6 / City Hubs for Entrepreneurship Series: Miami, Florida
MIAMI’S UNIQUE CONTEXT Miami Needs to Improve Its Entrepreneurship Ecosystem to Create Jobs and New Economic Pillars. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, grew up in Miami.1 So did Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, and Blake Ross, the co-founder of Parakey, which was Facebook’s first acquisition. 2 Jason Baptiste graduated from the University of Miami and launched an award-winning tech company, Onswipe, but quickly relocated it outside of Miami.3 These are just a few of the former residents who have left South Florida to start entrepreneurial careers in places like Seattle, Palo Alto and New York. In the past, Miami was not seen as a place where the entrepreneurship ecosystem supported young companies’ growth. In the mid-2000s, Paul Graham, the founder of Y-Combinator and a well-known writer on entrepreneurship, included Miami on a list of cities that were “toxic to startups” due to “the microscopically small number, per capita, that succeed there.”4 These challenges negatively affected the development of Miami’s entrepreneurial companies, which had a significant impact on the community. Miami’s unemployment rate has remained higher than the national average over the last several years. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows that in July of 2013 there were 30,000 fewer jobs in Miami-Dade County than there were six years earlier — even though the labor force has grown by approximately 90,000 people during this time.5
Figure 1: Total Employment in Miami-Dade County: July 2007 – July 2013 (in thousands). 1,080
Miami-Dade has 30,000 fewer jobs compared to 2007 — even though the labor force grew by ~90,000 people.
1,000 980 960 940
920 Source: Labor Market Report, Miami-Dade County, August 2013.
Today, Miami is a very different city than it was a few years ago. Civic leaders have recognized that entrepreneurship is critical for future growth. In the 2013 State of the County Address, Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez of Miami-Dade County spoke of the importance of entrepreneurial companies, “I am interested in adding a few more pillars to the framework of our economy — forward-thinking businesses that will give Miami a competitive edge,” he said. “We must focus on fostering growth in technology and entrepreneurship.” Community organizations, such as Knight Foundation, have also supported the launch of new programs, like the Lab Miami, which provide support for founders of early-stage companies in the city.6