How Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is luring tech players from Silicon Valley and New York

Tech

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks to the media during the annual hurricane preparation exercise at the City of Miami’s Emergency Operations Center on May 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was leaving lunch at tech billionaire Peter Thiel’s house and on his way back to City Hall when he got a text from an unknown number.

The person was polite, wanting to catch up and congratulating him on a job well done, so Suarez asked whom he was speaking with, to which he got back “David B.” Not really clearing anything up, Suarez responded “last name?”

It was David Beckham.

Suarez’s schedule and phone have blown up since he accidentally launched a Twitter campaign to make Miami the latest innovation hub in early December, when someone on the app suggested bringing Silicon Valley to the Sunshine State. His “How can I help?” response generated 2.3 million organic impressions alone, he says.

“It gave me the impetus and energy and incentive to keep tweeting and connecting at a very high rate,” Suarez said. In the month of December he had 27 million impressions on his account, and he’s seen a strong payoff from people coming over from the Bay Area and the East coast.

Suarez has been working on fomenting a tech boom in Miami for more than a decade, reasoning that it could bring higher-paying jobs for Miami residents, while also positioning the city at the forefront of innovation and the tech industry for years to come.

Usually, tech employees and investors would stick to San Francisco or New York City, since they’re major office hubs. But the coronavirus pandemic opened up remote work as a possibility for scores of people. Many left their respective cities in search of cheaper rent, more space and a possibility to slash taxes for a bit.

Now, venture capital influencers and Silicon Valley elite, like Keith Rabois who had just left the Bay Area, have hopped on Twitter to put the spotlight on their new home.

After Rabois announced his relocation to Miami, Suarez tweeted at him to congratulate him on the move and the two connected for the first time.

“People are just happy here. At the end of the day, you meet people and they’re smiling. In San Francisco that’s just not true,” Rabois said in an interview Wednesday.

“I’ve had more meetings in two weeks in Miami than the entire past 10 months. Founders, CEO’s, investors, email intros from mutuals, new connections. Everyone’s down here,” Benjamin Kosinski, an investor, said on Twitter this week.

“His recruiting pitch worked on me—MIA bound in the Spring,” another person said of Suarez on Twitter. “Will be books written about what @FrancisSuarez and @rabois are doing to build Miami into the tech city of the roaring 20’s. Switch has been flipped and it happened almost overnight.”Suarez told CNBC that he often hears the theme from founders who are sick of tax policies, high costs of living, and a feeling that they’re not welcome in their cities.

“I think the ‘How can I help?’ tweet was sort of an earth-shattering moment because people were like, ‘Oh finally, an elected official that gets it,’ that understands that having companies that are building wealth and creating high-paying jobs is something that benefits a city,” Suarez said Thursday.

South Beach, Florida

Leslie Josephs | CNBC

Some companies are even giving incentives to people who move. Start-up Eight Sleep sells a “smart” mattress that measures sleep quality and regulates its temperature accordingly. It recently partnered with Suarez to offer a 20% discount to tech founders, investors and employees who moved to Miami in early 2021.

“Twitter is a big part of why I think I’m excited and why I’m even considering this,” says Amanda Goetz, who runs a CBD company called House of Wise and is planning a move to Miami this summer. “The mayor is a marketer at heart. He knew how to build a product that people want and need,” adding that there was almost a fear of missing out.

She pointed to both the Eight Sleep founders, who moved from New York, and also the tech investor Anthony Pompliano, who announced to his more than 458,000 Twitter followers that he would move from New York to Miami for a few months.

Goetz normally resides in New York City, but has been riding out the coronavirus pandemic in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her three kids who are all under the age of 7. The original plan was to spend a year in Charlotte and head back to the city, but that plan got derailed in December when other founders began migrating to Miami. Goetz said that until the pandemic is over, she sees little benefit in going back to a small apartment in New York, especially since most of her friends left the city.

Rabois has been vocal about his disdain for the current San Francisco business climate, calling it over-regulated and overtaxed. He said he considered a handful of cities, such as Phoenix and Denver, but Miami won him over with its weather and culture. Rabois said he now just needs to convince people to stay for a week, and they’ll commit to getting property in the area.

“That’s happening left and right, this is not an isolated example. I’ve had literally three in the last week,” he said. There’s also the attractiveness of having no personal income tax, though Rabois said that it wasn’t his main reason to move there. “Miami had inertia, we were able to create some momentum, amplify the momentum mostly through [Suarez’s] abilities and now it’s accelerating,” he said.

Suarez said this his job now is to try and keep the city’s newest residents there. “We’re trying to keep the volume up, understanding that we’ve captivated the attention of the nation and we want to keep it.”

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