The founders of fast-growing fintech startup Pipe moved their company from California to Miami during COVID. They explain why they're never going back.
- Pipe's CEO Harry Hurst and COO Michal Cieplinski first moved from California to Miami in September because they wanted a more convenient time zone for their clients in Europe and the Middle East.
- Then they fell in love with the city, citing its burgeoning tech ecosystem, safety, cosmopolitanism, and pro-business mayor, Francis Suarez.
- They described to Business Insider their relationship with Suarez, who has been handing out his cell number to founders and investors relocating to Miami.
- Hurst and Cieplinski opened a Pipe office in the city in October, closed their San Francisco and LA offices, and say they've received hundreds of messages from other founders considering moving.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
In late June, two executives at the fast-growing startup Pipe decided they were going to do something daring.
CEO Harry Hurst and COO Michal Cieplinski resolved that it was time to leave California, where their company had just opened two new offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
At the time, most of Pipe's engineers had already dispersed across the country. And the company had just announced a $60 million seed extension round that was raised almost entirely over Zoom, Hurst and Cieplinski told Business Insider.
And so the two saw a rare opportunity to find a new city from which to remotely run their business, which finances other software startups via instant cash advances as opposed to capital from tech investors, which often dilutes employees' equity.
"The ability to do business from home effectively, over Zoom, enabled us to think outside the box and realize that there are better options," Hurst said.
They settled on Miami, and made the move together in September.
Hurst and Cieplinski, both immigrants from Europe, said they initially chose the city because of its time zone and proximity to two major international airports (Fort Lauderdale and Miami International). Many of Pipe's clients are based in Europe and the Middle East, which made living on the East Coast seem more convenient for them than living in California.
But what began as a personal moving experiment during COVID soon turned into a full-fledged embrace of Miami as the future of tech.
Upon arriving in the city, Hurst and Cieplinski say they were shocked to see that it already boasted a vibrant tech ecosystem, alongside cheap office space, safe living conditions, and a pro-business mayor dead set on welcoming startup talent into the city.
What's more, the two became enamored with what they described as Miami's cosmopolitanism, a blend of various European and Latin American communities that they say has encouraged them to more actively seek out opportunities to expand their product overseas.
Hurst and Cieplinski became so pro-Miami that they even opened a formal Pipe office there in October, just days after closing their SF and LA locations. They expect at least four or five employees to join them in the coming months.
The two executives now describe themselves as part of an "avant garde" working to draw more founders into the city.
"A successful, very bright star in the tech ecosystem officially moving there and opening an office is a signal, and that's what we want it to be," Cieplinski said.
"Pipe is going bold and long on Miami," he added.
Having the mayor's personal cell and email
In the last few weeks, Miami mayor Francis Suarez made waves on Twitter trying to convince Silicon Valley's tech workers and investors to move to South Florida's burgeoning tech hub.
But Hurst and Cieplinski connected with Suarez early this summer, long before Miami became the talk of the town in the venture world.
Cieplinski says he's been "amazed" by Suarez's "pro-tech mentality" from the moment they first connected. Since moving to Miami, Hurst and Cieplinski have met with Suarez in-person as well, both in one-on-one meetings and in larger gatherings with other founders and tech investors.
"We feel an ambassadorship to the city and with the pro-business mentality of Mayor Suarez," Hurst said.
One thing the two were particularly impressed with, says Cieplinski, was how eager the mayor was to befriend those in the tech community and build up Miami's tech ecosystem. Suarez even gave the two his personal cell and email, Cieplinski said, adding that they all stay in touch regularly.
Hurst and Cieplinski are not alone in their support for Miami or the mayor, either.
Since announcing his move to the city in November, Founders Fund general partner Keith Rabois has been one of Miami's most vocal proponents on Twitter. Another recent mover, Scale AI cofounder and VC Lucy Guo, has also been bullish on Florida, publicizing a meeting she had with Suarez where she doled out praise on Miami and its burgeoning tech community.
And Virgin Hyperloop cofounder and investor Shervin Pishevar hosted a dinner at his home with Suarez, Rabois, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, and younger founders like Hurst, who described the event as a way for up-and-coming tech entrepreneurs to "meet the earlier wave of tech veterans" and discuss how to grow Miami's tech ecosystem.
Pioneering a new model for in-person work
While Hurst expects the Miami office to grow in the near future, he says the goal isn't to eventually relocate the bulk of the company's workforce to the city. Pipe's two other cofounders, Josh Mangel and Zain Allarakhia, for example, are currently living in LA, though they are considering relocating next year, the company said.
Instead, the goal is to turn Miami into one of various "microhubs" for Pipe, a term Hurst coined for places where the company's employees can work together if they happen to be living in the same city.
Rather than assign dozens of workers to a particular office, Hurst envisions a post-COVID world where people can continue working from wherever they want, but with the option to do so alongside other employees.
"I think it's a natural evolution of this new distributed world as it relates to work," Hurst said.
Beyond Miami, Hurst says the company is considering leasing space for a microhub in New York City, with another one in Europe shortly to follow.
Like Cieplinski, however, Hurst has no plans on leaving his new home, which he expects will attract Pipe employees and other tech founders alike as a place to build their careers.
"Having lived in Miami now for a few months, I feel like I'm at the center of the world," he said.
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