- What will Blueseed offer?
- Why Blueseed?
- Why near Silicon Valley?
- Why not simply telecommute?
- How will Blueseed help the American economy?
- Who can come to Blueseed?
- How much will it cost to live aboard the Blueseed vessel?
- What visas do I need?
- What taxes will I have to pay?
- What laws will apply on the Blueseed vessel?
- What about patents?
- How will you ensure reliable Internet access?
- What ship will Blueseed use?
- Where exactly will the vessel be located?
- What about transportation to mainland?
- Won’t I get seasick?
- How safe is the ship against natural and man-made threats?
- Is Blueseed environmentally sustainable?
- Are you hiring?
- How can I help and get involved?
- What if I have another question?
What will Blueseed offer?
We plan to launch the ship in 2015, offering living and office space in an elegantly designed modern tech environment so compelling that it has been called the “Googleplex of the Sea”, attracting top entrepreneurial and technology talent from all over the world to Silicon Valley, where they can create companies and jobs, and develop disruptive and innovative technologies.
- Comfortable living quarters accommodating one to four individuals per room
- Catering and food services at cafes and 24-hour venues around the ship
- Recreational facilities including a full service gym, game rooms, and other entertainment venues
- A comfortable and inspiring environment enriched by international experiences and lifestyles
- Cost-effective, modern, simplified legal and business environment with low overhead
- Meeting and conference spaces, and a large demo stage in the ship’s theater
- Customizable individual or group office space in a variety of size and furnishing configurations
- Shared resources such as 3D printers, 3D scanners, DNA sequencers for biotech startups
Conveniences of modern life
- Ship-wide high-speed Internet access
- Peace of mind including 24-hour security, concierge, and medical services
- On-board convenience stores and post office
- Convenient access to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley via ferry and helicopter
Startup accelerator services
- Access to angel investors and venture capital
- Connection with Silicon Valley startup events
- Events onboard, networking activities and demo days
- Mentoring and training programs
- Legal help (immigration, tax, incorporation, IP)
Because Google and Yahoo! and Intel and other famous companies that were co-founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, have created tens of thousands of jobs, and have built products and services that we all use every day. But who knows how many other companies we don’t have, because their immigrant co-founders were not allowed to remain in Silicon Valley?
Why near Silicon Valley?
When you ask an entrepreneur “Where in the world would your startup have the best chance to succeed?”, the most common answer is “Silicon Valley”, just as “Milan” is the answer for fashion, or New York and London are the answers for finance. Blueseed is simply meeting this existing demand.
Silicon Valley is also Peter Thiel’s answer to the question: “Where is the best place to live and do business in the world?”
[...] the best place is still Silicon Valley and California is still the best place for technology innovation”
– Peter Thiel
Omar Koudsi, co-founder and CEO of Jordan-based Jeeran, the largest review site in the Middle East and North Africa, wrote in TechCrunch:
I believe the lack of a well-developed ecosystem (funding, mentoring, risk culture, lawyers, human resources) puts the burden tenfold on the entrepreneur in the emerging world. In many cases, foreign entrepreneurs have to do ten times the lifting of an American startup — for a much longer period of time to boot — in order to succeed. [...] many founders in Europe and even the East Coast complain about many of the same issues: Lack of venture funding, lack of talent, and an ecosystem that penalizes risk takers.
Silicon Valley offers distinct advantages in terms of capital and human resources, legal and business environment, networking and startup exit opportunities, and culture.
Most angel investors and VCs prefer to deal with local companies (example, example):
In the earliest, most fragile stages of a venture, proximity is important. As a result, our resources are close by when entrepreneurs need them most. In Q4 2011, 46% of VC money invested in the US went to Silicon Valley.
California leads by far in the number of U.S. International Patents (interestingly, a third of these patents have one or more foreign-national inventors), and the San Francisco Bay Area is the most prolific U.S area in terms of patents registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, with Silicon Valley being #1 sub-region.
For the past two years, Google has been acquiring a new company every week.
Silicon Valley has a culture that makes it cool to be a startup entrepreneur, that promotes trust and “paying it forward”, that tolerates failure (the same can’t be said of China, for example), that encourages entrepreneurship, and supports entrepreneurs with an ecosystem of professionals critical for the success of a startup.
For more information on the factors that make Silicon Valley unique, see The Ideas Underlying Silicon Valley’s Success.
Why not simply telecommute?
Shane Mac, Director of Product at successful startup Zaarly, gives seven reasons why early-stage companies should start up in the same physical office space.
Many businesses can be run successfully from anywhere in the world, using collaboration software and teleconferencing. Other businesses are much more likely to succeed in an environment where people interact in person, and startups are a great example of that. Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Groupon, Zynga – they didn’t start online; they started thanks to the serendipity of a place that allowed the founders to meet and work together with the talent they needed, face-to-face.
