City as a Service (CaaS): How the best cities retain their citizens.

Francis X. Suarez




City of Miami
Francis X. Suarez
Francis X. Suarez

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Francis X. Suarez, Mayor of Miami.

In this episode, we talked about the mass migration of startups and talent from places like San Francisco and New York to Miami. How Mayor Suarez retains his citizens by treating them as his customers, and what his citizen success team looks like. 

We also discussed how the Mayor attracts VC’s to the city, how he onboards new citizens for success, Miami’s development roadmap, and how Miami is incentivising tech companies to make the move.

Mentioned Resources



How Mayor Francis retains his citizens by treating them as his customers. 00:03:45
What does the Miami City team look like. 00:06:05
How Mayor Francis attracts VC’s to the city of Miami. 00:07:49
Miami’s development roadmap, what it looks like. 00:09:25
How tech companies are incentivized to move to Miami. 00:12:31
What's one thing Mayor Francis knows today about citizen retention and retaining citizens that he wished he knew when he first got started with your career. 00:14:55
How would Mayor Francis stop the bleeding of talent if he got elected for a different city now. 00:15:46


Andrew Michael: Morning. I Suarez. How are you doing? 

Francis X Suarez: [00:01:28] I'm well, thank you so much, Andrew. 

Andrew Michael: [00:01:30] It's great to have you for the listeners.  Frances far as the mayor of Miami, um, who at the moment, as well as, uh, an unbelievable track of mass migration of startups and talents moving from places like San Francisco, New York, um, they've also just recently announced.

SoftBank announced a a hundred million dollar fund, uh, solely to startup space in Miami or those thinking of moving there. Um, and in 2020 they saw $1.9 billion being poured into startups in the region and a huge part of this success. And this momentum has [00:02:00] definitely been, uh, may as far as, uh, his involvement and influence.

And, uh, he was super cool. I just managed to send him a tweet on Twitter and say, Hey, well, I want to chat to you about this concept. And, uh, he was really great to send, to jump on board. Uh, so thanks a lot for joining today. Um, yeah. 

Francis X Suarez: [00:02:15] Thanks, Andrew, appreciate the opportunity. It's wonderful to be with you.

Andrew Michael: [00:02:18] It's great. So today, the premises as well, because people might be wondering like, this is a show about churn and retention. Like why is Andrew talking to the mayor of Miami? Um, so today what I really wanted to have a chat to you about is actually something that David sacks mentioned on Twitter. Uh, In December, some time as well, where he sort of mentioned that psych due to the change.

Now we're cities used to compete for tax dollars from companies. Um, now more and more with remote and the pandemic has sort of pushed this momentum forward. We're seeing them having to compete for knowledge workers and trying to retain good talent to the city that they're bringing in and more and more of them will have to start thinking a little bit.

More like a SaaS businesses in the sense that the annual [00:03:00] recurring revenue will be the tax pay, the new texts that a individual is paying. So you're looking and focusing on citizen retention as opposed to customer retention and thinking of things like from a customer success mindset, when somebody leaves your city.

Like doing exit surveys and asking, why did you leave? How can we improve? How can we retain you? And really start to think about like, how do you keep the talent there? Because it's no longer about companies. It's more about individuals now. And there are a lot less, uh, like forgiving in the sense that it's company it's much more difficult just to pick up and go, whereas an individual can just pack their bags and get on.

So. Setting the premise today. That's what I wanted to chat about. And I'm interested from your side as well. Now you've done an amazing job in acquiring and bringing all those talents. Like, how are you thinking about retaining it? 

Francis X Suarez: [00:03:45] I think the first thing is you have to look at your, uh, as your residents, as customers.

I think part of the problem is, and part of the reason why people are losing, uh, people and talented people is because they're not treating them like customers, they making it seem like those people owe the government [00:04:00] something. Um, and, and, and, and when you're, um, you know, um, I came from the private sector.

My wife is in hospitality. You know, customer service. I work customer based business. We pick up your garbage, we respond to nine one, one calls. You know, we have fire and rescue. Um, you know, we pick up, we create parks and we clean them and we clean the streets and make sure things are safe. It's all about creating a customer experience.

