Miami vies for the title of 'Bitcoin City'


City commissioners voted 4-1 to study the cryptocurrency before allowing the city to hire a vendor to process transactions

It's been nearly one month since Mayor Suarez and Twitter bad boy and business magnate Elon Musk chatted openly on social media about the potential for Musk's Boring Company to build a traffic-solving tunnel system underneath the city.

Regardless of the plan's potential — experts were quick to say it's unviable — the conversation put a spotlight on Suarez, a 43-year-old Republican leader facing reelection this year for his second term as mayor.

Suarez has sat on Florida's Blockchain Task Force since his appointment by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in 2019. Now, Suarez is poising himself as an innovative leader set to make Miami a city of crypto and VC, particularly as the pandemic-driven urban exodus pushes tech workers into new markets nationally.

Decentralizing financial exchanges can bring a number of benefits to a city in regard to access and equity, but it also serves another purpose: drawing tech entrepreneurs. Musk is just one such entrepreneur who recently sparked buzz around Bitcoin when his company Tesla purchased $1.5 billion of the crypto for "more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash," the company said in an SEC filing.

Suarez said it's just a matter of time before other companies follow suit. "I firmly believe that when and if Amazon and or Apple adopts bitcoin as a payment structure the dam will essentially break because at that point you’re talking about a very high volume of transactions being able to use bitcon," Suarez told Reuters last week. "I just wanted us to be on the cutting edge and sort of ahead of the game."

Unlocking Bitcoin as an alternative can help increase the already-abundant funding flowing into Miami's startups. At least 70 venture-backed companies in Miami received funding in 2020, according to data obtained from Crunchbase Pro, with private equity, seed, venture and corporate funding raising more than $1 billion across 49 deals. (This figure does not include the more than $1.4 billion in combined funding from post-IPO debt rounds held by both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.)

This number is a skyrocket from 2019, when Miami-based companies brought in just $327 million in funding across 77 deals, according to Crunchbase News. Furthermore, Miami saw the addition of at least 34 new venture-backed companies founded in 2020.

Selling tech startups on Miami is not particularly hard due to its weather and location in a tax-friendly state, experts say. Yet that sell became even easier in January when the city launched eStart, a mobile-friendly web app allowing users to apply for business licenses online to simplify the startup process.

Furthermore, Miami struck gold when SoftBank announced plans in late January to invest $100 million in startups located in or relocating to Miami. Founders Fund, known to some as one of the world's most prominent venture funds with $6 billion in capital, also signed a one-year lease for a Miami office earlier this month. VC-in-Residence Krinzman, whose bio details a 25-year history of launching and investing in early-stage companies, will spend the next year supporting the efforts of these funds to bring continued innovation to Miami.

Source: Smartcitiesdive

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