Risks of working remotely include employees missing interaction with colleagues, becoming physically drained by travel, growing unhappy, or being recruited by other companies. Peter Norvig, director of research for Google, said in a Forbes interview:
It’s 11 hours to Hyderabad. We do video conferences where we’re up late and they’re up early. Maybe a video conference is as good as a formal meeting, but there are no informal meetings. As a result, we lose the pace of work, and we lose trust.
Best-selling author Ori Brafman has a short video on how proximity plays a major role in helping individuals form instant connections with others. While telepresence using robots such as Vgo or Anybots is somewhat successful, iRobot CEO Colin Angle said, “The products that have launched so far are really videoconferencing on a remote, driveable platform. It has some appeal, but they don’t build a version of you in a remote location able to be as effective as you would in person.”
In November 2011, ABC News reported on the story of Amit Aharoni, an Israeli startup entrepreneur who, after creating 9 American jobs, received a letter from the US Citizenship and Immigration Serice (USCIS) denying his visa request and notifying him to leave the country immediately. Aharoni left for Vancouver and tried to run his company (an online cruise booking service) remotely via Skype. That didn’t quite work out, so he set to work on making his story public. After ABC World News picked up the story, USCIS reversed their decision within 24 hours. The moral is that running a startup remotely can be big enough of a pain to warrant mounting a media campaign, and that unless they manage to attract massive media attention, a startup entrepreneur without a valid visa may have to relocate their operations outside of the U.S.
How will Blueseed help the American economy?
The simple answer is that studies show how existing firms are net job destroyers, losing 1 million jobs net combined per year. By contrast, in their first year, new firms add an average of 3 million jobs. These new firms include startups created by entrepreneurs. Blueseed brings to the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who by definition, start companies and create jobs.
Moreover, in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 inclusive, immigrant-founded engineering and technology companies have generated more than $52 billion in 2005 sales and have created 450,000 jobs as of 2005.
In particular, Blueseed will need to hire a variety of American personnel, from ferry operators, to legal advisors for our customers onboard.
Second, we’ll create an entirely new supply chain (fresh food, water, fuel etc. for 1000+ ship inhabitants), which will result in new jobs in the area around Blueseed’s supply lines and ferry port (Half Moon Bay, California). All these goods are going to come from the mainland, not from abroad (that would be prohibitively expensive). Our entrepreneurs will also travel to the mainland frequently, purchasing American goods and services, and paying California sales tax.
Third, and most importantly, the majority of the startup companies hosted by Blueseed will create new high-paying jobs. These jobs would otherwise exist either outside the U.S. or, in many cases, not at all, because federal immigration restrictions make it very difficult for foreign startups to locate in the U.S. A startup at the stage of relocating to Blueseed has an average of 4 employees. At the next stage (1-2 years later), a successful startup will have an average of 17 employees (source). As Blueseed startups continue to grow beyond those stages, since the space on the ship is limited, successful startups will relocate entirely into Silicon Valley, where they will have established strong business relationships during their Blueseed incubation and early growth period. If only one of these startups becomes highly successful, it will create hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of jobs.
Google and Yahoo! were each started by two co-founders, one of whom was an immigrant. Now, they employ a combined total of 47,000 people.The current immigration system forces a brain drain out of the US:
SAN FRANCISCO — At a time when the U.S. could use all the tech jobs it can get, Kunal Bahl is creating hundreds of them — in India.
SnapDeal, founded by former U.S. resident Kunal Bahl, is fast becoming a high-tech powerhouse in India. The rub is he wanted to stay in the U.S. and build a company here, but visa issues forced him to leave and start SnapDeal in his native country. Four hundred employees later, he’s ready to take on Groupon.
— USA Today, May 5, 2011
Who can come to Blueseed?
Blueseed welcomes all talented individuals and companies, regardless of nationality, who could contribute positively to our culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and fruitful collaboration. American startups have signed up as well, motivated by the prospect of working in a unique environment teeming with fresh ideas, side by side with hundreds of other startup founders from all over the world.
How much will it cost to live aboard the Blueseed vessel?
We will have a wide assortment of living and office space packages for rent and estimate that prices will be starting at $1,200/person/month for our basic package. For comparison, the average monthly rent for a studio alone in San Francisco is USD 2,215 as of June 2013, competition for apartments is fierce, and coworking spaces sell for $500-$650 per work desk per month.Mountain View (Google’s headquarters area), where until about 2011 rents used to be half of those in San Francisco, has now reached an average price of USD 1696 per month for a studio.
In addition, each resident will need to deposit in escrow an amount sufficient to cover transportation back to their home country in case of necessity. This amount will be returned when the resident permanently leaves Blueseed.
What visas do I need?
