Writing

A tale of 3 Tech Weeks
What happens when you have three different Miami Tech Weeks?


Published 6 months ago.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the strangest of times...

Miami is headed towards a tripartite system. Last week, I lived with three different “Miami Tech Week”s - the one from Founders Fund, the one catalyzed by locals, and the one me & others started almost a decade ago with the support of the community.

Delian Asparouhov has entered the chat

As most Miami Tech stories go these days, this started with a tweet from Delian at Founders Fund. This time declaring the “inaugural Miami Tech Week”. In the month prior Delian had invited a bunch of his friends from SF & NYC to sample the city & decide if it’s right for them. This gave him the confidence to proclaim an event - that had already existed 9 years before the words “Miami” and “Tech Scene” even co-existed in the same parts of his brain - was happening for the first time. Naturally as the owner of @MiamiTechWeek, one of the people in control of MiamiTechWeek.com & co-organizer of Miami Tech Week - I was confused. Had I missed emails or messages about this? I know 8 out of the 10 or so event organizers who put this week on fairly well. After a brief investigation, I concluded that it was just hubris & humor powering the announcement. I had known about and been invited to several events by Founders Fund that week, but they didn’t seem like serious events. They seemed like small get-togethers - nothing like the thousand-person events that I had witnessed first hand at previous Miami Tech Weeks over the last decade. 

The Community has entered the chat

I ended up polling a local WhatsApp group that had morphed from planning boat outings to being the Miami Tech news trough. They had nothing, they knew nothing. However the sentiment was pretty clear: they didn’t like it either and they were going to do something about it. This is where our third Miami Tech Week was born - in the spot where the people in Miami decided not to let their community get co-opted by a transplant, but instead, try to take control of the narrative and create open events where everyone is welcome. This is the way things are done in Miami Tech the majority of the time. They took to social media to announce the open, independent events, wrote posts on the local tech blog and more. I was sitting back thinking, is this the best move? To give gas to the people who think they can come into a new city and speak on behalf of the people living there for the past decade+, building community? I decided I didn’t like it & made sure my message was clear: nobody decides for the Miami community except the Miami community. Putting up MiamiTechWeek.com with a clear pointer to the best source for Miami Tech news - Refresh Miami. 

Francis Suarez has entered the chat

Things got weirder when the city of Miami Mayor decided to proclaim the week Miami Tech Week on a Wednesday with 400 people at city hall. 

I was living in a bizarro world! Then I considered a wild idea: I might have jumped to conclusions. So I reeled my judgments back in and decided to wait until I attended these Founders Fund events, talked to more locals about what exactly was going on, and spoke with Delian.

While I do believe it was gracious of the people involved (Shout out CG & Mike!) to invite me to the events, the Founders Fund folks were a bit more reticent than one would expect. Talking to locals 1-on-1, they really had no idea who planned what or why this week and were just trying to avoid being co-opted. Delian sent me a DM along the lines of “lol your website”.

Auston Bunsen has entered the chat

That DM ended with me asking if he’d be down to team up on dates for the next one, to which he said “sure” & then provided what I would call "minimum viable flexibility" with regard to changing the dates. I tried to plug him in, directly with the organizers of events from the original Miami tech week & some of the new Miami tech week so he could get more perspective. We asked for dates in February and March to which he replied: 

“I'll be tweeting either Apr 17th - Apr 24th or Apr 24th - May 1st at 5p EST tomorrow, feel free to let me know which one folks prefer!”

Not quite the collaborative approach we are used to here in Miami, but direct at least and with ample time for people to move their events to meet the will of our newest community leader.

...It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done...

All of this context is provided to try to prevent this from happening again and make a push for further integration into the local community by transplants. I think if this sort of thing continues, Miami Tech will not be the united community it is today, but a fragmented set of tribes working against each other for power, locking people out of real opportunity, and being douches to each other. The community bent to the will of the newcomer this time as a gesture of goodwill. But that is not what I spent the last 9 years building and I believe most of the existing community down here feels the same way.

We went from 3 tech weeks to 2 tech weeks and that's progress.

But I’ll end with a very clear ask for anyone that ends up here with ambitions to speak for us: Speak to us first, we are not hard to find. We want to welcome you into the fold and help you understand who we are before you decide when Tech Week is. We want you to understand how we’ve identified bad actors that you can avoid. We want you to be successful here, just be friendly too. We want you to be a part of the community before you lead it!

Oh, and by the way, the dates for Miami Tech Week 2022 are live and on miamitechweek.com - stay tuned for more info.