The State of Entrepreneurship In The Sunshine Economy

Jun 6, 2017

Entrepreneurship in South Florida region is very healthy. But it also is struggling.

There is no doubt South Florida is having an entrepreneurial moment. Since the Great Recession millions of dollars have been spent by nonprofit groups, colleges, universities and others to stoke the entrepreneurial engine of South Florida. It is paying off with people starting new companies, but less than half of those companies will survive to celebrate their fifth anniversary. And fewer still will grow fast, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

To get a sense of navigating the environment, we asked Brian Brackeen to share his schedule of the course of a week in mid-May with WLRN. Brian is the CEO of facial recognition software company Kairos. It is based in Wynwood.

How South Florida's entrepreneurial environment stacks up:

Credit Tom Hudson

SURVIVABILITY 

Nancy Landi hopes to beat the odds of startups. Her previous new company effort didn't make it to celebrate its fifth anniversary. That was in the scrap metal business and her newest effort grew out of that -- dumpsters.

Landi became an entrepreneur after 22 years as a lawyer. She runs MST Dumpsters with her husband out of a small building in an industrial area just north of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. It’s nothing fancy, but neither is renting dumpsters. However, it’s a growing business.

She said they started with one truck and five dumpsters a year ago and hope to have seven trucks and 200 dumpsters by the end of this year. "It is growing at a very fast pace, sometimes a little too fast it seems like," she said.

In it's first year, revenues totaled $830,000, according to Landi. She expects sales of $1.3 million this year.

CAPITAL

A knock against the South Florida entrepreneurship environment has been the lack of capital. In the first three months of this year, less than $200 million  of venture capital was invested in Florida. That is 11th in the nation, ahead of Illinois and just behind Utah. Put another way, of every $100  in venture capital invested nationwide, only about $1  came to Florida.

Nabyl Charania hopes to change that. He leads Rokk3r Labs and in March announced the launch of the Rokk3r Fuel Venture Fund. He and his partners plan on eventually raising $150 million to invest in companies that come through the Rokk3r Lab business co-building program and other initiatives.

"We know there is talent here," he said. "The idea with us creating the fund was we're not going to wait for someone else to solve the problem for us. We're going to come up with a solution because we know there is a need."

"If you were to create a city from scratch and you were to try to give it all the ingredients it needed to be successful in entrepreneurship," said Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen, "Miami has all those things in spades. To teach an entire city to take risks and become an entrepreneur is a very difficult thing to do. We do that naturally."