Silicon Escapees

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      Silicon Escapees

      With no state income tax and abundant sunshine, Florida has become a destination for many people and businesses. Scott Thuman reports a lot of talent and investment is relocating from California’s Silicon Valley to the emerging tech hub of Miami.

      These are the brand-new Miami offices of ShiftPixy, a high-tech company that's created an online platform to connect businesses and today’s part-time workforce.

      In September of 2020, ShiftPixy moved its headquarters here from Irvine, California.

      Scott Absher: What we saw here was this really arms open up approach to business.

      Scott Absher is the CEO of ShiftPixy.

      Absher: We saw a very different business climate, very interested in our success and even invested in our success. We didn't have that in Southern California.

      Scott: A lot of red tape gone?

      Absher: Yeah. We can get things done faster here.

      Miami, which has no state income tax, is attracting numerous high-tech businesses that are fleeing states, like California, where the taxes, rent, and cost of living are sky high. By one account, over 15,000 companies have left California over the past 10 years.

      Now there’s talk that Miami could become America’s new high tech hub, rivaling California’s Silicon Valley, which is home to companies, like Google and Facebook.

      Scott: This is where the money is now?

      Absher: You've got a lot of guys that manage a lot of money on Wall Street that said I don't have to be here. I don't have to have expensive offices in Midtown. I can come down here and I can build a building.

      Miami is also drawing a lot of crucial “investment money” in the form of venture capital: financiers pouring money into startups in exchange for shares of stock.

      According to one analysis, Miami ended 2020 with the fastest fourth quarter venture capital growth of any metro area in the country. About $1.9 billion, which is up 685% from Miami’s previous quarter.

      Thanks in large part to an unusual twitter campaign by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez who saw California’s loss as Florida’s opportunity.

      Mayor Francis Suarez: We are not New York, we are not Chicago and we are not San Francisco. We are Miami.

      After a senior member of venture capital firm "Founders Fund" tweeted, “What if we move Silicon Valley to Miami?”

      Suarez responded: “How can I help?”

      He didn’t stop there and continued his social media outreach to convince tech companies to trade coastlines.

      Taylor Glassmore: Mayor Suarez reached out to us on Twitter. And he reached out to us at a time where we were considering where we want to open up another office.

      Taylor Glassmore is a co-founder at Zumper, one of America’s largest platforms in apartment rentals based in San Francisco, California. Courted online by Miami’s mayor, it’s now opening a new office here and creating up to 150 jobs.

      Scott: What kind of financial benefits could it be to you as a company to be here?

      Glassmore: As we expand to have an office - keeping the cost of running a business low. There's also some tax benefits too, of being in Florida. And then the talent as well. We're not competing with the Googles and the Facebooks for great talent, which we are in San Francisco.

      With all this growth in Miami, could Florida ever really replace California as America’s premiere high-tech headquarters?

      Scott: Is it an exaggeration to say this is kind of becoming Silicon Valley Part 2?

      Absher: I think it's early to say that. The reason I say that, is there's another element that needs to be in the mix and it's the education piece. Part of what makes Silicon Valley so successful or makes Boston so successful, you have Boston, you have the mix of money management there. You also have education there with MIT, constantly incubating and cultivating the entrepreneurs of the future, the innovators of the future. Same thing in Silicon Valley.

      Glassmore: There's still a lot of reasons to want to be in California. There's a lot of venture money that's still there. So, it's a great place to raise capital. You still have a lot of great universities, they're producing great talent.

      Miami is working on the education part of the equation too, with area colleges drawing millions of dollars in donations to develop talent to fuel the city’s high-tech hunger.

      Meantime, ShiftPixy just added another floor to its Miami headquarters: a sign, the Sunshine State’s warm reception, is starting to click.

      For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Miami, Florida.