8 Miami Based Investors Share Their Views On The Region's Startup Scene

WE’VE SELECTED EIGHT MAGIC CITY MEN WHO EMBODY EVERYTHING THIS DIVERSE CITY IS ABOUT— INNOVATION, CREATIVITY AND FORWARD-THINKING CHANGE. OUR MAGIC CITY MEN AREN’T AFRAID TO BREAK FROM THE NORM TO MOVE TOWARD THE FUTURE. THEY ARE LEADERS AND CULTURE CRUSADERS WHO ARE EACH CONTRIBUTING IN THEIR OWN WAY TO PROVE THAT MIAMI IS ONE OF THE GREATEST CITIES IN THE WORLD.

FRANCIS X. SUAREZ PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

FRANCIS X. SUAREZ PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

FRANCISX . SUAREZ

(@MAYOROFMIAMI)

MAYOR OF MIAMI

INDUSTRY: GOVERNMENT

Tell us about your plans to make Miami the next tech hub and how you are getting this done. I think our principal strategy to attract tech firms to Miami has simply been creating a welcoming environment for businesses and founders. It’s been something far more cultural than political or legislative. We’ve been working on the foundational backbone of this modern economy for over a decade, but what ultimately catalyzed the whole movement was a single tweet—four simple words: How can I help? What I’ve done that breaks the mold a little bit is just being aggressively accessible and making sure everyone in my city and everyone around the country knows that Miami is here to help you grow, not keep you from growing.

How do you plan to ensure that the Miami ‘boom’ continues even after the rest of the country opens back up? In my opinion, the pandemic has been nothing more than a jump-start of the future. This public health crisis forced the entire world to adapt and innovate as quickly as possible to overcome the immediate challenge of not being able to interact in person—and what we have before us now is a society that understands productivity isn’t tied down to any physical location. People had the opportunity to live where they want to, not just where they had to, and I believe we’re going to see that change become permanent.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work over the past year? By far and away, the most rewarding experience over the last year has been the level of support I’ve received for the work my team and I have been doing surrounding tech. I’ve been in public office for 11 years, and this is the first time I can say that I feel the full support of Miami behind me. They believe in me and my vision, and I can feel their trust in letting me take the reins.

TOMMY HILFIGER PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

TOMMY HILFIGER PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

TOMMY HILFIGER

(@TOMMYHILFIGER)

FOUNDER, TOMMY HILFIGER CORP.

INDUSTRY: FASHION

As a new full-time South Florida resident, what excites you most about this unique market? I’m excited to soak in the vibrant energy of Miami. I look for inspiration wherever I go, and Miami has always served as an amazing backdrop for new ideas. Our spring 2021 Tommy Hilfiger collection, Miami Vibes, is actually a celebration of the styles of the area—we drew on the city’s beach and water sport and Latin American influences to create outfits perfect for the Miami streets.

Tell us about the recently launched People’s Place Program. How was this conceptualized? We launched the People’s Place Program out of recognition that progress is not happening fast enough to increase representation in fashion and creative industries for people of color. Tommy Hilfiger has always stood for inclusion and diversity, and we are strengthening that commitment. Our program is structured around three pillars: partnerships and representation; career support and industry access; and industry leadership.

How has it succeeded in making fashion more inclusive? We just launched partnerships with some amazing organizations that I’m very excited about. Last month, we sponsored the annual Digital Fashion Summit hosted by Harlem’s Fashion Row, a New York-based agency that champions the advancement of designers of color in the fashion industry. We are also working with them to identify various ways emerging talent can receive mentorship and networking opportunities through our company. We’re working with the Fashion and Race Database, an online platform that provides research on the underreported narrative of people of color in fashion, to fund and support a new research study that will highlight the influences of Black American culture in the history of American sportswear.

In 2020 you celebrated your 35th anniversary. What was that like? Can you share some standout moments from the years? It’s amazing to be able to celebrate 35 years. There have been so many wonderful moments— launching my brand with the Hangman campaign in Times Square, receiving the CFDA’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award and having the flag be a globally recognized brand logo are some of my top highlights. What I’ve always been grateful for, though, is the opportunity to give back. I believe in leaving the world a better place than you found it, so being able to contribute to worthy causes is an honor and the best part of my success.

