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Freddie Laker joins Flamingo Capital to talk about the investment boom in Miami’s tech companies.

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Miami might not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of a blossoming tech hub. But that might be about to change thanks to an ever-expanding interest in investing, building, and growing Miami’s tech scene. Already, a number of tech-savvy companies are putting down roots in the city known for its white-sand beaches, Cuban food, and caliente nightlife. How exactly does a tech economy fit into such a tropical tourist destination?

It starts with great investors who see potential for next-generation growth.

Chameleon Collective’s Freddie Laker discovered more in a recent Oh Ship! Show roundtable discussion with Flamingo Capital co-founders Adam Garfield, Chris Adamo, and Will Weinraub—a team that has experienced first-hand the investments being made in the tech startup space. Here’s a recap of what they shared and where the industry is going next.

But first…

Let’s Meet Our Panel!

Investor and adviser Chris Adamo is the co-founder of Letterhead, a platform designed to help companies create and monetize their newsletter community. And come to find out, he’s an avid collector of interesting shirts. 

Next up, we have Will Weinraub, who co-founded the chat and video interface LiveNinja that was acquired by Miami-based Net2Phone. Most recently, Weinraub has dedicated his skills to being the founder and CEO of OnChain Studios, an up-and-coming NFT studio. 

And last but not least, we’re speaking with Adam Garfield, the former founder and CEO of SpeedETab that pioneered branded mobile app ordering for restaurants. He is also the VP of Wix Restaurants at Wix.com. 

All of these guys boast a number of entrepreneurial accomplishments on their own. But they’ve recently combined their powers and skill sets to form Flamingo Capital, an investment firm born and bred in Miami and contributing to the growth in the city’s tech scene.

Laker: What Drove Your Shift to the Investment Side of Entrepreneurship?

Flamingo Capital is a venture that all three co-founders are excited about, but it wasn’t always part of their big-picture plan. 

“If you went back two years from now, when I was a business operator with my company, my time and efforts were so narrowly focused on that business that I never thought about anything else,” shared Garfield. “But I’m now at the point in my career where being on the other side of the table interests me. There’s a theme right now that founders want to raise money from other founders. We fit well within this theme.”

Weinraub agrees he never realized he’d ever become an official investor, but the thought crossed his mind after his first experience raising institutional capital. “I got a taste of what unhelpful investors look like and how they can be a detriment to a company. They had no operating experience whatsoever, and it was at that moment where I silently dared them to try to be in my position and give me that advice. I often thought about how I’d like to be the investor that I needed back then, knowing what entrepreneurs really need and are dealing with.”

It’s this level of empathy that is contributing to the trio’s success—empathy that you can’t have without having been in the entrepreneur’s shoes. With first-hand experience leading the way, the co-founders are contributing to the next generation of tech startups, knowing their deepest needs that traditional investors aren’t in tune with.

Laker: What Advantages Do Entrepreneurs-Turned Investors Bring Compared to “Classic” Investors From the Finance World?

Adamo, Weinraub, and Garfield each experienced their own startup journeys before turning to the angel syndicate side. In fact, they have also been beneficiaries of investors to help them fund and grow their ventures. (Side note: LiveNinja acquired an impressive $3M in venture funding before their acquisition.) All three agree that starting on the entrepreneurial side has been a cornerstone of their latest venture. 

“You learn the most by doing,” reveals Garfield. “You know what the people on the other side of the table are going through. There are so many intricacies and nuances, and understanding that path from startup to growth to later stage isn’t something you can really do without having been through it yourself.”

On the flip side, Adamo mentions that classic investors that have come up through the finance world have a different advantage. “Being ingrained in finance, they’ve likely seen a lot more deals that we have as founders. Experience goes a long way, and they likely have access to a lot of other industry connections. But we’re building those connections, too.”

Laker: How Has Investing Changed to Create the Next Generation of Tech Startups in Miami?

Startups aren’t quite the expensive pursuits they used to be, according to Garfield. “On a macro level, this current generation is the most risk-tolerant. Entrepreneurship has never been more accessible to such a large number of people. A lot of this is due to the tools we have today that enable people to become entrepreneurs (e.g., Bubble, Mailchimp, Wix, etc.). No-code tools let you build products quickly, pivot when you need to, and find your product-market fit. They don’t have to raise millions of dollars in capital upfront.” As a bonus, this allows investors like Flamingo Capital to help more people.

Weinraub also points to the pandemic as a key source of the next generation of entrepreneurs in Miami. “We’ve learned that work is location-agnostic, and employers need to be flexible in this. When people don’t have to live where they work, a lot of them are going to want to come to Miami and South Florida, in general. I think Miami has been a big winner in this shift and will continue to compound on those winnings.” 

Hear the entire roundtable discussion on the next generation of investing and the growth of Miami’s tech scene here. Or, connect with Freddie Laker via LinkedIn and share your thoughts and questions on the future of VC funding.

Listen to the podcast version here:

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