It's all about quality of life. And w the, you know, with remote work now, Uh, what is going to prevail and what cities are going to grow are the cities that prioritize their clients, their residents, and create the premium quality of life that their residents are looking for. You no longer are tethered to a particular location.

You don't have to live anywhere, uh, to be able to, um, succeed. And you know, I've done. I can't tell you how many podcasts, probably 80 to 90% of them have been virtual. So, you know, you can get out there, you can have a voice, you can create business opportunities and you can do it without ever leaving your home.

So, [00:05:00] and I'm frankly, I'm in my home right now. So it it's incredible, um, that ubiquity and, and, uh, of life right now. And I think those governments that understand that their residents are their customer, they're their clients, that they have to appreciate them, that they don't have to, they can't tax them to death, that they have to, uh, you know, give them good service and keep them safe.

Um, those are the ones that are gonna succeed in the future. 

Andrew Michael: [00:05:24] Yeah, absolutely. I think this is like, uh, for myself as well. I was digital nomad for a while as well for about a year and a half, just traveling around from city to city and sort of trying to understand like, where would be a good place to settle and, uh, see that came down to sort of this like the facilities of the city and, uh, the climate and the people and this sort of thing.

So you mentioned a few things it's really, really interesting now. And obviously one thing definitely is like seeing them as clients and not to oversimplify, like cities are very complex organisms and, uh, you can't really equate like. The company to a city, but, um, in terms of like the hospitality side of things, like what, how do you structuring your team as [00:06:00] well?

Like to start to think more on the service side and providing services to the team, like, what does your team look like? 

Francis X Suarez: [00:06:05] We created an office called venture Miami. Um, we created a position in my office called the chief senior policy advisor for an head of innovation and entrepreneurship. And we're building out a team of, we have a venture capitalist in residence that we're going to announce soon.

Uh, we have our, it slash chief innovation officer, as well as part of it. We have the downtown development authority of downtown that lent us a person, uh, and we're going to the philanthropic community and getting the philanthropic community also, uh, to be a part of it. So we have a tremendous amount of resources that we're putting together.

And, and all of it is based on how do we continue to grow this ecosystem. And this explosive moment, I want to create concierge services, where people that are moving here, make sure that we can get everything that they need to be domiciled here and to have their residents, and then, uh, you know, help them with any [00:07:00] issue, whether it's from our government or any other government to make their experience as pleasant as 

Otowa: [00:07:05] possible.

Andrew Michael: [00:07:06] Yeah, it's really interesting. Like the concept of the concierge service, it's very similar to the onboarding experience than most products experience. And I actually read something before the interview that you've set up something in terms of like moving to Miami and, uh, helping getting set up where to find schools, that sort of thing.

So you're almost creating this experience in terms of onboarding, select the first stage, bringing people to make sure, setting them up for success in your senior year. Another thing, yeah. Sorry. Yeah, another thing then as well, I think in terms of success that you've really been able to do well for the city is actually bring in investor dollars, attract really good VCs to the region and to the area.

Like what has been the recipe behind that? Have you been, uh, attracting all these, uh, investors to the city? 

Francis X Suarez: [00:07:49] I think the investors will go where the talent goes. Right? I mean, they want to follow the brilliant founders that have been successful with a successful track record. When you have people like [00:08:00] Keith ReWalk, Um, John orange or, uh, uh, Peter teal, all buying homes here in Miami, all, uh, either moving or thinking about moving to Miami, uh, the VC money will come because they're going to create companies.

They're going to hire people. Um, and that's going to create a significant amount of offshoots. But in addition to us being a, you know, a city that provides a premium quality of life, we also want to be an organization that is. Um, technological. So we've, we've created, um, something called, uh, implants. When I first got elected, meaning that you can submit your plants electronically.

Um, now we create something called East start, meaning you can start a business in the city of Miami electronically without ever having to go into a government building. Eventually we're going to create a virtual city hall. Well that people can, um, you know, can go and get city services without ever having to leave their house.

So, I mean, that's sort of where we're heading and, and making our government as easy to work with as humanly possible. 

Andrew Michael: [00:08:58] That's excellent. Uh, I think like there's been [00:09:00] some good examples in Europe as well with governments and things like that, where they've seen great success. Um, so I'm thinking as well, like a little bit, you're talking a little bit like futuristic now in terms of like the way cities are going to be moving.

