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“The Opportunity Capital in Florida’s Rocket Ship Economy” | Saif Ishoof, Founder and Managing Partner of Lab22c | May 16, 2024

“Florida is a global economy, sitting at number 16 in the world, with a clear path to get to number 10 within the next decade or so.  But really to get there, it’s not just the technology and the capital, it’s human potential.”

Miami entrepreneur Saif Ishoof of the Miami business development firm Lab22c shares a glimpse of what Florida could become in the future before a May 16, 2024 meeting of The Economic Club of Florida.

Show notes

Mr. Ishoof told the Club that technological innovation and economic growth depend on human capital and developing that human capital.  He quoted his late father, who said we honor the American Dream by helping others achieve it.

He pointed to the great changes in the state over the past 40-years by using the changing pronunciation of his city as a metaphor – Miam-uh, Meeahmi, and now Miami.

At 24, after graduating from law school, Mr. Ishoof decided to build his first software company in an office building near the University of Miami.  Guy Kawasaki, Chief Marketing Officer for Steve Jobs and Apple, told him to move from Florida.

“And I disregarded what was the best worst piece of advice I ever had,” he said.  “Because I believed that that Miam-uh, Meeahmi, Miami had something that was going to position us to win the second half of the 21st century.  That very special element is human capital.”

Ishoof served as Executive Director for City Year Miami, an AmeriCorps national service program for young adults.  As nothing was going on in downtown Miami in 2008, he decided to recruit young people to serve as tutors, mentors, and role models and to focus long-term on human capital.  His ideas worked.

“We moved over 1.5 trillion of assets under management capital to Miami and Florida in the last 48 months.  There’s a global ranking called the GFCI which stands for Global Financial Center Index.  It’s a ranking of global financial centers.  OECD and the World Bank put it out.  Miami had never been on the list ever before.  This year, we landed on the list for our first time at number 24. Dubai is 21.”

Ishoof said big companies are moving to Florida.  “Blackstone, the largest institutional asset manager in the world, now has a massive strategic presence in Miami.  Amazon is setting up 50,000 square feet of footprint in Miami, and Citadel, one of the largest hedge funds in the world headquartered in Miami.  That’s all part of the increase of assets under management in our region.  We have to look at those assets as opportunity for human capital.”

He said he wants to work supporting people, institutions, founders, and builders that are trying to solve problems, and that will require developed people.

“We have to develop human capital in our K 12 system,” he said.  “We have to make sure that we’re supporting early learning, we have to be focusing on creating an actual pathway.  So, from when a young person graduates from college, they can see their way to a meaningful career.  Are you setting up everybody’s child for this form of success?  Are you enabling and creating those types of ecosystems in those environments?”

“Driving economic development and driving innovation is not about tech bros at coffee shops.  It’s about PhDs and postdocs sitting at labs that are actually creating bench science that can actually go to the market.”

His company, Lab22c, works with founders who are creating technologies that are the stuff of Star Wars.

“Companies that are doing things like taking the sun’s light and shooting it through a magnifying lens.  And when it comes out the other side of it, it’s a laser that can then generate power at a cost per kilowatt hour that is exactly aligned with what great energy companies like FPL and NextEra are building.  We get to advise a company that’s literally building flying boats, electric sea gliders.  They’ve created an entire new category of flying vessel rated not by the FAA, but by the Coast Guard.”

He pointed out that Florida is a world leader in space, has great research universities, military assets that are unparalleled, and it’s a leader in aerospace, logistics, and high-speed rail.  But small business is important, too.

“What’s powering our state is the single mom, who says to herself, ‘I’m going to open up a small business.’  It’s two small business owners that say, ‘Hey, you know, I sell hotdogs, you make buns, let’s create something together.’  That’s where the value creation is actually happening.  And it’s also the place where elected officials are actually leaning in with a service mindset and saying, ‘How can we help you?’”

Ishoof says Artificial Intelligence is an important tool and that we need to think about how to use it.  How do we incorporate it into our professional and personal practice?

“The places that win are places that create makers, the creative thinkers, thinkers that matter, these other areas, reason, right?” he said.  “Philosophy, these things not in and of themselves, but as part of the human experience really, really matter.  We can’t go backwards.  We have to go forward.  Like we need to be pushing young minds even further than we are now.”

(You can also view the entire Club meeting on YouTube.)

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

The Economic Club of Florida podcast, provides an extended platform for discussion to educate, engage, and empower citizens on important economic, political, and social issues. Based in Tallahassee, Florida, the Club has featured distinguished speakers on engaging topics of national importance since 1977. To learn more, including how to become a member, visit or call 850-224-0711 or email [email protected].

Date of recording: 05/16/24