By Riley Kaminer
As a native Miamian turned Silicon Valley insider, Antonio García Martínez is often asked about Miami’s tech ecosystem. Is this tech thing going to take off? Are people actually going to move?
His response? In short, yes. Why? “The city has always taken in refugees from failed left-wing regimes like Cuba, Venezuela, and California.”
In a fireside chat with leading early-stage venture capitalist and Aleph General Partner Michael Eisenberg, organized by the newly-formed Economic Club of Miami, García Martínez, who recently founded Spindl, outlined his vision for the future of tech in his hometown.
“Florida is the land grift that worked out right,” he said. García Martínez drew parallels between ‘Mother of Miami’ Julia Tuttle sending oranges to Henry Flagler in 1894 to persuade the robber baron to extend his railroad to Miami with current Miami mayor Francis Suarez reaching out to venture capitalists through his ‘How can I help?’ initiative.
Is there a builder culture here? “Not sure,” said García Martínez. “Life is a bit too fun here, and the weather’s a bit too pleasant for staying inside and staring at screens for 16 hours a day.” (García Martínez clarified that New York might also be too fun for serious building.)
San Francisco, of course, does have that building culture – or at least it did, according to García Martínez. “The city treats tech very poorly. It’s treated like a horrible affliction. While every city in the world is trying to recreate what San Francisco had, the city more or less pissed it away. And here we are.”
García Martínez painted a dystopian picture of San Francisco, with LiDAR sensor-strapped autonomous vehicles navigating homeless encampments. But for García Martínez, San Francisco is more of a state of mind than a place these days.
So what should Miami be? García Martínez said not to worry about creating a unicorn with 3,000 employees – and don’t try to reproduce a Web 2.0 San Francisco. “Just be an interesting center of gravity where lots of movers and shakers live, with some capital, and with conferences. To me, that would make Miami a success story.”
Eisenberg also underscored the importance of conferences. “One of my takeaways from the pandemic is that we missed that ability to convene people who know a lot about the same topic.”
A common theme running through the conversation was Balaji Srinivasan’s book, The Network State. The main idea is that as the world becomes more digital, it also becomes more distributed. In that context, there will be a nation-like connection between like minded cities such as Miami, New York, Silicon Valley, and Tel Aviv. This is combined with a death of traditional institutions such as government and media – alongside a rise of tech-powered alternatives.
One of the main reasons this Network State concept is important for García Martínez and Eisenberg is that it enables a future version of capitalism: critical because, in Eisenberg’s estimations, “capitalism is very clearly under assault right now.”
Eisenberg believes that young peoples’ hyper focus on their rights is harmful for society at large. “People in general, in particular young people and tech people, also need to build responsibilities.”
But the way society – and big tech – is structured today does not enable the open conversations necessary to create a better country, asserted García Martínez, author of a book that reveals the “obscene fortune and random failure in silicon valley”.
“Ben Franklin, reborn today, would be an anon account shitposter,” said García Martínez. “He would get content moderated,” he said.
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