Whatever Floats Your Boat
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Silicon Valley remains the epicenter of tech start-ups in the world.
You are a foreign national with the drive and creativity to create a company that could revolutionize the world. However, the gates of innovation at Silicon Valley are closed to you because of tight American immigration policies.
What are would-be immigrants to do?
It’s time to go on a cruise.
As a recent piece in the Daily Mail discusses (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2155173/Blueseed-ship-Hundreds-companies-looking-secure-spots-floating-city-coast-Silicon-Valley.html?ito%3Dfeeds-newsxml), if Dario Mutabdzija and Max Marty have their way, living and working on a floating city in close proximity to Silicon Valley would be their solution. The two entrepreneurs are co-CEOs of “Blueseed,” a novel concept where a giant cruise ship anchored just outside of American territorial waters would become the home of such start-ups. At present, more than 250 start-ups from 52 different countries have expressed interest in coming aboard. Surprisingly, nearly 30% of these start-ups come from the U.S., but a significant number of firms from India, the U.K., Australia, Canada and Spain also wish to join.
And the reason is simple: while anchored in international waters, none of the individuals working on Blueseed need a visa – all that’s required is a passport, and no taxes will be collected. Blueseed only charges $1,600 a month in rent, but they also demand 6.5% of each company’s shares. The latter cost may become steep if a Blueseed business becomes a big hit and goes public, but it’s a price many startups are willing to pay.
Access to nearby Silicon Valley is key here. Armed with temporary business or tourist visas – which are easier to get than H-1Bs or investor visas – residents of Blueseed would be transported by ferry to meet potential investors and partners in Silicon Valley. Despite living in the technological age of Skype and cell phones, forging in-person connections with big players in Silicon Valley is critical for start-ups wishing to grow their enterprises, given the high amount of risk and investment in such ventures. Proximity to Silicon Valley also helps cement a sense of seriousness in the eyes of those who would do business with such start-up entrepreneurs.
Some critics deride the Blueseed project as a fantasy that redirects investment away from stateside businesses. Nevertheless, the emergence of this endeavor and subsequent interest is a reflection of the commitment and drive to be in business with Silicon Valley in a restrictive environment of immigration regulation. At the very least, a floating campus of the world’s brightest minds working closely alongside one another also promises tantalizing possibilities for cross-collaboration among Blueseed’s companies.
Time will tell if Blueseed will become a cruise of high-tech commerce or a ship of fools of titanic proportions. But until the U.S. abandons policies that keep out the best and brightest, it seems unlikely the best and brightest will abandon ship – especially if that ship is the Blueseed.