Startup Ducks Immigration Law With ‘Googleplex of the Sea’
Blueseed says U.S. immigration law is choking the flow of “bold and creative” entrepreneurs into Silicon Valley. So it’s building a floating IT fortress where entrepreneurs can be bold and creative right next to Silicon Valley without actually setting foot on U.S. soil.
To get around the government’s immigration choke-hold, the much-discussed startup plans to sail foreign innovators 12 miles off the Northern California shore, into international waters. Once there, governed only by loosely enforced maritime treaties, these entrepreneurs can ply their trade without worrying about worker visas or various other immigration regulations. And they can live in San Francisco. Ferries will shuttle them back and forth.
This is more than just an idea. Big-name venture capitalist and PayPal founder Peter Thiel just sunk some cash into the Blueseed crusade, and on Tuesday, the company released detailed mockups of its floating incubator (see the above image gallery, given exclusively to Wired).
Gabriel Jack, an immigration attorney at law firm MJ Law in Silicon Valley, tells Wired the notion is legally sound — though he points out that workers on the floating incubator will need valid visitor visas, which can be good for up to 10 years. “There’s nothing in the [visa] law that says how often you can visit the United States. If they make it clear that they work in international waters and are using a visitor visa to stay on land,” he says. “I don’t see how the immigration department can do anything about it legally.”
But there’s more to deal with here than just the law. Last week, Wired sat down with the Blueseed’s three founders to get the low-down on its plan to take the TechCrunch set on an eternal boat ride.
Wired: So, who gets on this boat?
Dan Dascalescu, CIO: Our main focus is IT and software startups. Biotech and other types take much more equipment. Most those applying for memberships so far have been for local, mobile and social applications. We may have other sectors eventually, but the focus is IT.
Wired: You’ll need the Internet. How’s it going to get out there?
Max Marty, CEO: We’re testing out a few ideas. We’ll need a stable and low-latency bandwidth connection to the Internet. Cruise ships have not done this well, relying on satellite which is slow, and the price is significantly higher than it is on land.
A laser could be good, but is susceptible to fog, which is bad in the Bay Area. We’re considering running an undersea cable from ship to shore, but it may be be cost prohibitive. [Blueseed has received estimates of over a million dollars for just the installation, but is still researching permits.]
Dan: We’re also looking at a wireless solution, the Rocket M5 GPS radio and the RocketDish 34 dbi antenna. Or a network of WiMax relay buoys in the water.
Dario Mutabdzija, President: We’re going to take a Silicon Valley approach to these problems too. Fuse the old solutions with new innovative ones. We’re confident we’ll find solutions. But we are still looking for partners to help us solve them.
Wired: What about power?