As a foreign national, to legally earn a paycheck in the United States, you would need a valid U.S. work visa. To live and earn a paycheck aboard the Blueseed vessel, you will only need a passport.
If you are outside of the U.S., you’ll have to enter the U.S. first before boarding the Blueseed vessel. The best way to do this, and to be allowed to legally come to mainland, is to obtain a B1 (business) or B2 (tourist) visa. These visas are easier to obtain because they don’t grant the right to work in the U.S., are usually valid for 10 years (check validity for your country here) and are often combined into a B1/B2 business/pleasure visa. Citizens of 37 industrialized nations are exempted from this requirement for travel periods of up to 90 days, under the Visa Waiver program.
To return to the U.S.:
- If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you’ll only need your U.S. passport or Green Card.
- Otherwise you’ll need a passport and the same valid visa or document you used to initially enter the U.S.
We will work closely with the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection towards an agreement that follows all applicable US laws and regulations while streamlining to the full extent of the law the entry and exit procedure for our clients and visitors.
If you intend to never come to the U.S. mainland from the Blueseed vessel, except in transit to another country, you can also obtain a U.S. transit visa. However, we don’t recommend this option, as being connected with the Silicon Valley ecosystem is an integral part of the Blueseed experience.
As always, it is best to consult with your immigration attorney before making any arrangements.
What taxes will I have to pay?
While Blueseed doesn’t collect taxes, any Blueseed resident will have to ensure they comply with all laws, regulations, and tax liabilities that apply to them and their companies, given their legal residence in the country whose flag Blueseed will fly (Bahamas, Marshall Islands etc.).
If you are a U.S. Citizen, or a non-citizen but meet the substantial presence test, your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside, unless you show proof that you maintain a tax home in a foreign country. You may also qualify for foreign earned income exclusion of an amount up to $95,100 as of 2012.
In terms of corporate taxes, we strongly recommend incorporation in Delaware, which is favored by Silicon Valley investors for numerous reasons. As such, your company will be subject to U.S. corporate tax.
Taxation is a complex matter, and we recommend consulting with a tax professional you will find on board.
What laws will apply on the Blueseed vessel?
The Blueseed vessel will fly the flag of a country that follows English/American common law and that has reputable judicial systems, such as The Bahamas (English common law) or Marshall Islands (based on American Law). It is important to mention that U.S. nationals will also be subject to certain U.S. laws.
Startup entrepreneurs who are employees will benefit from the legal protections of The Bahamas / Marshall Islands and/or the United States, depending on the country of incorporation that the companies choose.
With regards to commercial and contract law, we are strong believers in international commercial arbitration mechanisms based on the historical precedents set forth by lex mercatoria. Using these existing arbitrage dispute resolution services, legal questions, litigation, and arrangements will be handled in a fair, efficient, speedy, and predictable manner to facilitate a streamlined commercial environment. Alternatively, many onboard startup companies may choose to incorporate in the US directly, in which case they will be free to use the US court system as it pertains to their specific legal issue.
We will be creating a comprehensive guide to the on-board legal environment along with offering specific best practices advice on how to setup your firm’s own international and national corporate structure to take advantage of Blueseed’s unique legal environment.
What about patents?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) states that “The patent laws of the United States make no discrimination with respect to the citizenship of the inventor. Any inventor, regardless of his/her citizenship, may apply for a patent on the same basis as a U.S. citizen.”
However, while patents filed with USPTO were of principal importance before the era of globalization, today international patents are becoming increasingly important. These patents are handled by the World Intellectual Property Organization, one of United Nation’s 16 special agencies, with 185 member states.
How will you ensure reliable Internet access?
We’ll provide reliable, high-bandwidth Internet connectivity starting with a point-to-point 1Gbps microwave link with a satellite link backup. Later stage plans include a 10Gbps laser link currently used in military applications and being phased into commercial usage, submarine cable deployment, and a mesh network of WiMAX routers placed on autonomous ocean robots.
What ship will Blueseed use?
To launch, we’ll be chartering an existing cruise ship and repurposing it into a live/work/play space, with large amounts of co-working space, ferry service to the mainland, and high-speed Internet access throughout. We have identified several candidate vessels for the mission, with the following general characteristics:
- 1500 passengers capacity, for a diverse community
- 1000 entrepreneurs intended occupancy, for extra space / 300+ startups
- 200 community support staff: legal and other service providers, mentors, wellness coaches, researchers and investors in residence etc.
