By Bryan Janeczko, serial entrepreneur and founder of Grō Academy, offering free on-demand tools to teach you how to start a business
Miami was just named one of the top ten U.S. cities for setting up a business by Inc. and Startup Genome. This sunny city’s startup scene has been flourishing in recent years, attracting everything from big tech events to biomedical business and minority-centered ecosystems.
Sure, it’s not the only city to boast these kinds of opportunities for startups, but what’s special about Miami is its diverse culture, people, arts and unmatched international connections. It’s a great incubator for innovation and growing your business globally, and an exciting place to live, work and R&R.
But it’s not only tech startups sailing into the harbor city. Miami offers a great launchpad for entrepreneurs working in a range of different verticals. One of the biggest roadblocks for people looking to start a business is accessing those initial resources and guidance, especially if you’re thinking of moving to a new city. So here’s some help navigating this increasingly popular business hub if you’re hoping to launch a business here:
Miami and its beaches attract upwards of 20 million visitors a year (around 7x the number of residents in Miami-Dade county). While this fluid population could make it hard to establish a local customer base and organic marketing, it’s also a huge opportunity for entering the hospitality sector. With Miami’s high-volume ports and airports, transport and logistics are important niches in the region.
And while Miami’s glitz and glam creates its own high-end market, it is also the city with the second-highest income inequality in the nation – motivation for building inclusion and impact-driven projects. Other challenges include rising sea levels and flooding linked to climate change.
The city’s startup ecosystem has been pretty tech-centered, but Miami is also an ideal place to develop businesses in health and sciences, as it’s considered a healthcare innovation hub.
“Healthcare is an industry that’s always been important to South Florida,” says Connor Masterson, founder of Miami’s venture consulting firm and fund Mission Ctrl. “In that space we’ve seen some fantastic businesses emerge,” including Papa Pals – the grandkids-on-demand service recently raised $10 million by catering to Miami’s large elderly population.
The city also benefits from no state income tax, and a low corporate tax rate of 5.5%. That’s not just good for you, it means more funds are migrating to the city. The cost of living is also favorable compared to business hubs like Silicon Valley and NYC.
An inclusive city
Miami is open for business for people of all backgrounds. It’s the second-best city in the country for foreign-born entrepreneurs, and has plenty of support systems for minority groups.
Miami is considered to be the United States’ gateway to Latin America. With constant flight connections to the region, a majority Hispanic population and the largest foreign-born population density in the country, the city is ideal for building a company with diverse teams and international reach. In fact, Startup Genome ranks Miami as one of the top five ecosystems in the world for market reach.
Florida also has one of the highest over 65s population density in the country, providing ample opportunity for elderly and healthcare-related businesses. But the region also has many universities encouraging youths to get involved in business early (check out FIU’s StartUP).
Felecia Hatcher, the co-founder and executive director of Code Fever Miami, an organization that seeks to grow innovation among minority entrepreneurs, says it’s relatively easy to get started in the city.
“I would say Miami has a lower barrier to entry than other cities,” Hatcher says. “I think that makes it very unique. If you have an idea, it’s relatively easy to navigate the initial resources to get started.”
Organizations supporting entrepreneurs
There is a wealth of organizations geared towards helping you start a business in Miami. In terms of essential entrepreneur guidance, the Miami-Dade Beacon Council is a public-private body with free advice and information on moving to Miami and starting a business from scratch.
Miami-Dade’s SCORE chapter gives you free mentoring with professionals that will assess your idea and help decide how to launch your business, along with workshops and other resources. Florida’s SDBC is the state’s main small business assistance provider.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s district office can give aspiring business owners free advice on accessing counseling, loans, and support organizations; they give special attention to veterans, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged people. The Women’s Business Development Council of Florida also assists female entrepreneurs seeking to develop their business ideas and provides certification. And Prospera offers Hispanic entrepreneurs consultation, training and access to funding.
If you need more guidance, Startup.Miami is an online one-stop-shop for the information on the city’s startup community, with events, details of support organizations and more.
Incubators helping entrepreneurs at the ideas stage include Venture Hive Miami, which offers courses for those exploring how to turn their concept into a startup. Florida International University (FIU)’s StartUP initiative has several incubator and pre-accelerator programs, including for non-university members. For environment-focused entrepreneurs, EcoTech Visions is a “green” incubator that provides resources, office space and events, while Rokk3r co-builds companies with budding entrepreneurs.
The city also has many startup communities with buzzing co-working spaces where you can see your idea grow and meet people who’ve already started their journeys. Some of the more active entrepreneurial centers are the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) – which also has laboratories for the scientists among you – and the LAB. A Space Called Tribe is a black-owned co-working space and urban innovation lab operated by Code Fever Miami. The Refresh Miami tech community organizes regular workshops and has an online directory of courses, accelerators, and other resources.
For those who want to take the next step, Miami has plenty of accelerators: world-leading pre-seed accelerator the Founder Institute has a chapter in the city as well as hosting regular events. TheVentureCity works with early-stage tech businesses with a global vision and who value diversity and transparency.
Many of the country’s most prominent startup events are hosted in Miami. eMerge Americas is a star-studded international tech event bringing together business, government, media, and education, and the dates for 2020 are March 30-31. The BlackTech Week conference works to build minority-centered innovation ecosystems. For Latin American Fintechs, the FINNOSUMMIT on December 8-9 connects Fintech leaders, early-stage startups and investors from Latin America, with 1:1 networking opportunities. HackMiami is a major information security conference for novices and pros looking to develop skills and network, on May 29-30. And the Global Ventures Summit will bring hundreds of investors and potentially billions in funding to Miami, December 3-4. The Small Business Expo is a free event for people looking to start a small business to connect with like-minded people and attend workshops, on March 19.
Throughout the year, the city’s many entrepreneur organizations host an endless line-up of events for budding founders to network and explore a variety of industries. The CIC offers everything from healthcare industry networking events to pitching competitions. The Venture Café has a well-known Thursday evening meet-up for innovators and entrepreneurs. Refresh Miami has a comprehensive calendar of city-wide startup events and the U.S. Small Business Administration also has listings.
Miami is home to some of the world’s top coding bootcamps such as General Assembly, Wyncode and Ironhack. Check them out for frequent events. Other offerings around the city include immersive experiences, free workshops for future founders, and educational events.
Miami Dade College has several courses for those looking to cultivate a business concept and launch a company.
The University of Miami’s Launch Pad has consultations, mentorship programs, workshops and other resources for its university community and alumni. The university also offers specialized masters programs in several areas of business, less than a year long. FIU’s StartUP initiative has some specific programs for food-related and minority-owned businesses.
Many of the support organizations mentioned can also offer courses and recommendations.
Miami has many organizations offering funding at all stages of the startup journey. For seed funding see TheVentureCity; PeopleFund Venture Capital, which funds innovative startups in software, media and technology; Springtech Partners, which funds internet-focused businesses; Krillion Ventures, focusing on healthcare, financial and real estate tech companies; and Florida Funders for early-stage tech companies.
If you already have some customers, Miami Angels’ angel investors are looking for impactful tech-powered startups. If your business is less than a year old, the Miami Bayside Foundation offers loans to black-owned businesses.
The local government has grants database for established organizations with exciting opportunities for innovative solutions. It also has several ongoing grant programs for small businesses.
So whether you’re looking for a vibrant environment in which you can see your ideas flourish as you bounce them off like-minded people and professionals, are ready to lay down the groundwork for your new company, or are looking for a diverse and global setting to open up your business to the world, Miami is right for you.