And typically in SaaS business, it's all about building for tomorrow and like building a better tomorrow. So like, what is your plan for the few? What is the roadmap of Miami look like? What is coming up in the works that you really excited about? You think like this is we're going to make a place that people aren't gonna want to leave.

Francis X Suarez: [00:09:25] Yeah. One of the things that we are doing is we're becoming try to become the most crypto friendly city in the planet. Uh, through our own local laws, uh, potentially paying our employees a percent in crypto, um, allowing people to pay for fees and, and, uh, and taxes in crypto. So, um, you know, uh, we invest in a portion of our treasure in crypto, but making sure we also have the most crypto friendly state laws so that, uh, there is no advantage to being in Wyoming versus Miami or Florida.

And I think that's something that will continue to attract the crypto community, which has an enormous [00:10:00] sub-community. In the tech community that is very, very awake. They're very plugged in and, uh, they're doing very, very well financially. So it's a community that you want in your safe. 

Andrew Michael: [00:10:10] Absolutely. Uh, and then, so like, this is one thing working on laws to try and facilitate and, uh, enable sort of crypto moving in.

Um, in terms of like companies now thinking about maybe making the move to Miami or individuals wanting to, to make the move, like, what are some of those other things that you're doing to enable this scent to facilitate the movement for them? 

Francis X Suarez: [00:10:33] We're doing a variety of things. We're, um, we have incentive programs.

I just was communicating with somebody. Uh, who's processed, uh, three new companies that are moving. Um, we have a, an incentive program for small companies. So if you're moving, um, we give you $50,000 a year for three years to in the downtown development area. If you're a big company, we're $3 million investment or more in creating more than 10 jobs, you can be eligible up to for 10 years, up to 80%.

Discount on your [00:11:00] taxes, your property taxes. So if you're in an opportunity zone, you're not paying any federal taxes. If you buy, hold and sell. After 10 years, you're paying 80% less than in a real estate taxes from Miami-Dade County. You're not paying any state income tax and you're not paying into Oakland context, which is happening in these other cities and States.

So there really isn't a reason not to come to Miami. 

Andrew Michael: [00:11:23] Absolutely. Uh, and then thinking as well, like, what are you thinking in terms of international companies? Is that something on your radar to attract more foreign talent to the region? Obviously like Miami is extremely diverse as well, probably, uh, like one of the most diverse cities in the U S in terms of talent and in terms of, uh, the lifestyle, but how are you thinking as well about international expansion?

Is this something on the radar trying to attract, uh, some, uh, more talent from abroad? 

Francis X Suarez: [00:11:49] It is absolutely on the radar. Um, you know, we're geo positioned as a city, uh, to have direct flights, everyone in the United States, everywhere in South America, everywhere in [00:12:00] Europe, every, you know, a lot of places in Asia based on technology, we're the city that's best geo position to reach more parts of the world directly.

So that, I think also is something that, you know, you can, you can't, um, you can't fake your geography. Right. Like you're where you are, is where you are. And that is a huge benefit for, for our city. 

Andrew Michael: [00:12:21] Yeah, for sure. Uh, definitely. So thinking then as well, like not to as well, not to advertise Miami too much as well, but I'm thinking like a question for, from my perspective is like, what would be like the top three reasons that you would say that like, there's no ways that people want to leave Miami for this reason?

Like, uh, if Andrew is an individual, I moved to Miami tomorrow, like what's going to keep me there. What's gonna like, make sure that I'm sticking around and I'm not packing my bags and moving somewhere else. 

Francis X Suarez: [00:12:47] We're the most exciting city in America. Uh, right now, uh, the most talked about, um, you know, we have, uh, the ability to grow, which a lot of cities don't have, uh, like New York and in San Francisco that have restricted their, their, their [00:13:00] ability to grow.

We have a tremendous ability to grow and we have the most attractive talent that's coming from the best places in the world. You know, aside from that, we have all the cultural amenities that you can possibly think of, um, you know, sports, art, music. Uh, they're really, really the better question. Isn't it?

Uh, you know, why should you move to Miami? The better question is why haven't you already moved to Miami? 

