This week, Miami Tech Life saw a lot more activity than usual—especially on Twitter, where Rea was overwhelmed with DMs. “The community has sort of invented this Miami Tech Week thing out of thin air,” he says. Events started to pop up: Tech Newcomers Happy Hour (dress code: business casual), South Miami Tech Happy Hour (dress code: Miami casual, which is different), a morning bike ride around Key Biscayne. Classes at Barry’s Bootcamp in South Beach, where Rabois recently became an instructor, quickly filled up. (Unlike some parts of the country, many local establishments have been able to operate at full capacity for months.)
Chris Adamo, who is part of Miami Tech Life, invited newcomers to meet the OGs at Lagniappe, a wine bar where he hosts a biweekly happy hour. The RSVPs filled up so quickly that he had to add a second location. On Twitter, a local entrepreneur offered to organize a dinner for visiting founders and VCs. After more than 100 replies and 200 direct messages, he had to politely retract the offer. “I was thinking 12 to 15 people for dinner!”
For those flying in, the week promised to be a kind of bacchanal for funding. “Every VC will be in Miami next week,” tweeted Julia Lipton, the founder of Awesome People Ventures, an early-stage fund based in San Francisco. “It will be like shooting fish in a barrel.” Dayton Mills, an entrepreneur who lives outside of Seattle, anticipated “3x more VCs at just one event in Miami next week than I met during our entire seed round. At this point not going is doing a disservice to your company.”
For those who already live in Miami, requests to get coffee or meet up have similarly been all-consuming. “My calendar is completely booked,” says Helen Rankin, the chief marketing officer at SwagUp, a Miami-based startup that makes custom-branded merchandise like Mayor Suarez’s signature “How can I help?” T-shirts. “I have two events tomorrow, I have some people I’ve connected with on Twitter. Everyone’s trying to figure out what to do and how to meet up as much as possible.”
“I’ve seen many people in tech come and go in recent months,” says Alexandra Zatarain, cofounder of Eight Sleep, a sleep-tech company that relocated to Miami last year. “This week, however, it seems as if everyone is in town. And, to be frank, I’m not entirely sure why. That’s what makes this unofficial Miami Tech Week so magical. It just happened.”
Asparouhov, who recently bought a house in Miami, envisions the city as the next great tech capital. “When I came and visited Miami in March, it flipped the switch for me,” he says. “I started to see all of the things that got me excited about San Francisco when I moved there in 2012—all these early-stage founders, builders, intellectual types. Palo Alto used to be the energy for that, and it got a little too corporate.” He hopes Miami’s growing base of smaller startups can transform into a real technology powerhouse.
Some people probably will stay in Miami beyond the impromptu Tech Week, seduced by the vibrant nightlife and a burgeoning community of startups and technologists. But the hype around the week could just as easily turn it into a one-time networking event—not a lasting ecosystem.
Mayan, the cannabis-tech founder, plans to return to Oklahoma City after his one-month stint in Miami—at least for now. “We’ll see if I end up drinking the Kool-Aid,” he says. Even before he arrived, he felt welcomed by the community in a way that he hasn’t felt in many of the other tech hubs where he’s tried to fundraise. “I’m a brown dude with a cannabis tech startup. It’s hard to break into the tech scene,” he says. “But there’s no gatekeeping happening in Miami. Everyone’s open with intros, I’m talking to investors that I’ve been idolizing for years or people I admire for the companies they started. Feeling welcome? That’s huge.”