5+ things to know in #MiamiTech: Over 1K new tech jobs projected, RECUR’s big NFT deal, plus smart garbage, space balloons & more


 The Miami Movement is showing more economic results

Earlier this week, new reports showed the Miami Movement is already moving the needle in South Florida’s venture capital results. In fact, through the end of the third quarter, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro set an all-time record for venture dollars invested in South Florida companies, and there are still three months to go in the year.

Yet, the dollars would not be at those lofty levels is there wasn’t another way the Miami Movement is already spurring real economic progress for the city: Through tech companies relocating and expanding here, creating the flywheel effect that will keep propelling the tech community forward. The Miami Downtown Development Authority says it has tracked more than 100 companies that have established a presence in the City of Miami or announced their intention to do so over the past year, including Blackstone, Pipe, CI Financial, Zumper, Thoma Bravo, eToro, BlockTower Capital, Spotify, ShiftPixy, Atomic, Point72, Founders Fund and many others. Collectively, the companies are expected to create more than 5,000 jobs and occupy more than 500,000 square feet of real estate. Honestly, given that we are still hearing from several founders every week who have made the move or strongly considering it, I don’t think the movement is headed for a slowdown anytime soon.

This week, the Miami DDA shared some numbers worth taking noting. One year after the DDA launched its Follow the Sun economic development campaign, where firms can receive up to $150,000 over three years in exchange for relocating or expanding to Downtown Miami and creating high-wage jobs, the agency has secured commitments from 17 new-to-market tech and finance firms  that will create a projected 1,835 high-wage jobs over the next three years. These new positions are expected to pay an average annual salary in excess of $128,000, plus benefits. They also plan to lease more than 250,000 square feet of commercial real estate, the DDA said.

But here’s the interesting part for #MiamiTech: 11 of the 17 firms are tech firms that have committed to creating 1,069 jobs. So the results are looking pretty good the Miami Movement. To be sure, filling those jobs has been a challenge in this remote-first world. As the Miami Herald pointed out, the 18 firms that collectively committed to creating 1,858 jobs over the next three years have, so far, only created a total of 286 new jobs for the city.

In the here and now though, the Miami Movement is also already fueling the area’s real estate market. Average Class A office rents have increased for four consecutive quarters, with more than 1 million square feet of new office space now under development, according to Q2 research by JLL. The largest development underway is 830 Brickell, which recently announced leases with Microsoft, Canadian asset manager CI Financial and tech-focused private equity firm Thoma Bravo.


Fresh off big raise, a major deal for NFT startup RECUR

Miami-based tech company RECUR, which designs and develops on-chain branded experiences allowing fans to buy, collect, and re-sell NFTs, announced a multi-year strategic partnership with ViacomCBS. As part of the partnership, RECUR will create a fan-focused platform that will bring ViacomCBS’s iconic IP and cherished franchises to the NFT space.

Through this agreement, ViacomCBS and RECUR will create a unified environment where fans can buy, collect and trade NFTs as digital products and collectables across ViacomCBS’s portfolio of brands, including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodean,  Paramount Pictures and SHOWTIME. Launching in the spring of 2022, this space will encourage peer-to-peer engagement and facilitate innovative ways for users to unlock new experiences, RECUR said.

“ViacomCBS is one of the first major media and entertainment companies to enter the metaverse in a significant way. We are so excited to welcome them into the ecosystem with this partnership. Our chain agnostic approach will provide fans the widest range of utility as well as unprecedented access to their favorite shows and franchises,” RECUR’s Co-CEOs Trevor George and Zach Bruch, said in a statement.

RECUR has attracted a star-studded slate of investors, Last month, RECUR secured a $50 million Series A funding round, giving the startup a $333 million valuation, and announced plans to hire for at least 150 positions.  


SmartHop releases app, makes executive hires, triples team this year

SmartHop, the Miami-based tech-for-trucking startup,  this week released its first mobile app for small trucking companies. The new SmartHop App, now available on the Apple Store and Google Play store, is an AI-powered platform that enables truckers to efficiently find and book the most convenient, high-paying loads from their smartphones, at a time when the trucking industry is experiencing a tremendous labor shortage.