Andrew Michael: [00:13:21] Good question. Uh, so the other thing then as well, I'm interested in is sort of the city's roadmap. So thinking more like from a SaaS business and they think typically there's a roadmap for features that are coming next.

What's being worked on. Um, how is the city managing this roadmap? How is like the citizens themselves influencing what's coming next? And what's being worked on. 

Francis X Suarez: [00:13:44] Well, we want to focus on making sure that we're more resilient as we continue to grow. Uh, we have obviously like every city, every major city in America, we have climatic issues that we're dealing with or grappling with.

We want to make sure that, um, we're continuing to build affordable housing. So at the city remains affordable. Uh, [00:14:00] and we also want to continue to work on our education system to make sure that we have a premium education system so that every child in our city has an opportunity to be successful. 

Andrew Michael: [00:14:07] Yeah, it's amazing.

Uh, and then the team behind you, like you mentioned, you, you have three or four new hires that have joined the team. Um, how are you thinking to expand it now, as you go into this role and start to expand the responsibility of the team? Like, have you got any new roles that you're looking to have? 

Francis X Suarez: [00:14:24] Well, we just hired all of those people.

Um, but yes, we are. We are hiring probably another two, um, which will be support staff for those four or five that we have. Um, and that's, that's kind of where we're at right now. I mean, we're building out this back office, uh, very quickly. Um, and, and we'll go 

Andrew Michael: [00:14:41] from there. Excellent. One question I ask every guest that joins the show.

Cause I see we're running up on time as well is, um, imagine a hypothetical scenario as well. And in your case, we're going to be talking about citizen retention. Typically we're talking about customer attention in this case, but what's one thing that you know today about [00:15:00] citizen retention and retaining citizens.

When the city that you wish you knew when you got started with your career. 

Francis X Suarez: [00:15:06] What's one thing that I know today that I wish I knew. Um, I guess, I guess I wish I knew exactly what it took from a venture capital critical mass type of, of, of perspective. Obviously I always knew that keeping taxes, low keeper citizens, I always knew that keeping yourself safe would her citizens.

But the one thing that this moment is different. Is all this venture capital, all this, um, explosive capital, which allows you to really scale your, your companies. I think that's the one thing that I wish I would have known earlier. I would have thought of earlier, uh, to have been able to attract that, that earlier, if I would 

Andrew Michael: [00:15:44] been able to.

Absolutely. And then the last question I have for you, as well as like, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario now. Totally hypothetical. But, uh, you arrive in, in 

Francis X Suarez: [00:15:54] politicians 

Andrew Michael: [00:15:54] don't like, uh, so let's imagine like you're arriving in a new [00:16:00] city, you get made a mayor and, uh, Retention of citizens is really, really bad.

Like people are just leaving left and right. Like, let's imagine now you're the mayor of San Francisco or new Yorker. Like maybe not those two, because you don't want to get political, but what would be like your, where would you start with like trying to analyze and look at the problem to try and curb it, to try and really, uh, stop that the bleeding of talent.

Francis X Suarez: [00:16:24] The first thing I would do is pick up the phone and call the mayor of 

Otowa: [00:16:26] Miami. 

Andrew Michael: [00:16:27] Yeah, good on set. Good on set. 

Francis X Suarez: [00:16:32] I would, I would do what we're doing. You know, I would, I would rate, I would lose, I would reduce taxes. I would invest in police, uh, which reduces crime. Um, I would, uh, deal with the homeless issue, which is a big issue.

Um, and I would find a way to diversify our economy so that the jobs that we're creating in our city are there jobs for the next generation of my city.

Andrew Michael: [00:16:54] Yep. And thinking about the future as well. I think that's one thing like certain places have really fallen [00:17:00] behind is not thinking about what's coming next, then how do you prepare the city and the jobs and the market for it.

But, uh, as far as it's been amazing having you on the show today, I really, really appreciate the time and, uh, connecting today. Thank you so much again, for just answering that random tweets as well. Totally unexpected, but a really cool, and it just goes to show like what a cool mayor you are and what a great job you're doing as well localy. 

Francis X Suarez: [00:17:22] Thanks so much. Have a good one. 

Andrew Michael: [00:17:25] You too.


Francis X. Suarez
Francis X. Suarez

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


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