As seen in The Real Deal
Paradise found: Can Francis Suarez make Miami the next Big Tech mecca?
You could call it the tweet heard around the world.
In early December, Delian Asparouhov, a principal at venture-capital firm Founders Fund, threw out a proposal moving Silicon Valley to Miami. Francis Suarez, a real estate attorney who stepped into the mayor’s chair in 2017, quote-tweeted the investor. He asked, “How can I help?”
Suarez’s response went viral with more than 2 million impressions and thousands of likes. The mayor later likened it to “catching lightning in a bottle.” He was suddenly in conversation with major venture capitalists and tech executives from around the country, grateful for a friendly ear in what has become a political climate openly hostile to Big Tech. Keith Rabois, a member of the “PayPal Mafia” and an early investor in Opendoor, SoftBank Group CEO Marcelo Claure and Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer are among those palling up with the 43-year-old mayor on Twitter. Rabois has become the city’s most prominent evangelist among the tech community.
“I have met more new interesting people in Miami in 3 weeks than all of 2020 in the Bay Area,” Rabois tweeted Jan. 4.
For those marquee names and those who look up to them, Miami marks a sharp contrast to the governments that have “marginalized and rejected” them in the past, Suarez said in an interview with The Real Deal last month. “I’m letting them tell their story. There’s nothing more powerful [than that].”
It’s an overture that has South Florida real estate salivating. Developers, brokers and office landlords are anticipating a Big Tech gold rush that would build on the recent success Miami has had with financial firms. Last month, Rabois paid a record $29 million for a waterfront mansion in Miami Beach, and the following month announced his intent to attract at least 1,000 “founder caliber” technologists to the Magic City in 2021 as well as VC firms and established startups. That’s a lot of office space and a lot of high-end homes
Still, there’s no denying the astounding success of Suarez’s PR blitz.
Aaron Gordon, a partner at Schwartz Media Strategies, described the last two months as “rocket fuel” for the city’s corporate prospects.
“It took a bold, forward-looking mayor with a Twitter handle to open the floodgates,” Gordon said. “Francis has become the face of Miami’s tech scene in the span of four weeks, the same way Dwyane Wade was the face of the Miami Heat and Dan Marino the face of the Miami Dolphins.”
Suarez, who is the son of former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, is quick to respond, lighthearted and accessible. He’s what business leaders wish their government leaders would be like, Gordon said.