There is a lot of "hype" & discussion about the technology / web startup community in South Florida over the past 4-6 months from everyone - I'm talking about the local government, academic organizations, event organizers & people from within the community.
Having been a participant in the community from 2008 on, I feel somewhat qualified to provide an interesting view of the situation.
Over all, I feel there is a great set of people down here. Literally, some of the smartest and, despite South Florida's bad reputation, nicest people I have ever met. I can rattle off a list, but I know I would miss someone.
Now with that said, there is this very interesting "suckling" meme (or perhaps even better described as a "poor me" attitude) that is prevalent in the community. "We need support from the government.", "There are no good engineers down here.", "We need to get into YC/TechStars", "We need investor support".
Plain and simple, these are excuses. There is no other way to cut it - they are poor, baseless excuses. Henry Ford did not complain that there were not enough talented engineers, he built a fucking car! David Heinemeier Hansson did not ask the city of Chicago to help support his business, he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps! Jack Dorsey did not go through Y-Combinator to create Twitter or Square. The common story line here is that they worked with people they liked, on problems they liked, to create solutions they were happy with.
Essentially I think what South Florida needs to have, in order to create any real semblance of a thriving community are the following:
- Scrappy mother fuckers leading their companies
- Meaningful friendships with as many members of the community as possible
- A willingness to help others even when there is no personal gain to be had
- Regular meetups, drink ups & events to bring new people into the fold meaningfully & make connections
I say scrappy mother fuckers because I mean it, building a company in South Florida is not for the weak minded. I know this from my own personal struggle as well as seeing fellow entrepreneurs flail wildly to stay afloat. The perfect example of this is Matt Wensing & his company Stormpulse. Matt is a bonafide hustler, he's raised angel money to keep his company going, at one point, took a full time job & has finally begun to start to breathe with his paid subscription service model. He is a role model for every other start up CEO in South Florida. He leads his business in a "by any means necessary" style that has brought him to this point today & I believe will bring it to much greater heights.
As far as number 2 goes, I purposefully use the word "friendship" because relationships won't cut it. You don't care about your acquaintance succeeding, you could care less about them! I am not very good at this, but I am consciously making an effort to hang out with people by doing things like Movies, rock climbing & more than just your typical drink up or monthly event. It's important to feel connected because then you want to promote their endeavors, successes & be there to console / advise during low points & even failure. This is probably the hardest one but also the one that provides the highest returns to any community. I am definitely going to think on this a lot more over the next few months.
Number 3 is self explanatory, don't be a selfish person, if you know or think you can help someone - do it! Even go out of your way to offer your help. Please take note though, that you should be sure you can help them before expending any social or actual capital. If you know you can't help, be straightforward! It's the best way for people to understand why you did not help them. You don't want to leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth.
Regular meetups is locked up, down & all around. You have no excuse to not be learning about the things that can be improving your skill set, craft or business. We have refresh, social media club, lean startup, ignite, supercon, android developers, superconf, design meetups, hack and tell, south florida tech talks & on & on & on. It's actually the coolest point of the ecosystem down here right now. If there is one thing I can say we are finally starting to do right it's this! It still needs work (central events sites are not well known & coordinators should be doing exactly that, coordination, with other coordinators to make sure dates do not clash as much as possible) but it is still our strongest point, which is really good & growing.
If we can rally around these 4 things, the other stuff may fall into place. It may not & if it doesn't, then make it happen for yourself (a)! We can't be a community without fighting for the things we want while keeping a serious sense of camaraderie & desire to see our peers succeed.
With that said, I am always happy to help anyone I can. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think I can help you or just want to say Hi.
I leave you with this quote:
"Do, or do not. There is no try."
P.S. I know a few people hiring qualified rails developers & python developers.
A. My go to story for this is Demian Bellumio of Senzari - there are no VCs in South Florida. Yet here they are today with $3m+ in funding, press coverage worldwide & global partnerships with MTV.