SmartHop is also expanding its team, and this week announced two executive hires: Tamara Clay joins as the company’s Head of People, and Valentina Marastoni-Bieser as Head of Marketing. Since the start of 2021, SmartHop has tripled its team to 150 workers and opened new offices in Bogota and New York City, according to a South Florida Business Journal report.

“SmartHop is a mission-driven organization, and our goal is simple: helping carriers and small fleets operate more efficiently and profitably,” said Guillermo Garcia, SmartHop’s co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “With the launch of our mobile app and our newest leaders on board, we’re excited to take our company to the next level and help independent drivers and owner operators succeed in today’s tough but opportunity-rich environment.”  

SmartHop has raised more than $16 million in funding since launching its beta dispatch tool for truckers in 2018, including a $12 million round earlier this year led by Union Square Ventures and including Ryder System’s venture arm, RyderVentures.


Space Perspective raises $40M to fund balloon trips to space

We all watched Captain Kirk rocket to space this week aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard, but did you know a company based on Florida’s Space Coast aims to take passengers to the edge of space in a beautiful – and more affordable – balloon experience? This week, the company, Space Perspective,  announced a $40 million Series A to help make the startup’s dream a reality. In total, the company has raised $48 million.

I interviewed the co-founders, Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter,  earlier this year for Florida Trend. They told me Space Perspective will offer passengers something different from the rockets – more like floating along in a balloon-like experience for eight travelers at a time, complete with a comfortable lounge. The spaceship will travel at 12 mph to the edge of space and play there for two hours before coming back to Earth, ending with a splashdown – about 6 hours in all. The company hopes to begin commercial flights in 2024 from Florida’s Space Coast. Poynter says she’s fielded interest from adventure travelers, researchers and even people inquiring about renting it out for corporate events or weddings.

“An astronaut will tell you the quintessential space experience is quietly looking out the window at the Earth’s curvature and the thin atmosphere, and no borders,” MacCallum told me at the time.  

Speaking of Space, another Cape Canaveral startup also raised funding this week. Spaced Ventures, a crowdfunding platform that allows everyday people to invest in space startups, raised a $1.2 million seed round. Founded last year, the startup has received over 100 applications from space startups looking to raise capital and 1,700 potential investors have registered on the site. 

(OK, I know Refresh Miami usually sticks to South Florida stories, but sometimes we travel farther afield. Plus, I love Space. Jeff Bezos, are you listening?)


City of Miami’s dumpsters may be smarter than you think

The City Miami is piloting a smart waste system where dumpsters are automatically picked up when they’re full, the businesses pay only for the amount of waste they generate, and the city can help companies care and learn more about recycling. The city and Compology, the software company behind the technology, say this could improve recycling rates, reduce the carbon emissions associated with trash-hauling trucks, and save the city money on its waste management services.

CEO Jason Gates says Compology has also partnered with multiple businesses, including McDonald’s and ADT Security, and has done smaller pilot programs in other cities, but this partnership with the City of Miami is the first intended to go citywide. Read more in Fast Company here.


Opportunity knocks

Black Men Talk Tech, an organization that supports Black tech entrepreneurs, will host its third annual Unicorn Ambition Conference on October 21 with speakers, panel discussions, networking and a pitch competition. A keynote speaker is Rick Ross, a serial entrepreneur, rapper, songwriter, and bestselling author with an empire covering everything from fast-casual food, spirits, real estate, and music. General admission for the virtual conference with some live events are free. Register here

Endeavor Miami and Miami Herald will host a second pitch competition for Black entrepreneurs virtually on Nov. 3. Winners can receive cash prizes — first place is $25,000 — plus access to the Microsoft for Startups program. Qualifying applicants must be Miami-based Black founders with a launched business, either pre-revenue or up to $200K in annual revenues. Apply here by 6 pm Oct. 18.

The Tech Hub Hackathon is a virtual event Nov. 5-7 where participants form teams, vet ideas, create a project, then present their work to an expert panel of judges. Teams will consist of developers, designers, project managers, and entrepreneurs, with successful teams having a mix of these areas of expertise and winners walking away with a combination of cash and in-­kind prizes. This year’s theme is “Hack for Inclusion” with each project addressing issues of bias, diversity, accessibility and overall inclusion. Teams will collaborate to build a solution to combat DE&I struggles within an organization and/or municipality. Learn more here.

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Nancy Dahlberg