I moved to Miami nearly five years ago to start a yoga company called Green Monkey. Although I had only been to South Beach once, and didn't know anyone here, an analysis of major markets convinced me that Miami was cheaper and that there were fewer yoga studios than in other metropolitan cities. I also knew that it is sunny exactly 70% of the time. Coming from Philly, this was huge. Armed with this information, I decided to start my business here.
Now five 'seasons' later and having launched my second company, I feel equipped to share a few well-earned insights about this town for other potential transplants.
Miami is a pretty diverse place
We're at the intersection of South America, Europe, and the US. If your market is international, well heeled, or sophisticated, this a great place to position your business. Art is an industry that takes full advantage of Miami's cosmopolitan assets. Art Basel, Miami's highest profile industry convention (and party), has nearly 20 satellite fairs that cater to every taste and every budget. In fact during "season," that time between November and March, an un-ending parade of events draws locals and visitors alike to the arts, food, fashion, hospitality, sports, luxury, and music. Remarkably, even yoga got a nod when Yoga Journal staged its conference in South Florida in 2010.
Despite the excitement of so many cultures, languages, and events, I haven't seen much of a melting-pot effect that would help address Miami as one market. I found with Green Monkey that neighborhoods remain localized and that there is no guarantee that what will work in Coral Gables will work in South Beach -- people and preferences are different. It's a real issue for brick and mortar businesses looking to conquer the South Florida market.
Miami is in an expansion phase
Miami is on the move again, with major investment flowing into real estate, hospitality, transport, and cultural institutions. For those of us who want to build our lives here, this is an exciting place to set up shop and grow with the market. A friend of mine recently told me what developer Craig Robbins is planning for the Design District. It's crazy. It's ambitious. And his partnership with LVMH will let him do it. With all the hip neighborhood alternatives to South Beach springing up over the next few years, Miami will soon be a credible alternative to NYC and SF for young, productive professionals and entrepreneurial.
As it relates to finding investment, I've always felt that there was plenty of money flowing through Miami. It's always been access that's the challenge for entrepreneurs. Having successfully (and painfully) raised money here, I can confirm that you need to have relationships with local capital providers, or your funding options are incredibly slim. There just doesn't exist an ecosystem of professional investors willing to put money behind new ideas. You will find yourself pitching predominantly to high net-worth individuals. This will have to change as Miami continues to develop.
Miami is unexpectedly accepting of entrepreneurs
If you have a plan, you're good, and you're willing to work, there's room for you here. Miami is a complicated place to navigate, but those that hustle use this to our benefit. Unlike more competitive cities, it's not that hard to become a standout organization with an excellent product or service. If you give us a reason, within short order everyone in town will know your company, and know your name. And as I learned, people are open to helping you if you've got a good story. When I first arrived, I didn't know anyone, but helpful locals adopted me (and my idea) and paved my introduction to future investors, employees, and likeminded businesses.
In a town this social, most entrepreneurs know each other and play well together. Perhaps it's because there are so few of us working on companies or it's because we inevitably leave, but I never hear the threat of competition used as a deterrent to doing business in Miami. A blow-dry salon recently opened in my building, and judging by the number of parties they've been throwing, they're not worried about competition. Any market that can accommodate 532 salons (my unverified estimate) can accommodate whatever idea you have. My big advice is to not spend much time worrying about the other guy -- direct your energy towards identifying and winning over the people that want to see you succeed.
These three insights cover a lot of ground, but they share just one entrepreneur's perspective on Miami. So to my peers building businesses here, did I miss anything important? Looking forward to your thoughts.