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Francis Suarez: The mayor that tweeted his city on to the map
Mayor Francis Suarez started his political career serving eight years on the Miami Commission, before winning the mayoral spot in 2017 with 86% of the vote. He is the son of Xavier Suarez, the first Cuban-born mayor of Miami, who presided over much of Miami’s growth from the relatively isolated city I knew in childhood to the scene of South Beach and Art Basel we know today.
Outside of Miami and on Twitter, Mayor Suarez might be more known right now for this tweet:
A local politician being solicitous seemed so shockingly unprecedented to many Silicon Valley players, a thing that was definitely not a thing before, i.e., Miami as tech hub, was suddenly maybe possibly a thing.
So how’d this whole thing start?
It was intentionally un-intentional: Tweeting ‘how can I help ‘ is normal for me. I didn’t even know it’s a sort of calling card among VCs.
Really, you had no idea it’s almost the classic VC email?
No, I really had no idea.
It’s what I’ve been trying to do for 11 years. Really, it’s a progression of lots of people trying to create an ecosystem out of basically nothing. The tech community is not feeling appreciated, and I think this came as a welcome surprise.
We got 2.3M impressions on that Tweet alone. I had no plan to do this, this has sort of taken on a life of its own, and this is a unique moment in time, and this is an opportunity to do something monumental. I tweet about 95% of what’s tweeted. Total, we’ve had something like 21M impressions in three weeks, and added 15k followers. That indicates to me that there’s clearly something real happening here. I really think it’s a movement.
Mayor, you and I are about the same age, went to the same school and came from the same generation. You remember what Miami was in the 80s and 90s: it was cosmopolitan in its own way, but also kind of provincial. Now, Miami is something else altogether. I went back several times in the 2014-2015 range, and found a completely different city than the one we grew up in. What do you yourself make of this change?
Back when we were kids, if you were a good student, you went to an Ivy League school and stayed in a big city. Those were the only places you could make it big. There was a tremendous amount of intellectual talent being exported. The tweet signifies the tipping point of trying to build a city that’s a net talent importer not exporter. Right now, financial companies like Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Ken Griffin’s Citadel are moving in. Given where they’re leaving from, I don’t see that changing at all. A lot of the kids we went to school with now want to come back.
Amazon put us on their top 20 candidates cities for their second headquarters. With the SALT cap going in [limiting the amount of state taxes that can be deducted from Federal income tax] and COVID, those two things really shook people up. California and New York are already expensive as it is.
Us, having come from a communist country, we don’t believe government is the answer to our problems. Kicking out the creative class from our city would do to Miami what it did to Cuba. It definitely created equality there: an equality of misery. And that’s in the psyche of a lot of us here in Miami.
How’s it felt to have stirred up so much interest from Silicon Valley?
When Jack Dorsey followed me, it was just incredible. Keith Rabois and Shervin Pishevar have been great champions too. I’m talking to lots of founders and CEOs off the record about moving here. I think there’s a positivity there that you just generally don’t feel among all the negativity of social media. You only go into politics, or I think you should only go into politics, if you want to leave things better than you found them, which is what we’re trying to do in Miami.
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Disclosure: In that weird way that Miami feels smaller than it actually is, I went to school with Francis Suarez during middle school. I didn’t quite realize I had a (very distant) shared history with the Miami mayor until recently. Before this interview, we’d not spoken since we were kids running around in uniforms emblazoned with Ad majorem Dei gloriam.