Creating a Silicon Valley on the High Seas (Inc. Magazine, May 29, 2012)
October 17, 2012 by Eric Jacobus
Offshore incubator Blueseed will help entrepreneurs who can’t get U.S. visas get their start-ups off the ground.
All Aboard: An artist’s conception of Blueseed, an incubator for entrepreneurs who can’t get U.S. visas
Talk about a blue-ocean strategy. Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija are the founders of Blueseed, a planned offshore incubator for foreign entrepreneurs whose dreams of building companies in the U.S. are thwarted by work-visa restrictions. The incubator, designed to accommodate about 1,000 founders and employees of tech start-ups, will be based on a ship moored in international waters, 12 miles from Silicon Valley. It is expected to launch (literally) in late 2013 or early 2014.
The idea started at the University of Miami, where Marty, the son of Cuban immigrants, was an M.B.A. candidate. His fellow students from China, India, and elsewhere had great ideas for companies but lacked the proper visas to pursue them, says Marty. (Legislation that would make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to get visas is stalled in Congress.) He met Mutabdzija, who was born in Sarajevo, at the Seasteading Institute, an organization funded by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel to promote floating cities that experiment with new types of government.
Blueseed won’t have a ship until it raises $40 million to $80 million. Marty says it’s a buyer’s market for cruise vessels that carry fewer than 1,800 passengers, which larger ships are making obsolete. The money will also cover retrofitting the ship with offices, meeting rooms, and collaborative spaces. Entrepreneurs will pay about $1,600 a month for room and board. Blueseed will also take about a 5 percent equity stake in each start-up.
Marty expects that most of the start-ups will incorporate in Delaware, and the vessel, like a regular cruise ship, will operate under the laws of the country whose flag it flies—likely the Bahamas. So far, about 130 start-ups from 43 countries have expressed interest.