during the pandemic.
More than 200 venture capitalists from Silicon Valley and New York have moved to Miami in recent months, according to RefreshMiami.com, a local tech-startup news website. “Forget about San Francisco and Silicon Valley — Miami is planning on becoming the next great tech hub,” said the headline of a recent Forbes article.
Among the big financial firms that have moved to Miami in recent months are Paul Singer’s Elliott Management and Carl Icahn’s firm Icahn Enterprises. Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, has announced it is building a technology arm in Miami, and the giant Goldman Sachs investment bank is considering moving its asset-management arm to the Greater Miami area.
Famous tech tycoons such as PayPal founder Peter Thiel and venture capitalist Keith Rabois also have moved to Miami. Many of them were lured by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s campaign to promote the city as the ideal place for innovators to live and work.
Marcelo Claure, CEO of SoftBank Group International, one of the world’s biggest tech investors, announced last week a $100 million commitment to fund Miami-based startups or ones moving to area.
Skeptics note that Miami’s venture-capital ecosystem — the people who lend money to startups — is still small compared to those of San Francisco, New York or Boston. While startups in Silicon Valley raised at least $56 billion from venture capitalists last year, and about $16 billion in New York, Miami startups raised about $1 billion, according to the PitchBook research firm.
Vivek Wadhwa, a Silicon Valley-based Harvard technology scholar and author of “From Incremental to Exponential,” told me that Miami’s hopes of competing with Silicon Valley are mostly wishful thinking.
Many people have left Silicon Valley during the pandemic, “But once everybody is vaccinated and life goes back to normal, they will come back to California,” he told me.
That’s because “for innovation to work, you need a critical mass of entrepreneurship. You need to have a couple of thousands of startups, not a couple of hundreds,” he explained.
Complicating matters, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump lackey, last week backed a proposal to impose $100,000-a-day fines on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other tech companies if they block the accounts of statewide candidates for spreading fake news. That’s hardly an invitation for tech firms to come to the state.
But even skeptics like Wadhwa say that Miami, already a mecca for Latin American startups, could well become a world-class technology, venture capital and medical-services innovation hub if the Biden administration revamps an Obama-era visa program for foreign entrepreneurs.
Under President Obama’s International Entrepreneur Rule, which was rescinded by Donald Trump, non-U.S. citizens who launched startups that received at least $250,000 in venture capital and employed a certain number of workers could get U.S. work visas. Canada, Great Britain, and New Zealand have successfully launched similar programs.
If Miami launches a crusade to resurrect the foreign entrepreneur visa program and succeeds, it could become the world’s premier magnet for Latin American and European entrepreneurs. It could happen.
Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show at 8 p.m. E.T. Sunday on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera
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