- 200 crew, so you won’t have to worry about preparing your own meals or doing your own laundry
- 200 meters (650 ft.) long, 27m (90ft) wide and 40,000 – 50,000 gross tons for stability in the ocean
- Amenities: restaurants, bars, lounges, cafes, pub, theater/stage, fitness center and gym, spa, pool, saunas and shops
The total launch cost, including an operating reserve, is $27M. Several years after proving the model with the repurposed cruise ship, we plan to launch a custom-built vessel, specially designed for use as a permanent live/work/play space on the ocean. The artist renderings in the concept vessels section illustrate possibilities for Blueseed Two, which we intend to locate in the warm waters of the Los Angeles / San Diego area, another entrepreneurial hot-spot.
Where exactly will the vessel be located?
We plan to locate the vessel outside the territorial seas of the United States, 12 nautical miles from the coast of California, in the so-called “contiguous zone” In the interactive map below, the first line next to the coast is the California state water limit line. The outer line is the more interesting one – the US territorial waters limit. Pictured on the map are also two NOAA buoys that provide oceanographic measurements, which we’ve used to assess stability and other environmental conditions. The position of the ship is approximate, and could change along the 12 NM line, as new data becomes available.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Part II, the coastal state has jurisdiction over natural resources (fish, oil etc.) up to 200 nautical miles from its coast. In the Contiguous Zone (12 to 24 miles from the coast), vessels are allowed to be stationed or pass through as long as they refrain from exploiting natural resources, and the fiscal and immigration laws and regulations that apply are those of the country whose flag the vessels fly.
What about transportation to the mainland?
We will provide large-capacity ferry services twice or more a day, plus on-demand transportation using smaller ferries and helicopters. We estimate that a complete trip by ferry from the Blueseed vessel to Silicon Valley or San Francisco will take around 90 minutes, comparable to a daily commute in the SF Bay Area.
A helicopter trip from the Palo Alto Airport to the ship will take approximately 20 minutes.
To augment our onboard medical facilities, our helipads will also provide emergency medical evacuation to the mainland in case of need.
Won’t I get seasick?
Given the shape and size of the Blueseed vessel, and the ocean conditions in our spot, it is very unlikely that seasickness will be a concern. Stability analysis conducted on a narrower and shorter vessel in an ocean spot with 50% bigger waves has shown that stability is within acceptable limits for European passenger ferries. Furthermore, inexpensive medication such as Meclizine ($8) reduces seasickness susceptibility from 2-3 days to zero when administered 2 days prior to the voyage. Alternatively, non-medication products like the Sea Band are highly effective, and inexpensive as well ($13).
How safe is the ship against natural and man-made threats?
The Blueseed vessel will be located very close to the coast of California, which is inherently a very safe location. Since we get these questions quite often, it’s worth mentioning specifically that the vessel will be safe from:
- tsunamis (which only affect the shore, and have no effect on ships at sea),
- hurricanes (which don’t happen near California),
- earthquakes (they also don’t affect ships at sea),
- rogue waves (which occur far out at sea)
- or… pirates (yes, a lot of people are genuinely concerned about pirates near California). Besides the fact that pirates operate near Somalia, they have much better targets (cargo ships, for instance, with little personnel and a lot of cargo already packaged for resale).
It should also be noted that in case of emergency, the force majeure doctrine allows us to come to port in the US while preserving jurisdiction (US Coast Guard website, §3.16 Force Majeure).
In terms of security on-board, we will utilize a private security force (check out our partner Meridian Global Consulting).
Is Blueseed environmentally sustainable?
Blueseed’s location is in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a U.S. federally protected marine area. Thus, to comply with regulations, and simply because it’s the right thing to do, our impact on the ocean will be much lower than that of existing cruise ships.
Specific information about Blueseed’s environmental impact can be found in the Environmental Compliance & Sustainability Plan that we have developed in partnership with The College of William & Mary, under the guidance of our environmental advisor Joe Nash.
Our goal is to negate or minimize Blueseed’s ecological footprint by finding novel, cost effective, and innovative solutions to the problems of waste water and solid waste management, and oil, sewage, garbage and air pollution. Many new technologies such as membrane bioreactors and cleantech energy generation systems could demonstrate that environmental sustainability is not only possible, but feasible and cost-effective.
If you’d like to speak to us about potential cleantech solutions for our vessel, please send us a message using our Contact form. We’re specifically seeking cleantech companies looking to test-drive their latest products in a novel environment.
Are you hiring?
At the moment, we are looking for a design/marketing intern – check out our open positions on Startuply.
What if I have another question?
If you have a question not covered in this FAQ, please let us know via our Contact form.
How can I help and get involved?
Here are some ways to help:
- Spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and your local social networks
- If you know of a startup interested in locating on Blueseed, please ask them to Come Aboard!
- Tell startup networks, incubators and accelerators to become our partner
- Help us connect with investors
- Help us connect with business partners who would be interested in our offer
- If you have particular skills (bizdev, web development, research), we always need more hands on deck. Here’s our list of volunteer tasks.
- For any other thoughts, please contact us.