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Miami startup founders seem to have one thing in common: Mayor Francis Suarez
By Tristan Bove,
Francis Suarez, mayor of Miami, speaks during the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami, Florida, U.S., on June 4, 2021.
Good morning. Fortune editor-at-large Michal Lev-Ram here, filling in for Alan.
I’m writing from Miami, where spring break is in full force—for better or worse. Fortune is here for a less rowdy celebration, a gathering of some of the city’s growing number of entrepreneurs.
About 20 of them joined us at a dinner last night, including the founders of Cameo, which sells personalized celebrity video messages; Eight Sleep, maker of high-tech mattresses; Novo, a banking platform for small businesses; and a web3 community for underrepresented women called The Sisterverse; among others. The group of entrepreneurs, many of whom are also CEOs of their companies, represented a diverse set of sectors and backgrounds. But one of their more surprising commonalities was their connection to one person: the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez.
“I moved here because the mayor tweeted at me,” Amanda Goetz, founder of “luxury CBD brand” House of Wise, told the group. According to Goetz, Mayor Suarez reached out to her, via Twitter, after she posted that she was considering moving to the coastal city.
Mayor Suarez came up multiple times during the dinner, so often that I eventually asked the founders just how many of them had directly interacted with him. Nearly every hand in the room shot up. The founders, most of whom were transplants to Miami, had either been tweeted at by the mayor, or invited to one of his “cafecito” meetups—regular tech conversations he hosts at Miami City Hall. (An aside: One entrepreneur, Andrew Parker, whose company Papa connects college students to seniors, yelled out that he’d even recently had dinner with the mayor’s father.)
The mayor’s influence in many of these founders’ decision to set up shop in Miami came as a complete surprise to me. So did the fact that, for the most part, they didn’t mention his politics or policies, but rather highlighted the personal connection they’ve formed with him.
To be sure, there’s still plenty of opportunity for growth, and plenty of growing pains, in the Miami tech scene. As Roya Pakzad, founder of Feminade, an online concierge for women’s health, shared with the group: The Bay Area is still the top location when it comes to a concentration of tech workers. That was also the sentiment when it came to talking about where most of the founders’ funding was coming from. “This is the natural evolution of an ecosystem,” said Laura Maydon, a founder (and investor) who started venture capital firm Ascendo in Miami in 2021.
But after last night’s dinner, I can’t help but wonder: If Mayor Suarez can get founders to relocate by tweeting at them, maybe Miami really has a shot at becoming known as a center of entrepreneurship—not just a hub for spring break revelry.
(Our dinner in Miami was a lead-up event to the Fortune Founder Forum, which takes place in Park City, Utah, this summer. For more information, please click here.)
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