Farhaj Mayan was was just starting to raise the seed for his cannabis tech start-up when a few investors encouraged him to travel east. “Come to Miami,” they told him. “A lot of people will be there.”
Mayan, who lives in Oklahoma City, bought a plane ticket and booked an Airbnb. Then he saw that Keith Rabois, a venture capitalist who had recently moved to Miami, was running a four-week scholarship for entrepreneurs and investors. Mayan applied, entered, and arrived in town on Wednesday, just before a launch party that bring together 100 people “To explore ideas, build projects and develop their networks.”
By the time Mayan’s plane landed, more than 100 people had turned up. The airport was teeming with venture capitalists. A highway billboard urged out-of-town visitors to “imagine Miami as the next tech hub.” A few kilometers away, more than 200 people gathered in front of the town hall to hear the mayor Francis Suarez toast to the future of tech in Miami. Then people lined up to pose for selfies with him. The city had gone into full festival mode for “Miami Tech Week”, a phrase that does not refer to a conference or an event, but to a ambiance.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the unofficial start of the first Miami Tech Week”, Delian Asparouhov, Director of Founders Fund, tweeted on Sunday. “I know at least 100 founders, VCs, etc. In responses, hundreds of people indicated when they would arrive and where they plan to stay. Round-trip flights from San Francisco were more than double their regular fare, according to Google Flights. “I knew this tweet was going to go viral,” Asparouhov says. “It created a tech conference out of thin air.”
“It has evolved into this massive unofficial event,” Mayan says. He invited some founding friends to share his Airbnb; now he knows 35 people who steal. “We all call it SXSE.”
The hype around Miami Tech Week may only be a few days old, but momentum around the city has been building up for several months. High-profile venture capitalists like Rabois and Jack Abraham moved there last year from San Francisco and shared details of their new lives on Twitter. Others followed, abandoning their sweatshirts and tax obligations. In December, Mayor Suarez made his personal mission to Miami’s metamorphosis as the next big tech capital. He set up a large billboard in San Francisco that looks like one of his tweets: “Thinking of moving to Miami? DM me.
“We’ve passed the first wave of people coming here, and now we’re entering the second wave where their friends come,” says Ryan Rea, who builds chatbots for Sky Organics, an e-commerce company. Rea moved to Miami from the San Francisco Bay Area four years ago and has become an unofficial ambassador for the city’s tech scene. He enjoys meeting people and showing them around the city, offering them advice on where to live and where to go out. “Since December, I have had more than 75 meetings with beginners,” he says. “I had to tell my real estate agent to prepare for the impact.” Miami has seen record house prices and high sales volume so far this year, according to industry reports-part of a larger trend in Florida since the start of the pandemic (and which is not entirely attributable to the founders of startups).
This winter, Rea and a few other Miami tech veterans formed a WhatsApp group, called Miami Tech Life, to answer questions from recent transplants. Someone would move to Miami, find one of them on Twitter, and then join the messaging group to learn more about the events, make friends, or ask for advice. The group quickly exceeded WhatsApp’s capacity of 256 people and now communicates on Telegram. “We do everything from happy hours, dinners, biking, dinners, wine tasting, networking,” says Rea. “There have been a few rounds of fundraising just within the group itself.”