If tasked with naming entrepreneurial cities, a few startup stalwarts might top your list: San Francisco. Boston. New York.
But, a new hub has emerged far from the sphere of Silicon Valley or the bustling Northeast. A coastal city where the startup scene is just as hot as the temperature, with an ever-increasing number of new ventures and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
That place? Miami.
The south Florida city is No. 1 on the Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 Index of Startup Activity, a measurement of new business creation in the country’s 40 largest metro regions. To measure startup activity, the Kauffman index weighs three dimensions: the rate of new entrepreneurs opening businesses in any given month, the percentage of those driven by “opportunity” rather than “necessity,” and the number of newly created businesses that employ at least one other person.
This is Miami’s first year at the top of the Kauffman ranking, thanks in part to the city’s substantial rate of new entrepreneurs: 560 for every 100,000 adults.
More proof of Miami’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem: Florida was named one of the top 10 best states to start a business by WalletHub. The ranking was based on a WalletHub analysis of business environment, access to resources, and business costs from all 50 states. Florida earned the sixth spot overall, and had the fourth-highest average growth in number of small businesses.
There is, of course, a catch. The region’s startup resource availability hasn’t quite caught up with its increase in new ventures. The WalletHub study ranked Florida No. 22 overall for “access to resources,” based on metrics including financing accessibility and venture assessment per capita. Which may be why in the Kauffman Growth Entrepreneurship Index—which ranks cities based on scaling/startup growth—Miami ranked toward the bottom.
To learn more about Miami’s emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem and the resources needed for the city to truly thrive, we talked to those who know the region best: its entrepreneurs.
CAROLINA PINA, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS, ILUMNO
How would you describe Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?
“Miami is an emerging ecosystem, so we are building it. That’s the exciting part! Your contribution has tangible results. For the first time, I feel all key players are aligned and have the same vision of making Miami a thriving entrepreneurial community that starts, retains, and grows successful ventures.
“Miami has the reputation of being a young, vibrant, and diverse city. When you mix those elements with innovation and incentives like affordable housing, no state or city taxes, the connection with Latin America, and the influx of visitors from around the world, it makes it a truly desirable location for entrepreneurs.”
What resources are available for entrepreneurs in the region?
“There are a lot of available resources to support entrepreneurs: co-working spaces, incubators, and accelerators—The Miami WIN® Lab from Babson College, the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, StartUP FIU, Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses, Startupbootcamp—that help founders grow and scale their businesses. You also have organizations like Refresh Miami and publications like Startup.Miami from The New Tropic that highlight events, openings, and articles about the local ecosystem. In addition, there are plenty of local coding academies that are helping to develop technical skills very valuable to startups.
“The Knight Foundation has been a critical component in the development of the ecosystem, funding organizations like WIN Lab, the Idea Center, and The Lab, while also investing in local entrepreneurs and identifying gaps.
“On the funding side, there is a lot to do to attract more capital and also activate women investors. Groups like Aminta Ventures, AGP, and Pipeline Angels have been proactive into addressing this shortage and creating opportunities for new female investors to enter.”
CARLA CURIEL, CEO, MUNDO LANUGO
What makes Miami a great region for entrepreneurs?
“It’s a great city in general—nice weather, warm people, good food. That helps to attract talent, which is helpful when you want to grow a team. There’s the community factor here, too. My business Mundo Lanugo is focused on the Hispanic community, a growing demographic and sought-after consumer group. Here, I can test my products and get them in front of the right people.”
How can entrepreneurs in Miami leverage the startup ecosystem to move their ideas forward?
“There’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in Miami, but mostly everyone is working alone. Over the last two years, more accelerators have popped up to help the community. Take advantage of everything available. I was in the Venture Hive incubator program, and did the Babson WIN Lab in Miami. The Knight Foundation also hosts different events.
“There’s potential [with those resources] but the community needs more. More education, more investors. We’re great in terms of starting; we have lots of great entrepreneurs. But, they have to be more resourceful, more resilient. Our ecosystem isn’t able to keep up with the growth, yet.”