Bienvenidos a Miami
By Ian Kar
Hellooooooo what’s up fam
Been a hectic few weeks for your boy—Stevie and I moved to Miami! If you don’t get the reference in the subject line, watch this (yes, Will Smith was a rapper before he was an actor).
I’ll always love LA—I loved living there, got to explore a new city with some of my best friends who also moved to LA around the same time, and made some new lifelong friends too. But at the end of the day, if we want to build a preseed fund it makes sense to be at a major tech hub. LA’s definitely some sort of hub, but it will take a lot for tech to become the dominant industry in LA (Hollywood is definitely a thing, and people care much more about how big your audience is than they do about ARR). And while Stevie loves San Francisco, I’m not a fan—the insane local politics would have driven me insane and the weather isn’t that great compared to LA (I have a ton of reasons but since a bunch of you live in SF, I’ll be nice.)
Frankly, when we got to Miami last month for conference szn, we were still pretty committed to staying in LA—taxes, crime, and all. But when we got here we started hanging out with more friends that we haven’t seen in ages, and it seemed like everyone moved here (a shoutout to Grace Doering and Henry Ault for fully convincing us to move.)
I’ve never lived in a tech hub before—I lived in NYC pre-pandemic when no one knew what fintech was, and never spent much time in SF. I’m super hyped and also totally get why everyone in Miami talks about how dope it is—it is dope and I’d love for my friends to move here. So, here’s some key factors Stevie and I considered when thinking about moving to Miami:
My New Job:
Founders and operators have some luxury in the new economy—you can kinda work and hire from wherever now, VC’s are now fine with pitching remotely via Zoom, companies are adjusting to working across multiple time zones (and new enterprise tools help), etc etc. FTT is a pandemic company—I went full time on it 3 months before COVID started and almost all of the team was hired during COVID.
I’m not 100% sure if VC’s have the same luxury as founders though, especially post COVID. I’ve noticed a lot of my VC friends are traveling a ton now, going to events and conferences to network, board meetings at company HQ’s, and meeting founders to close deals. It sounds fun! But honestly I don’t like traveling non stop—it fucks up my sleep schedule and my body gets all wonky, and my productivity suffers a lot.
With new jobs come other life changes; to me it makes sense for investors to be in tech hubs as they are magnets for strong talent. LA’s great but the likelihood of me meeting a founder I’ll invest in is slim. In Miami, it’s a lot higher.
The fact is that since the Miami tech ecosystem started, so many top tier founders and builders have been making a pilgrimage to Miami regularly to basically meet with VC’s. I know this because there are a lot of people that have said “oh yeah I’m in Miami because we’re raising for X startup or X fund.”
The Venetian Islands are the new Sand Hill Road. If founders and builders are here, and later stages of capital are here, then IMO building a preseed fund in Miami makes sense too.
Miami tech is pretty small—for better or worse. On the downside, it can definitely be a little cliquey and feels a little like high school—there was a lot of “yo did you hear Enes Kanter was at the Andreessen party” during Miami Tech Week. I dealt with that shit in high school and college and as a 30 year old married guy I honestly do not care who thinks I’m cool (except my wife, who says I am cool “sometimes”…savage.)
But a small ecosystem has so so many benefits. First, its obviously way easier to meet people since there are so many people here. At almost every tech event I’ve been to in Miami, I’ve either seen someone I know from my almost-decade long career in fintech or someone I’ve gotten to know really well after meeting. I wouldn’t say I’m best friends with everyone here or that we see eye to eye on everything but Miami has seemed to develop an ecosystem of just really smart, ambitious, successful people.
After living in LA, finding people that are as eager and hungry to build something as you has been a pleasant change of pace.
But A Big City Outside Of Tech Too:
Miami isn’t all tech though, and I think this is where it starts to separate a bit. While I think and talk and write a ton about tech, I have a lot of other interests: music (I had a music scholarship in college…don’t ask), sports, art, food, etc.
Now NYC and LA have all these things for sure. Not sure about SF but I hear rumors that there is culture there (maybe the needles on the ground in Tenderloin are an art installation?) NYC is a bit more of a hodgepodge of culture though—each little neighborhood is its own little pocket of culture that may or may not be cohesive.
And frankly all other cities are just annoyed with the “techtification” of their cities, where Miami seems to be embracing it. Remember when Amazon wanted to put HQ2 in NYC and everyone freaked out? I can’t imagine a similar revolt in Miami even without the local politics of it—most of the people in Miami are really interested and curious about the tech ecosystem and want to learn more. Whereas in NYC, SF, LA (cities with all similar political leanings, too), both the city government and local constituents seem eager to punish tech workers and companies.
I can see tech becoming bigger in LA—especially if more consumer crypto stuff keeps taking off there. But all the tech in LA is driven by the whims of the entertainment industry. If you don’t do that, you’re not that important in LA (unfortunately I don’t think fintech is that critical to entertainment.)
In Miami, the tech and non-tech ecosystems seem to be super balanced. There’s a lot of other stuff going on in and around Miami besides random crypto parties and clubs (if you like clubbing though, Miami is insane…if you need recs, we have a few!) Stevie and I went to West Palm Beach yesterday for a VC dinner and I absolutely loved it. We got married in Key West, which was so nice and picturesque (we rode jetski’s and uh…can confirm that the Kar family is not a water sports kinda fam.) There’s a dope museum in Miami called Superblue, which has an awesome mirrored labyrinth installation and a James Turrell exhibit. There are also some GREAT restaurants (Casa Tua, Uchi, and Hakkasan are some of our favorites.)
All these cities are pretty great honestly—it’s not like we’re picking between Ohio and Central New Jersey. But some semblance of work-life balance is important to us and finding fun things to do in and near Miami that gets us out of that mindset is hella important—and very doable in Miami.
And the big finale—taxes.
Florida has no income tax, which therefore means no capital gains tax. For a young couple that’s trying to build wealth, that’s pretty critical. I have a lot of thoughts about California but one of the worst parts about that state is the fact they’re crippling young people’s economic development—going as downstream as basically canceling math all the way to egregious tax laws for employees and younger people.
But this isn’t an essay on state tax laws or how fucked up California is (I only lived there for 2 years and hate the government there so much…and I had Chris Christie as my governor for a hot second. It’s honestly quite impressive.)
As a founder there’s no worse pressure than personal financial stress. All the work you have to do goes from intense fun to an existential battle for your survival. The stress becomes not worth it.
My unsolicited 2 cents (and this is nowhere close to legal or financial advice, so please take it with a grain of salt) is that Flordia’s tax situation is ideal for young founders or early stage companies. You get more cash in your pocket, straight up.
Just do the math, if you’re an early stage founder, you’re probably not paying yourself that much (maybe $150k max…obviously this changes as your company grows.) $150k is great in almost 90% of America. In NYC you get a shoebox in Dumbo, in LA the only social thing you can do without breaking the bank is go the beach (definitely no tables at Delilah), and in SF I think you’re considered homeless. And with inflation I doubt founders will pay themselves more, so that purchasing power goes even less further.
Having personal financial flexibility—OUTSIDE of your company—is super important to your company’s success. Living in Florida puts more money in your wallet which helps you destress your life. For many, that itself might make the Miami move worth every penny.