Blueseed Co. CEO and co-founder Max Marty talks about his vision at a pier in San Francisco as a ferry cruises in background. “A lot of people say, ‘I’d like to go to Silicon Valley’ but there is no way for them to do it,” said Marty. California startup Blueseed Co. wants to dock a vessel off the coast to house foreign entrepreneurs who have dreams of creating the next Google but can’t get visas to work in the United States. The ship aims to provide a remedy by giving foreign entrepreneurs a place to build their companies only a short boat ride from high tech’s hub.
SUNNYVALE, Calif. – A California startup company wants to dock a vessel off the coast to house foreign entrepreneurs who have dreams of creating the next Google but can’t get visas to work in the United States.
“A lot of people say, ‘I’d like to go to Silicon Valley’ but there is no way for them to do it,” said Max Marty, Blueseed CEO and co-founder.
The ship would give foreign entrepreneurs a place to build their companies only a short boat ride from high tech’s hub.
Marty, the son of Cuban immigrants, thought of the ship after listening to international classmates at the University of Miami business school lament about having to leave the U.S. after graduation.
Politicians have wrangled with the immigration issue, but efforts to change the system have stalled.
Last July, President Barack Obama said during a Twitter town hall he wanted to make sure talented people who studied in the U.S. were able to stay to create jobs.
“We don’t want to pay for training them here and then having them benefit other countries,” Obama said.
But Blueseed founders don’t expect any real reform from a bitterly divided Congress during an election year in 2012.
“Our solution is an entrepreneurial solution,” said Dario Mutabdzija, Blueseed’s president.
The ship would accommodate about 1,000 people and be docked in international waters southwest of San Francisco Bay.
It would be registered in a country with a reputable legal system, maybe the Bahamas or the Marshall Islands, Marty said. Residents would be subject to the laws of that nation.
Residents would be ferried ashore with temporary business or tourist visas, which are easier to get, to meet with investors, collaborators, partners and others.
“Yes, we live in an interconnected age with Skype and other video conferencing. But if you want to grow a company, physical interactions are of paramount importance,” Mutabdzija said.
The ship would be a remodeled cruise ship or barge that Blueseed leases or owns. It would have all the high-tech amenities expected of a startup incubator and the look of employee-friendly Internet giants Facebook and Google, famous for their modern campuses complete with gourmet cafeterias, exercise facilities and an environmentally-sustainable design.
A live-work space would cost about $1,200 a month.
Critics deride the ship as a publicity stunt, and say investors would be better served contributing to ventures that help Americans create businesses.
“I would say the whole thing is a perfect metaphor for how in corporate America the practice to grow talent and incubate business locally is drifting away — quite literally,” said Bob Dane, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for limited immigration.
But supporters of foreign entrepreneurship say immigrants are responsible for some of the most successful businesses in the world and if the U.S. doesn’t try to attract them, others will.
“The ship may sound like a crazy idea but it illustrates how seriously flawed the immigration system here is,” said John Feinblatt, who runs Partnership for a New American Economy, which advocates for immigration reform.
The organization published a report in June that said 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
Feinblatt said countries including Chile, Singapore and the United Kingdom have programs to attract immigrant entrepreneurs.
“While the U.S. is driving people away, other countries are welcoming them with open arms,” he said. “If you miss out on them, you miss their talent, their ideas and ultimately the jobs that they create and the taxes that they pay.”
Christopher S. Bentley, a spokesman with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency has not seen the proposal and it’s premature to comment.
Blueseed’s idea has started gaining steam.
Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel, a founder of PayPal, announced he would lead Blueseed’s financing search.
Blueseed wants to raise $10 million to $30 million over the next year and a half. The goal would be to launch in late 2013.
16 Dec 2011
Immigration reform adrift, US startup wants to house foreign entrepreneurs offshore
Posted on December 19, 2011