Hello hello, long time no talk fam! I’m sitting writing this at the Miami Airport waiting to catch my flight to SF.
For context, I used to go to Miami all the time back in the day—when I was a young post-college lad. Now I’m a 29 year old, mature, wholesome, founder (Julie’s note: this made me laugh when editing). That being said, while the Miami I remembered hasn’t changed much, it’s also changed a ton. Miami is a burgeoning ecosystem, but in my opinion, not in the way that Twitter makes it seem.
I liked it a lot more than I expected over my last two trips. People aren’t obnoxious and judgy. No one really cares about what you do or who you are. It’s like a large college campus where everyone seems to be there because they’re looking for something else and new. In an industry filled with massive egos, the Miami weather seems to make those egos dissolve just a bit (Julie has said similar things about Austin). I highly recommend spending some time here—not only is Miami fun and the food is great, but there’s SO much more to do beyond tech.
Anyways, here are my 5 key takeaways:
1. DeFi is 🚀
DeFi may actually run the world soon. There’s so much money there already, and all of the DeFi folks that are building products are figuring out product market fit much more rapidly than I expected. From an innovation perspective, would you rather work at a banking-as-a-service company or an automated market maker—which prices assets algorithmically instead of through an order book, allowing 24/7 liquidity through pools? These are the types of questions people are asking in Miami.
I keep seeing myself lose interest in fintech, and gaining interest in DeFi. As someone who’s been in fintech for 8 years, I typically find the fintech community trying to figure out ways that something “can’t” happen—propose a goodish idea to an ex-Visa person or ex-Wells and they’ll explain why it won’t work. Suggest an idea to a crypto person? They’ll tell you why it’s sick and you should change X, Y, Z.
Also—DeFi people are super chill and curious about new ideas. A lot of my homies from NYC back in the day are in DeFi now. My friend Anil at Delphi Research invited me to an insane house party last night with Disclosure, and I got to meet a bunch of Delphi folks and other DeFi people. And everyone was having a great time dancing to Disclosure AND having a great time talking about tokens outside too. If you know me, that’s quite literally my ideal party (FWIW that might have been the best party I’ve been to in 5 years...more on that below.)
Anyway, please call me DeFi Ian from here on out, thanks.
2. There’s A LOT of Crypto here
There is so much crypto in Miami, it’s actually quite crazy—but not in an overhyped way given everything going on outside of Miami too.
For instance, remittances have always been a complicated product to build and through TradFi nonsense, the fees are absolutely astronomical. I know because one of the first use cases of crypto that I stumbled upon in 2013 was remittances. Most of my family lives in India, and my father has sent back $500/month for as long as I can remember. In 2013, I suggested that he use Abra—a Bitcoin driven remittance product. AmEx had just invested so why not give it a shot?
The problem with remittance is that it’s essentially a peer-to-peer network. Now it might be way easier to acquire customers because you almost never send money internationally (and legally) without knowing the other party. But still, building out that network is hard, especially if you don't have a good wedge. Which is what I think remittances have been missing. I personally think that wedge is rewards.
On the way to *a club across Club Space* on Saturday night, my Uber driver and I started chatting about crypto. I proceeded to get one of the craziest stories that’s not even unusual anymore—my Uber driver was a chef for 10 years, put 3 months of his salary in Bitcoin a few years ago, and now has $200,000. He had learned about Bitcoin because he was trying to figure out cheap ways to send money back home. Sound familiar?
3. Smart and extroverted people are abound
I’m super hyped about the builders that I met here. Quick shoutout to Henry at Eco, who changed my perspective on neobanks dramatically over one dinner. And another one to FTPartners’ Steve McLaughlin, who’s not only a great mentor but a great dude (and, a Zhu fan!). But those are just some of the people that I finally put faces to their names. The non-tech ecosystem is really diverse and genuinely curious about crypto and tech, instead of being disdainful.
It’s not all SF people here either. There are a ton of immigrants, which as the son of an immigrant, I love. There are a bunch of founders who also seem to love to hang out in Miami. Either they’re crypto founders or founders that are raising. But mainly the smartest people here seem to be TradFi investors or crypto investors.
4. Crypto culture is bro-y, and that should change. But fintech is too.
Crypto Week was bro-y. No if ands or buts about it—and if you’re not into that it’s off putting. I’m sure you saw the complaints on Twitter, but frankly I’m not sure what anyone expected in what I call East Coast Vegas. The ratios for the parties were like 70% male to 30% female. Even at the good parties I went to, it wasn’t great.
So, the complaints were extremely warranted. Everyone was visiting from somewhere (NYC, SF, etc, in that order) and no one really knew their way around here over the last month. I think this is more of an issue within the intersection of finance and tech though. As a “fintech person,” I wish I had a high perch to preach from on this but I don’t—everyone likes to talk about the lack of diversity within crypto, but people seem to have stopped talking about the lack of diversity in fintech. Every fintech infrastructure leadership team looks exactly the same. It’s honestly quite insane to me. And if you’re a founder, you should expect that your employees are actively discussing this. Yes, Fintech Today has a female and a minority male for co-founders, but that doesn’t mean we can just relax and not worry about diversity anymore.
It’s not hard to hire diverse teams either. According to the data I just checked out from the FTT Talent Directory at least 30% are women who are interested in working in fintech. Women are out there. Look at folks in our community like Jackie Reses, Peggy Mangot, Maia Bittner, Ashley Paston, Stephany Kirkpatrick, Seema Amble and more. Any company would be lucky to have these ladies (and this is just the tip of the iceberg).
Miami is LIT
Ok Ok OK. For the fun stuff…
First of all I am never drinking again (he says for the 9th time). We had a great FTT party at the Miami Edition Hotel with my homies from Activant Capital. I miss hosting parties and we’ll be doing a lot more of them now that things are opening up.
But besides my parties, the clubs were insane. I was lucky to have a bunch of friends that had tables at places like STORY and “Do Not Sit On The Furniture” many times. I went to some other clubs that shall not be named, mainly to see Deadmau5 and ended up also seeing Lil Baby and G-Eazy. The music lover in me was having the time of his life.
The best party by far was the Delphi x Disclosure one—an intimate get together last night (Monday.) Disclosure and Zhu are how I got into house music so I had an incredible time (and, if you follow me on IG, you can check out some Stories.) The Delphi folks put it together in about 3 days which is even more impressive (read about why, and how, here.)
There were also some parties I heard about that I didn’t get invited to: a sick Gemini party that the Winklevii brothers threw. Heard it was a banger. Next time, invite me.
So now that crypto week is over:
- Alcohol sales should fall for a week or two
- You should catch up with your friends that were there because they’ll have some crazy stories for you
- I’m still not sure if crypto is worth all the hype, but man are there some really smart people working on it
- All of us still need to focus on diversity
- Let me repeat, all of us still need to focus on diversity