As Tyler Cowen notes, the new startup Blueseed is aiming for something of a libertarian hat trick combining the ideas of seasteading, circumventing U.S. immigration laws, and providing a regulation-free development space for tech firms. The idea is to buy a ship and dock it off the coast of California as a living and working space, or "incubator" in Silicon Valley speak, for foreign tech workers.
Ars Technica explains the idea:
Immigration law makes it difficult for many would-be immigrants to get
permission to work in the United States. For example, there's an annual
cap on the number of H1-B visas available for American employers to hire
skilled immigrant workers. However, permission to travel to the United
States for business or tourism is much easier to get.
Marty pointed to the B-1 business visa as a key part of his company's
strategy. With a B-1 visa, visitors can freely travel to the United
States for meetings, conferences, and even training seminars. B-1 visas
are relatively easy to get, and can be valid for as long as 10 years.
Blueseed plans to provide regular ferry service between the ship to
the United States. While Blueseed residents would need to do their
actual work—such as writing code—on the ship, Marty envisions them
making regular trips to Silicon Valley to meet with clients, investors,
and business partners.
With the ship only 12 miles offshore, it should be practical to make a
day trip to the mainland and return in the evening. A B-1 visa also
permits overnight stays.[...]
The firm is currently conducting an environmental impact study. When
that's completed, the firm will need to acquire or lease a large ship.
Then they'll need to retrofit it for use as a floating apartment and
office complex. They'll need to hire a crew with a variety of
skills—cooks, doctors, psychologists, lawyers, security officers, and
many more. The company estimates they'll need 200-300 crew members in
The firm must arrange for regular ferry service; it hopes to offer
two or three trips per day. And obviously, Internet service will be
essential. They're still researching options, but the tentative plan is
for a high-speed fixed wireless connection with a satellite backup.
Then they'll need to attract paying customers. Marty envisions
the Blueseed ship as a floating incubator. They'll charge rent, but also
take a small equity stake in each startup that comes on board. He hopes
to cultivate a network of investors to help identify promising
entrepreneurs. Blueseed will also accept applications directly from
would-be entrepreneurs. Marty says they've already had expressions of
interest from around the world.
Not surprisingly, Blueseed's cofounders are veterans of the Seasteading Institute, the utopian foundation set up by Patri Friedman (Milton's grandson) and funded by PayPal founder Peter Thiel to promote self-governing communities at sea. Though I have to say, the Blueseed reminds me a little more of a white collar version of Rife's Raft -- the massive refugee flotilla centered around a former U.S. aircraft carrier in Neil Stephenson's dystopian sci-fi novel Snowcrash.
I'm not quite sure how many tenants this floating industrial park would find. It seems more practical -- and a lot more pleasant -- to just set up shop in Hyderabad or Tallinn and fly to Silicon Valley when you need to. But perhaps with only a few clients, Blueseed could function as a high-profile protest against U.S. immigration restrictions like the H-1B visa cap. #OccupyMontereyBay anyone?