Blueseed: Floating fortress for tech entrepeneurs
A concept image of the Blueseed vessel. Photo: Blueseed
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A technology company wants to build a floating fortress off the coast of Silicon Valley to house entrepreneurs unable to work in the US.
If you have a great idea and want to come here and grow it into a business, you're out of luck.
The ambitious project, called Blueseed, plans to anchor a large live-in cruise ship 12 nautical miles from San Francisco where aspiring tech visionaries can live and work without obtaining a US visa.
"Blueseed will be a home for tech entrepreneurs around the world who want to come to Silicon Valley but can't," the company's chief financial officer, Sam Bhagwat, said in an interview with Fairfax, publisher of this article.
"If you have a great idea and want to come here and grow it into a business, you're out of luck. There simply aren't US visas available for entrepreneurs," he said.
Residents on the ship must hold a current passport and will be able to travel to the mainland US for up to 180 days a year on business or tourists visas, but will not be able to earn a pay cheque while on the mainland. However, they can receive money while aboard the ship.
While Blueseed has yet to start construction on the project, it has indicated that it will most likely be a retrofitted cruise ship. Prices for a living and working space will range from $US1200 to $US3000 ($1178 to $2946) per person, per month.
"It's going to be mostly the young crowd that one would expect is going to be creating the next Facebooks and the next Googles," Blueseed chief executive Max Marty said in an interview with CNN. "It's the kind of person you would expect to be walking around in Silicon Valley creating a start-up fresh out of Stanford."
But not everyone is impressed with the project's lofty ambitions. Sydney-based entrepreneur and chief of Freelancer.com, Matt Barrie, said: "The minute they set it up, the US will either blockade it or get a list of all the occupants and permanently ban them from entering the US."
At 12 nautical miles offshore, the vessel will not actually be in international waters and US immigration laws may still apply. Blueseed will be located in what are known as contiguous waters, a legally ambiguous zone between a country's territorial waters and international waters.
In the case of the US, the contiguous zone extends 24 nautical miles from the coastline. Despite this, Mr Marty remains confident. "We are creating a win-win situation, so I believe that the laws will be interpreted in our favour," he said.
Despite high unemployment in the US, the jobless rate remains low in the technology sector, where the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook often engage in bidding wars for highly skilled employees.
As acknowledged by Blueseed, there is no visa designed for entrepreneurs to start a company in the US. The visa that does allow educated workers to get a job there (H-1B visas) is capped at 85,000 a year.
This cap was reached in only 10 weeks after the visas for 2012 were released in April this year, while the cap lasted 33 weeks last year.
"Australians find it somewhat easier to get into the US due to the E-3 visa", said Mr Bhagwat. The E-3 visa is a special visa that allows Australians and their children and spouses to live and work in the US.
"But this is still a work visa, which would enable you to get a job at an existing company, rather than starting your own."