Back in 2006, Paul Graham penned an essay about how to be Silicon Valley. Since then, it seems like every city on the planet has tried to replicate the successes of the Valley. At the time, his argument was pretty simple. Geography used to be destiny when it came to cities. New York City, for example, is arguably what it is today because of its geography and its deep harbor, which created a natural competitive advantage compared to other east coast cities such as Boston and Philadelphia. But this, he argues, has become far less relevant. Now, you can create a great city pretty much anywhere. So what are the necessary ingredients?
Paul argued that you only really need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. You need people creating new things and you need rich people to fund those new ideas. That’s it. So in theory, if you could just dump a bunch of these kinds of people in one place — Nunavut? — you’d perhaps get unicorns coming out the other end. He goes on to say that Miami is a perfect example of a city that has lots of the former, but very few of the latter. It has lots of rich people, but, in his words, it’s not the kind of place that nerds like. So it is/was not a good startup city. (I’m a nerd and I like Miami.)
But the year is now 2021 and a global pandemic seems to be helping to change this dynamic. Every tech entrepreneur and/or investor now seems to want to move to either Austin or Miami. To that end, SoftBank recently announced that it has earmarked $100 million for startups that are based in Miami or that plan to be based in Miami in the near future. It’s perhaps a good testament to the momentum that seems to be developing around the startup scene in the city, which is something that their mayor has been incredibly vocal about.
But here’s something to consider. Was Paul right about the two requisite ingredients for a successful startup hub? And if so, does Miami now have enough nerds? Maybe this recent influx of people was just what it was missing.