FRANKLIN SIRMANS PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

FRANKLIN SIRMANS PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

FRANKLIN SIRMANS

DIRECTOR, PÉRE ZART MUSEUM MIAMI

(@PAMM)

INDUSTRY: ART

Tell us about how the pandemic affected your industry and how the art world, and PAMM in particular, adapted. We went straight into digital, and we hired our first director of digital engagement. In this period of time, we were able to crank out a whole new website dedicated to our Caribbean Cultural Institute, and we have used digital initiatives to not only remain relevant but to expand and build on our national and international audience. A big driver for all of this change as well was a triple pandemic in a way—you had COVID, the economic fallout and the reckoning of systemic racism that has been a part of ongoing conversations but awakened with renewed focus in the wake of George Floyd. It’s not that it wasn’t there before, but the focal point has spread globally in a way that makes it more palpable to all of us.

What can we expect from your latest exhibition, The Artist as Poet: Selections from PAMM’s Collection? We’ve spent the last five years basically doubling the size of the permanent collection of PAMM, and we figured out how to make that valuable. This is Maritza Lacayo’s first significant group exhibition. She’s brilliant, and came up with this show, The Artist as Poet, which came out of Maritza’s deep interest and arrangement with writing and text and what that could mean in a visual art context. You’re going to see artworks that deal with poetry and its relation to object making—it’ll cover about 100 years, which means that we get to talk about things such as surrealism and more modern ways of talking about art in addition to the contemporary that we are so well associated with. It’s going to be very fun and span all different types of art and artists.

As a Magic City man, what mark do you want to leave on the city, in terms of elevating its culture? It’s a really special moment right now. I’ve never seen so much collaboration between the cultural entities, and I’m just so happy and proud to be a part of that. With our team, we really stress that art is an essential part of daily life, and I think a lot of people probably feel that way coming out of the last year. Art institutions have a meaningful role to play in society, and I think now is the time when they are going to make big strides in terms of conveying exactly that message.

OMER HOREV PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

OMER HOREV PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

OMER HOREV

(@OMERPURAVIDA)

CEO, PURA VIDA

INDUSTRY: HOSPITALIT Y

Tell us about launching the first Pura Vida. How was it conceptualized? Pura Vida started out as a side ‘passion project’ in 2011. I wanted to create a go-to neighborhood spot where locals could enjoy good coffee and healthy menu items made with wholesome ingredients. When I met [my wife] Jen, we both decided to quit our real estate careers and together we grew and refined Pura Vida, growing it into the lifestyle brand that it is today.

Now, Pura Vida is expanding rapidly throughout South Florida. How have you successfully introduced your brand to these new locations in such a short period of time? Since we first opened in 2012, Pura Vida has received a tremendous amount of support from the local community. We knew we were creating something great when we kept getting asked to open new locations in other cities. My background in real estate helps me strategically identify locations in neighborhoods with mixed-use developments where people live, work and play, which I believe has played a big role in our continued success. We’ve opened two locations in the last six months and have another five in the pipeline for later this year. Our expansion is a direct result of all the love and support we’ve received from South Florida—and we’re so extremely grateful for that.

What is your favorite part about living in the Magic City? Miami truly has something for everyone—from rich and diverse cultural experiences to a growing, elevated dining scene, beautiful beaches, a booming real estate landscape and more. Miami is a vibrant city full of opportunities, and it’s exciting to be able to grow within such a multicultural destination city we’re lucky to call home.

ALEX MIRANDA PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

ALEX MIRANDA PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

ALEX MIRANDA

(@IMALEXMIRANDA)

ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER, DECO DRIVE

INDUSTRY: BROADCAST JOURNALISM

Tell us about what you do and how you contribute to the Magic City. I’m an entertainment reporter at WSVN’s Deco Drive. Throughout the pandemic, my purpose became a little different because I feel like it’s my responsibility to give people just a couple of minutes of happiness each day. Whether that be by profiling a local business or interviewing a celebrity about a movie, if I could make somebody laugh, smile or even giggle, I’ve done my job.

As one of the few LGBTQ figures and advocates in your industry, how do you feel that responsibility, and what would you like to accomplish for the community? In every city that I’ve lived in, I’ve taken it on myself to do whatever it is that I can as a local personality. The most important thing is that every single time I’m on television, every time that I’m anchoring Deco Drive or doing a story, I always think about the little boy or the little girl who either is LGBTQ or doesn’t quite know yet, but knows or feels something. I think about how they see me on TV and think, ‘You know, he’s all right,’ and realize that I’m out, I’m proud, I’m comfortable with myself, I love myself and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career here in Miami? I really would love to be a person that people trust to help them enjoy their lives better in South Florida. If I can help people be happier, give them a laugh, enjoy their time by going to a new restaurant, or whatever it may be, I feel like I’ve contributed to my community, and it makes me so happy on a profound level.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? There is one saying from my mom and one from my dad. From my mom, it’s to connect—like really connect—with every person that you come across in life. Always say somebody’s name—people’s names are the most disarming words that they hear. What my dad taught me is no excuses, period. And if you make a mistake, own up to it. The combination of those two, I think, gets you very far.

