The Rise of Miami

Welcoming the 2019 Rise of the Rest Tour to the City Built by Immigrants

Steve Case and JD Vance emerge from the Rise of the Rest bus that carries a team of investors (June 2018)

Today, AOL Co-founder and Revolution Chairman & CEO Steve Case announced that Miami will be part of the 2019 Rise of the Rest Tour. This is a big deal for South Florida and we at eMerge Americas are incredibly excited for what it means for our hometown and our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Given what this represents for Miami, we will be extending our upcoming 6th annual eMerge Americas conference programming to last an entire week and culminate with the Rise of the Rest Tour visit on May 2nd.

eMerge Americas (originally scheduled for April 29–30) to culminate with the ROTR visit on May 2

Years in the Making

I first met Steve Case in 2012 when I was serving in President Obama’s White House working on immigration reform. As the son of immigrants, I’ve always been incredibly appreciative of how Steve championed immigrant rights and how he helped us make a strong case for immigration reform then — and now.

President Barack Obama and I in the Cabinet Room at the White House (May 2015)

After leaving the White House, I got involved with my first startup — Clearpath, which focused on revolutionizing the immigration filing process. At the time, many investors and advisors told me to go to out West or go up North. But Miami was — and is — my home and I was determined to come back.

In many regards, Steve was an outlier amongst all those I met. He argued that “innovation and entrepreneurship” aren’t qualities that are unique to San Francisco, Boston or New York. Steve reminded me that we all have these qualities in our DNA and that what we need to do is foster them through our ecosystems. This is the underpinning of Steve and JD Vance’s theory of “Rise of the Rest.”

Since 2014, Steve has led this effort to engage local entrepreneurs and spotlight regional innovation in cities across the country. Traveling with a bus full of investors, he has visited more than 60 cities meeting with entrepreneurs, engaging with local business and government leaders and getting to know what makes each ecosystem system so unique. Steve closes every tour with a pitch competition and invests at least $100,000 in each winning startup.

We had the chance to first host Steve in Miami in 2016 for the 3rd annual eMerge Americas conference, a platform dedicated to building out South Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and transforming Miami into the tech hub of the Americas. Founded by Miami tech entrepreneur Manny Medina, eMerge Americas brings together more than 15,000 attendees from 400 participating companies and 40 countries — with more than 100 startups participating in our annual StartUp Showcase competition. It was then when Steve was able to witness firsthand Miami’s emerging tech ecosystem.

In 2017, Steve launched the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund — a $150 million fund with numerous high-profile investors, including Amazon CEO (and Miami native) Jeff Bezos, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and former Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Rise of the Rest Seed Fund — a $150 million fund with numerous high-profile investors (Dec. 2017)

The Case for Miami

In 2018, I returned to South Florida to become CEO of eMerge Americas and visited with the Rise of the Rest team to make our case for bringing the tour to Miami.

At eMerge Americas, we truly believe in the thesis of Rise of the Rest: that the most compelling investment opportunities in the next decade will likely emerge from startups in cities all across the United States (and for that matter — all across the Americas).

We believe in the need to foster our ecosystem and have applied the Rise of the Rest model for ecosystem building.

Drawing from the ROTR Playbook, the eMerge Americas model for building Miami’s ecosystem.

We also believe that the rise of Miami can serve as a gateway to the Americas, and help bridge divides and fuel innovation by building out a sustainable, diverse and inclusive ecosystem:

Road to the 2019 Rise of the Rest Tour

As a prelude to the Rise of the Rest Tour, eMerge Americas — with the support of Knight Foundation — embarked on a roadshow and bus tour of our own with thirty of Miami’s ecosystem builders and leaders to convene with our counterparts in Tampa for their annual Synapse Summit. We used this as an opportunity to draw on comparative experiences from other ecosystems across the State of Florida — as well as share our learnings and best-practices for South Florida. We were fortunate to have Rise of the Rest on our bus tour — in lead up to their own.

The eMerge Americas Roadshow Powered by Knight Foundation (Jan. 2019)

The group included leaders from entrepreneurial support organizations like Endeavor, 500 StartUps, Refresh Miami, CIC, Venture Café, Startupbootcamp and Palm Beach Tech Association; higher-ed reps from UM, FIU, and Miami Dade College; investors like Medina Capital, Venture City, Imvest, and Miami Angels; senior execs from high growth startups like Cyxtera and Magic Leap; and entrepreneurs and founders from Xendoo, Whereby.us and Wyncode.

We shared what drew us to this work, our values that defined us as a community, and our collective vision for the city’s future. One common theme emerged: that the overwhelming majority of us were immigrants and transplants drawn to this city that welcomed us with open arms and that thrives on diversity and inclusivity: 62 % were immigrants and 45% were women. Over the last five years, we’ve made great strides but still have a ways to go to ensure these opportunities are accessible to all — especially those on the peripheries.

It’s undeniable that South Florida is a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity, especially given the recent multi-billion-dollar funding rounds for our homegrown startups like ParkJockey (led by Softbank) and Magic Leap (with investors like Google, Alibaba and AT&T) — and as well as hundred million dollar exits like eBuilder and Farelogix and the multi-billion-dollar acquisition of Chewey. And in partnership with the Rise of the Rest Tour, we’re determined to help amplify amazing stories of Miami’s emerging entrepreneurs and continue to build our hometown into a beacon of hope and opportunity — for all.

Steve Case and I at the Heartland Summit in Bentonville, AR (Oct. 2018)

To compete in the 8th Rise of the Rest Tour Pitch Competition, click here. And to register for the 6th annual eMerge Americas conference, register here.