Floating city of entrepreneurs aims to drop anchor
Imagine a floating city of entrepreneurs; a veritable Googleplex of the sea. That's the vision behind Blueseed, a San Francisco startup.
The company plans to deploy a cruise ship 12 nautical miles from Silicon Valley -- in international waters -- and convert it into a metropolis of floating offices so foreign workers can launch their companies without obtaining work visas.
Despite a number of bills currently in Congress that aim to expand immigrant work visas, "there is no entrepreneurial visa," says co-founder Max Marty. "I think that's a terrible problem."
The answer, according to Marty and his team, is to take to the high seas.
So what will this startup metropolis look like?
The ship will have pools, massage areas, gyms, rock climbing walls, and indoor soccer fields according to Marty. His model is very Google-esque--the fostering of creativity through colors, aesthetics, and food.
"Those elements are the same sort of thing we're bringing to this workspace," he says.
But unlike the Googleplex, where employees can actually walk out the door, entrepreneurs must take a ferry (or helicopter) to the mainland. Right now Marty is anticipating twice daily ferry service costing up to $30 a ride.
Marty says over 250 companies have expressed interest in coming aboard the vessel, where standard cabins cost $1,600 a month.
However, the challenges to Blueseed are many. There are steep regulatory hurdles and immigration and maritime laws to contend with. Beyond that, there are social elements to consider.
"The average entrepreneur is 39 years of age," says Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford Law School. "The average entrepreneur has a family. They're going to move them out to a ship? If they do, what are the kids going to do? Go to school?"
Wadhwa's vision of a floating Googleplex is decidedly more comical.
"Think about it...a thousand nerds on a boat by themselves," he says, "You're going to go crazy over there. You could do a reality show."
The sobering side of Blueseed is that people are so desperate to come here and start companies that they'll go on a ship, says Wadhwa.
And despite how grandiose our images are of this international floating tech incubator, for some people it highlights an even darker reality.
"This uncovers a pessimism of what our government can do to solve these problems," says Patrick Gallagher, an audience member at a recent Commonwealth Club event where Marty was part of a panel discussion. "Instead of working through those channels or working to make change, the thought is... let's create a ship out in the ocean and create our own society. It seems like giving up."