PHILIPPE SAINT-JUST PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

PHILIPPE SAINT-JUST PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

PHILIPPE SAINT-JUST

(@REEF TECHNOLOGY)

CO-FOUNDER, REEF TECHNOLOGY

INDUSTRY: TECH

What’s the biggest misconception about Miami’s tech scene right now? That the tech scene is a new fad. Many people and organizations have been building its community and institutions for the past 10 years to make Miami a great place for tech. The companies you see in the news today were started back then and grew thanks to the support of Miami entrepreneurs, investors, businesses, city officials and educational institutions. REEF was fortunate enough to be supported in those early days and now contributes to that story.

Tell us your vision for Miami’s tech and startup future. The opportunities for Miami tech to develop as a major hub for technology are bright. Miami’s economy and quality of life are attracting people from all over the world. Tech in Miami will permeate many existing industries such as healthcare, transportation, hospitality and you won’t have to be limited to being a software programmer to be in ‘tech’ and pursue your dreams. But we as a community need to keep up our efforts to make it successful. We need to open dialogue with all stakeholders, and make sure we remember that there already has been a strong Miami tech community present— that includes REEF.

How do you like to spend your free time in Miami? I spend time with my family. I have two young daughters who love the water, so we usually spend weekend afternoons on Virginia Key at the Hobie Island Beach Park soaking up the Miami positivity.

LIONEL OHAYON PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

LIONEL OHAYON PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

LIONEL OHAYON

(@LIONELOHAYON)

FOUNDER + CEO, ICRAVE

INDUSTRY: DESIGN

You recently moved from New York to Miami. Why did you make this move and what was the appeal? For close to 20 years, ICRAVE has been very New York-centric. As we’ve continued to grow, we’ve grown in different regions across the country, and we’ve known that in order to give the opportunity for people to develop, a second location was really important. This allows us to continue to develop new talent and open up different sectors. Miami ultimately became this extension of New York City, and with the ability for us to manage Miami and look at what’s happening down here, it became obvious. It is an extension of the stuff we do—there aren’t a lot of companies like us based in Miami.

What are the differences in N.Y. versus Miami from a design standpoint? The biggest thing and what attracts us to the opportunity is we are about the experience of place. We are thinking about how we create experiences that people remember and love and are different. In Miami, we have this opportunity to transform from indoor to outdoor. You have a hard line in New York—it’s hard to have outdoor-activated spaces and create a sense of storytelling across these different types of spaces—and take this natural world around you as the landscape that tells your story. In New York, it’s more about creating an experience inside a box. Here, we think about building outside of a box. It is very exciting.

As a Magic City Man, how do you hope to contribute to enhancing the landscape of our city? I’ve moved my family down here and made a commitment to be here. This is a new chapter for me personally. Creatively, my intent here is to help bring Miami from a design and urbanity point of view to its next phase and create moments of delight, spontaneity, streetscape and life force that Miami can develop. We hope to continue that development with a maturity of development and design and create memorable spaces that will be here forever.

ADAM ROSENFELD PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

ADAM ROSENFELD PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK GARCIA

ADAM ROSENFELD

(@ADAMROSENFELD78)

PRINCIPAL, THE ROS ENFELD GROUP

INDUSTRY: FINANCE

Tell us a little about what you do and how you contribute to making the Magic City so special. I am a managing director at Merrill Lynch here in Miami. As principal of The Rosenfeld Group, we advise and assist a small group of ultra-highnet- worth families with everything from investing to family office services and lending. Among this group sit a few of Miami’s most influential figures—ones that are at the forefront of changing industry and culture locally. I feel privileged to help assist and advise toward Miami’s continuous evolution.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job? Getting to know my clients, their behavior and emotions. It is this that allows me to truly customize solutions for them. As well, the relationships (and friendships) that I form. Some of my closest friends have come by way of work.

Outside of your day-to-day work life, what are some of your other passions or hobbies? Outside of work, I love being a dad to my two little girls and spending time with them. I also love to play tennis in my free time.

Favorite aspect of life in Miami?

The sunshine.

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