The tech and startup scene nationally shows no sign of slowing down: across industries, there is a huge demand for innovative thinking and novel approaches to old problems in commerce. But where we normally think of tech being centered in cities like New York, San Francisco and maybe even Austin, TX, a quiet tech revolution is taking place in South Florida, and we’re excited to be a part of the journey of a number of companies who are building their operations there.
Florida’s traditional industry strengths
When we think of industries that dominate the economy of South Florida, we naturally think about real estate, tourism, health care and education and indeed, the stats all show these sectors as reliably the largest employers in the region. Because of Florida’s proximity to Latin America, it is often also the operational headquarters for the region for multinationals like insurance companies, airlines, hotels, as well as big players like Disney and Wal-Mart.
But there’s a growing movement of tech companies and startups that are increasingly calling South Florida home. Drawn by a combo of cultural diversity and favorable economic conditions, these companies are on the vanguard of South Florida’s tech renaissance.
A new tech epicenter
Fort Lauderdale-based e-commerce player Chewy is among South Florida’s proudest home-grown success stories. Founded by Ryan Cohen and Michael Day in 2011, Chewy took an intensive focus on high quality customer service and premium pet products and parlayed it into industry dominance: Chewy grabbed a full 40% of the online sale of pet food and supplies, which means it was quickly nipping at the heels of juggernaut Amazon just five years after its formation. In 2017, PetSmart acquired the company for a reported $3.35 billion, the largest e-commerce acquisition in history.
In nearby Plantation, Florida, the augmented reality company Magic Leap is at the cutting edge of technology that will define our lives in the future. Founded in 2010, Magic Leap takes the concept of “virtual reality” a step further with a headset technology that allows you to see virtual objects in the real world. The company has raised billions of dollars from a virtual who’s-who of industry players including Google and the Chinese Alibaba Group.
Both Chewy and Magic Leap prove that South Florida is a hospitable place for tech operations and talent.
Why Companies Choose Florida
New York City and Silicon Valley still dominate the tech scene, but regions like South Florida have strong qualities that make it a draw for entrepreneurs. For one thing, there is no state income tax, and the cost of living is lower than in many other regions. In cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, entrepreneurs still have access to cultural capital, resources and talent pools that can help them grow their business. For talent acquisition, the draw is obvious as well: low cost of living combined with great weather and urban amenities.
An important factor in the attraction of business to Florida is the cultural diversity of the area. Situated as it is at the doorstep of the Caribbean and Latin America, Florida not only attracts tourists from all over the world, but also ideas that cross boundaries and markets. The geographic location of Florida further makes it attractive to financial or “fintech” startups, who prize the ability to set up operations in multiple locations from one centralized hub.
The Stats on South Florida
In terms of opportunities for executives with the know-how to work in tech and e-commerce, we see a lot of potential in the South Florida market. The Computing Technology Industry Association Cyberstates ranked Florida as the fourth state in the nation for tech jobs, and showed the Miami metro area pulling ahead of much-touted Portland, Oregon and right behind tech industry hotbed Austin, TX in terms of overall job opportunity in the tech sector.
We only expect the tech and e-commerce sector in Florida to grow with new companies setting up shop every day.