“I can probably squeeze in a final order of Yorkshire puddings,” our waiter Oscar reported. Having landed in Miami from San Francisco a mere hour ago, I wasn’t sure if my hearing was deceiving me. “Sorry did you just say Yorkshire puddings?” But lo and behold, a bread basket arrived and nestled beneath the napkin were two warm Yorkshire puddings, or as our American friends like to call them, “popovers”. This eccentric encounter set the tone for my adventure to ‘the City of Pleasant Living’ and the Betsy Hotel.
Like most of Silicon Valley, I had decided to venture down to Miami to explore what this tech exodus city had to offer that could rival San Francisco or Austin. As an alternative to staying at Soho House, multiple friends had mentioned the Betsy hotel to me. “It’s like staying in your affluent friend’s country house,” one said. “It’s the last piece of old–age glamour left on South Beach,” said another. So one balmy Friday evening, I found myself checking in to this family-owned boutique hotel, which rests regally in the heart of South Beach. The tinkling sounds of a grand piano welcome you as you float through the lobby bar and onto the veranda, where glamorous locals mix with the new tech elite, plus the odd British tourist, to watch the world go by on Ocean Drive.
Jonathan Plutznik and his wife Lesley Goldwasser fell in love with the building (the site of the former Betsy Ross Hotel) and in 2009, after a multi-million-dollar restoration, it re-opened its doors. The completed property comprises two historic buildings, the Colonial wing and the Art Deco wing, and drifting between the two is an immersive art experience in itself. To get to my room I passed through the iconic – and now Instagram-famous – Betsy Orb that connects the two sides. The hotel itself happily celebrates photography with portraits of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones adorning the walls, alongside private pieces from the Betsy regular and Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki.
Plutznik isn’t surprised at the popularity of the hotel with remote-working millennials. “I always say to our guests there are so many places to hide here. In a pandemic moment, finding places to hide away with your laptop or a good book is a luxury,” he says. And it’s true: with two pools to choose from, a library, coffee shop and courtyard, I felt spoiled for choice with Zoom backgrounds. The Betsy has authenticity in spades along with its humble luxury and local members’ club feel. Top-notch service and a characterful menu delight the traditional foodie as much as the new-age vegan, and did I mention you can bring your dog too?
Miami was always on the circuit, but now it’s not just wealthy New Yorkers escaping for a few weeks in the winter months. “What used to be a couple of weekend visits has now turned into two months, then six months, then guess what? It’s now a full-time home,” Plutznik remarks.
With three significant airports and direct flights from everywhere from London to Sao Paolo, Miami is perfectly positioned to attract a new generation of builders. Combine that with the weather, arts and culture and you’ve got a recipe for reconsidering the question: “Where do I need to be? Where do I really want to spend my time?” Tech companies know that attracting the best talent involves appealing to a lifestyle, providing employees a balance of nature and community with high-speed Wi-Fi. Lighting a fire under this question is Miami’s social-media savvy mayor Francis Suarez, whose responsiveness and engagement with many people on Twitter is impressing CEOs and investors across the country. “We will push to make Miami one of the most innovative cities of this decade,” he recently remarked in one of his #CafecitoTalk sessions.
Miami is no longer just the “Capital of Latin America” for LATAM founders to build, but a home for a growing community of tech entrepreneurs buzzing with that infectious energy of possibility. Drinking one last iced tea on the Betsy veranda as I waited for my car to the airport, the lyrics of Will Smith’s ‘Miami’ whispered temptingly through my Airpods. “I only came for two days of playing, But every time I come I always wind up stayin, This the type of town I could spend a few days in…”