Why South Florida is a Hub for Healthcare IT Startups

You can connect with them online via Refresh Miami or Meetup.com, where dozens of “meetup groups” are created almost daily to link up and trade ideas on gamified healthcare apps. Or you can find them at a Google SEO workshop with the South Florida Aspiring Entrepreneurs.

After Silicon Valley took care of the dirty work, these entrepreneurial South Floridians have taken advantage of democratized technology, using open source coding packages and hosted networks to deliver healthcare and other services in innovative ways.

The question is why isn’t South Florida considered a premier option for healthcare IT startups? The environment is conducive to innovation in the field – Florida is a destination for retirees who are more prone to seeking medical care, ranks among the top ten states for healthcare job occupancies and Healthgrades even identified West Palm Beach as one of the nation’s top cities for healthcare.

Furthermore, Florida is ranked fourth among states with the highest number of technology companies. Yet it’s often left out of industry publications’ “hot cities and states” lists, although average tech employees in the state earn 72% more than their private sector peers, and tech-sector employment remained stable throughout the recession.

Higher Education
As centers of innovative young blood and thought leadership, South Florida’s strong local universities will anchor much of these successful health IT startups. The University of Miami, who boasts the respected Miller School of Medicine and a new biotechnology hub, is a huge presence in the area and produces much of the region’s entrepreneurs and culterati. Also, the construction of UM’s Life Science & Technology Park in the heart of the city’s Health District is a huge draw for healthcare IT startups.

In addition, the school’s entrepreneurship center, Toppel, created The Launch Pad five years ago to assist entrepreneurs with opportunity recognition and strategies to launch and grow startups and non-profits. The program is co-directed by healthcare innovator Dr. Susan Amat and has assisted local tech initiatives like iPad white board app SyncPad.

Florida International University isn’t far behind – with its own med school, a growing IT program and regular events with speakers like healthcare IT guru Samir Chatterjee, the fast-expanding research university is a hotspot for local talent, much of which will find career opportunities at various startups.

South Florida has nothing to envy about cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston or Minneapolis, all home to various healthcare IT startups. Like the first two cities mentioned, Miami is home to a Network Access Point (referred to as NAP of the Americas because it connects three continents), bolstered by the city’s network of underwater fiber optic routes.

Furthermore, the Verizon-owned Terremark is a Miami-based, telecommunications firm that provides IT services like managed hosting, colocation, security, data storage and cloud computing services to numerous startups, established companies and even the U.S. government. And as all trends indicate, a health IT startup off the cloud is economically unfeasible and overall impractical.

Accordingly, South Florida has seen a rise in organizations dedicated to supporting startups in all industries. Incubate Miami, a technology incubator, connects startups with seasoned entrepreneurs and eager financial patrons, and the fifteen angel investors of the Miami Innovation Fund funded its first mobile voice information technology venture last year.

Citrix Systems has a massive presence in the South Florida area. Aside from being a go-to service for EHR virtualization in large hospital systems nationwide, the company recently launched Startup Accelerator, which aims to nurture nascent entrepreneurs in mobile and cloud computing with $400,000 in seed funding and a few weeks in Silicon Valley.

Their efforts are a testament to the area’s burgeoning startup culture. Along with IBM, Citrix sponsors Internet Coast, a regional non-partisan group of business, community, political, education and healthcare leaders with the vision of creating a world-class science and technology hub in South Florida.

There’s also a population density argument to consider. According to How Ideas Happen author Steven Johnson, a city 10 times larger than any given counterpart is exponentially more creative, producing more than 17 times the ideas.

Considering South Florida is the largest metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States, why wouldn’t we flourish within what urban studies theorist Richard Florida deems the next “it” geographical area in American startup innovation? The Magic City alone has been known to prosper rapidly, having achieved status as the international banking capital of the country and the world’s fifth richest city in terms of purchasing power.

Given the state of technology, the revolutions in the way we connect with other human beings and the region’s idyllic weather, conditions are just right to watch a South Florida-bred healthcare tech scene bloom.