Parties, beaches, and tourists. That’s how Alex Farcet pictured Miami when someone suggested bringing Europe’s largest start-up accelerator program to the city best known for bikini bods, not business plans. He definitely didn’t consider South Florida a hub of tech innovation. As cofounder of Startupbootcamp, he was looking for a city to expand the program to U.S. entrepreneurs.
After several visits to Miami this summer, Farcet said his view of the city changed. The French entrepreneur saw an opportunity in connecting the budding tech community and the well-established health care sector. This year, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area ranked second in the country for start-up activity, according to the Kauffman Foundation index. Miami is also a health care hub, with eight hospitals and three globally recognized research universities.
Farcet said Miami also offers a way for the accelerator program to reach start-ups launched by Latinos and other people of color that Silicon Valley has overlooked.
With the help of a $2 million grant from the Knight Foundation, Startupbootcamp will launch its inaugural American accelerator class in Miami in March.
For three months, the 10 chosen start-ups will grow their companies with the help of more than 100 mentors from places like CVS Health, Microsoft, MIT, and Harvard. They will meet with more than 200 angel investors and venture capitalists. In return, Startupbootcamp gets a 6 percent stake in each company.
The start-ups must focus on the health care industry, in areas such as telemedicine or remote patient monitoring. The program is particularly interested in businesses that reach underserved ethnic groups. In the United States, Latinos and African Americans experience 30 to 40 percent worse health outcomes than white Americans, according to the most recent National Healthcare Disparities report.
Farcet recently talked to Next America from Copenhagen about why he sees Miami as a future tech capital.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you choose Miami as your first U.S. location?
We like being early, and there is a real buzz around Miami at the moment. When I started looking, I thought, OK, Miami is not just a party or holiday destination. We started looking at the city’s emerging health tech and health care sectors. We also want to be global. We have a program in Singapore and several in Europe. We absolutely want to be in Latin America, and Miami is a good place to start.
How is Miami different from the other cities where you offer the program?
It’s a highly diverse community. If we are smart about how we position our program, we can attract a lot of minority entrepreneurs and really tap into an underserved community of entrepreneurs. How many people right now are building apps for Latinos in digital health or building apps and services for that market? It’s really an underserved market on the demand side and the supply side.
It’s also a lot of fun to be in Miami. You hear Russian and French and Spanish. The program will be in English. But we’ve already decided we are going to be putting out our material in Spanish, too. Across all of the 12 boot-camp programs, we have 80 percent foreign teams, whether you are in Berlin or Copenhagen. We expect to be scouting the U.S. and Latin America to import talent that will choose to stay in Miami and continue to add to the ecosystem. Fifty percent of the participants end up staying in each location.
How will you find big investors for these start-ups? Miami is not Silicon Valley.
There is a reason the Knight Foundation is giving money to bring in an elite accelerator. There’s a budding tech ecosystem in Miami, and we think we can get mentors and angel investors to relocate there. We are funded for three years. We want to be there for 20 years, and we know what it takes.
Why venture into the United States now?
We’ve had so many opportunities in Europe; we feel extremely well rooted now. Now we want to string out to India, Brazil—I’m sure we’re going to be in China soon. We are not people who fly in and out. We build roots. One day, the roots are going to start connecting with each other and get super strong—it may not be so visible right now. Those roots are very deep in Europe, and we are planting our seed in Miami and up the East Coast. Next is New York.
What do you hope will happen to Miami in the next 20 years?
We’d like to hear Miami being mentioned in the same sentence as Boston, New York, and San Francisco, with a very active mentor system. There are a lot of people who fly through there, and we want people to see Miami not only as a tourist destination but as a place with a super interesting tech scene and a lot of interesting opportunities.