With or Without Amazon, Miami Ponders Future as a Technology Hub

(Bloomberg) -- With Miami still on Amazon.com Inc.’s short list for a new headquarters, entrepreneurs gathered at the Endeavor Miami ScaleUP Summit Friday to assess the city’s prospects as a technology hub.

The takeaway? Amazon or not, most speakers thought the city was uniquely placed to benefit from its location between U.S. and Latin American business hubs, as long as it could overcome talent and funding deficits.

"Miami I think benefits from the ability to hire talent from the Latin American region, and there’s very good tech talent there," said Laura Maydon, managing director of Endeavor Miami, which supports 23 companies in South Florida.

Here are some other highlights:

Amazon Dreams

  • "The key issue is going to be, what is Latin America to Amazon," said Alberto Ibarguen, president and chief executive officer of the Knight Foundation, which Friday announced a $2 million investment in Endeavor Miami.
    • "And if what they want is an authentic place that actually bridges to an entire continent, they cannot have a better place."
    • "My experience of 22 years living here, this has never been a corporate town. It’s always been a merchant town, it’s always been a town full of strivers."
    • "Is it tech entrepreneurs? That’s the piece that’s new. The entrepreneurship piece has been in Miami I think certainly as long as I’ve known it -- I think for half a century."
  • Ibarguen said a gathering like the one that took place Friday in the Wynwood arts district probably wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.

Magic Leap
  • Rio Caraeff, Magic Leap chief content officer, spoke about his career and the promise of South Florida’s best known tech unicorn, which is developing augmented reality devices for use in everything from entertainment to the battlefield.
  • He said the company had "at least over 30 things coming in the next few months."

Miami’s Shortcomings

  • "It’s not really well known for large companies and scale, and not necessarily well known for tech," Maydon said.
    • "Yes, the talent here has to be developed, and it’s growing, and the juniors will become seniors."
  • She said the startup community would benefit from more involvement with the corporate world, but said there were some hurdles since many of the major corporate offices here were Latin America-facing.

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