Best known for its white sand beaches, palm trees and alligators lounging in the pools, Miami is dreaming today in new Silicon Valley where could soon prosper the "iguanacornes".
This portmanteau word associates with the iguanas that swarm in Florida the "unicorns", these young digital companies valuated beyond the billions of dollars.
Still far from San Francisco, or even New York, Miami is starting to make a place (in the sun) in the world of new technologies.
The city of "Scarface" and "Miami Vice" already has some "iguanacornes", like ParkJockey, specialized in parking, and Magic Leap, in virtual reality.
Riding this digital wave, startup incubators and accelerators are starting to blossom in South Florida.
Among them: 500 Startups, which opened an office in Miami last year, and TheVentureCity, launched two years ago with the idea of offering Latin American and European entrepreneurs the opportunities they miss in Silicon Valley. , lack of contacts.
"Not everyone (prestigious universities) from Stanford, Columbia, or MIT has a ready-made network in San Francisco," says Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, co-founder of TheVentureCity.
Her company's mission is to "identify the best entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley and accompany them," she says, warmly labeling these emerging talents as "iguanacornes", whose stuffed specimens have invaded her office. .
Responsible for 500 Startups, Ana Gonzalez estimates that the digital ecosystem of Miami is "at a point of inflection." It also aims to "connect the resources and expertise of Silicon Valley" to Latin America and the Southeast of the United States.
- Croquettes and syrnikis -
Miami is already an international city, where Hispanics and Europeans only have to cross the street to find Cuban croquettes with ham or syrnikis, small Russian pancakes.
More than half of its 2.7 million people are born outside the country, which means that Miami is the only foreign city that Americans can visit without a passport.
For industry experts, this diversity offers startups privileged access to the East Coast, Latin America and Europe markets.
Despite the traffic jams and hurricanes, the city has other arguments to argue: low taxes, a cost of living much more affordable than San Francisco or New York and sun all year.
"A large percentage of our entrepreneurs are not from here," notes Brian Breslin, director of the Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Miami.
"They come from South America, Europe or other places in the United States, whether for the setting or the cost of living, security or access to different markets," he added. he.
Miami has, for the first time in 2019, been named in the top 30 of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report, an annual barometer of digital ecosystems.
According to the report, the number of jobs in the technology sector grew by 40% between 2012 and 2018. But for Brian Breslin, the room for improvement is still significant: "We have not reached the peak".
"In most technology hubs, people who work at Facebook or Google make a lot of money before starting their own businesses," he says.
In Miami, "we are just before this point" at which startups like ParkJockey or Magic Leap will give birth to babies "iguanacornes".
© 2019 AFP