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Miami's Path To Becoming A Tech Hub, According To TheVentureCity's CEO: 'Brainpower Doesn't Have A Zip Code'

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Miami's Path To Becoming A Tech Hub, According To TheVentureCity's CEO: 'Brainpower Doesn't Have A Zip Code'

“Thinking of moving to Miami? DM me.”

That’s according to a tweet from Miami Mayor Francis Suarez that's plastered across billboards along California. The initiative, sponsored by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and early Uber Technologies Inc (NYSE: UBER) and Airbnb Inc (NASDAQ: ABNB) investor Shervin Pishevar, comes as Miami looks to transform itself into a booming tech hub.

In unpacking why Miami is a destination for those talents, Benzinga chatted with Laura González-Estéfani, the founder and CEO of TheVentureCity, an international, operator-led venture acceleration model designed to make the global entrepreneurial ecosystem more diverse, international and accessible to fair capital.

The Background: Prior to bolstering growth initiatives and business development at Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) alongside other executives like Chamath Palihapitiya, González-Estéfani also held jobs at eBay, Siemens, Ogilvy Group and Esplaya.com.

Originally from Spain, the 44-year-old said she developed an interest in Miami as a tech hub while traveling to Cuba for work projects. 

“I discovered back then, already, there were so many things going on with Endeavor, eMerge Americas and so many others,” she said.

González-Estéfani has been through a lot of ups and downs — the bursting of the tech-and-telecom bubble and early innovation at Facebook — and now, she wants to share her experience and put capital behind emerging technologies, with a focus on Miami-based opportunities.

“I want to help those founders that are not coming from traditional tech hubs,” she said. “Help them with everything they need, whether it is capital, product advice, scalability tactics and so on.”

González-Estéfani is helping those diverse founders make an impact at the global level through TheVentureCity, a new take on venture capital and growth acceleration.

“I don’t consider myself a venture capitalist because I’m always challenging the system,” she said. “When we built TheVentureCity, we came to the right balance of financial engineering and ingenious engineering. We have data scientists, product specialists, growth marketers and engineers.”

Unlike typical venture capitalist initiatives, TheVentureCity approaches motivated founders and looks to become an extension of their team, providing strategic growth insights and capital.

“I truly believe the best founders choose the capital, and it is not the other way around,” she told Benzinga. “Our added value comes from the knowledge and experience of growing companies globally.”

Miami Is Not A Copycat: Miami is not the next Silicon Valley, González-Estéfani said. 

Instead, The Magic City is turning into a unique global startup ecosystem, thanks in part to political leadership, an influx of new capital, top universities and the economic climate, she said. 

Interest in Miami as a tech and finance hub has picked up substantially during the pandemic, González-Estéfani said.

Firms like Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE: GS), Citadel, Blackstone Group Inc (NYSE: BX), among others, are too making the trip to South Florida.

“The problem was that the companies in Miami were not willing to pay [local] talents what they were worth. So, a computer engineer from the University of Miami was getting a job in San Francisco at a starting salary of like $150,000. Why would they stay in Miami, where they were willing to pay $60,000?”

Now that firms such as Spotify, Facebook and many VCs have opened offices there, Miami has become a top global destination, she said. 

Much of the buzz generated by Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has helped sell Miami’s hidden value, González-Estéfani said. 

“Miami has the best airport connected to Latin American countries and in some cases European cities too. We have the logistics platform — the distribution is so important in tech — and this is a place where you can test a product and get feedback immediately from users with very different cultural and economic backgrounds.”

Keeping It Prosperous: Benzinga asked González-Estéfani what it will take to keep Miami in the limelight.

The answer? Community reinvestment, as well as a culture focused on creating and rewarding talent, she said. 

“Hopefully, the newcomers respect and embrace the culture,” González-Estéfani said. “Every job in tech creates three more jobs in non-tech related businesses. Our mayors need to get and position Miami as one of the top tech hubs because the world is going tech first.”

The Trump administration's undoing of an Obama-era policy that allows foreign founders a path to becoming U.S. citizens has to be reversed, alongside a ban on non-compete agreements, she said. 

“We need to remove the non-compete clauses we have. Super talented people should be able to go wherever they want to work.”

Emerging Trends: Fintech, healthtech, augmented reality, feminine tech and others are areas of focus for TheVentureCity in Miami and across the globe.

“One of the most disrupted industries is the health industry,” González-Estéfani said in a discussion on her investments in companies like Base and Paloma Health, two healthtech companies. So far, TheVentureCity has invested in over 30 companies globally. Now, the firm’s founder is looking to launch a second fund to capitalize on trends and talents emerging in the Miami area.

“I am very interested, as well, in everything regarding security and effective remote work.”

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic had a tremendous impact on societal norms: González-Estéfani said workers, especially in Miami, don’t want to work in a cubicle alongside hundreds of their colleagues.

“Brainpower doesn’t have a zip code,” she said “No zip codes, no nationalities. When we invest, we’re thinking about the next 10 years.”

Photo by One Shot from Pexels.

 

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