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A Floating Home For Tech Start-ups 332

Posted by Soulskill
from the arrr-me-hearties dept.
JoeMerchant writes "Max Marty, founder of Blueseed, thinks immigration laws in the U.S. make it too difficult for entrepreneurs from other countries to come to the U.S. and develop new technologies. In order to solve this, he's trying to buy a large ship he can anchor off the coast of California, in international waters, which he can then turn into a start-up incubator, fostering a 'year-long hack-a-thon.' From the article: '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.'"
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A Floating Home For Tech Start-ups

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  • Or ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:32PM (#38205676)

    ... set up shop in Tijuana. Or Vancouver BC.

    • Re:Or ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:36PM (#38205740) Homepage Journal

      ... set up shop in Tijuana. .

      The irony in this statement being that, as much as Mexico complains about US immigration laws, Mexico's immigration laws [usatoday.com] are much more strict. You do not want to be busted for illegal immigration in Mexico, especially if you're from border countries to the south of Mexico.

      • Re:Or ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:54PM (#38206738)

        Mexican Immigrant here. I arrived in Mexico in 2003 and I have been illegal in Mexico for a quite a while (~ 2 years). When I went to the migration service (Xalapa) the people were *extremely* friendly. I had to pay a small fine and leave the country and come back in. I even got advice on how to do this the easiest way: go to Guatemala, cross at one border post, travel to the next one and come back into Mexico the same day. Trip to Tapachula (Chiapas) by bus was ~12 hrs, hopping over the border, and taking a minibus to the next border post and back to Tapachula took an hour or two, and we took the next bus back to Xalapa. All in all it was done over the weekend ( A very short visit to Guatamala [johnbokma.com] ).

        As for the immigration laws, as long as you can prove that you can make a small income you can start your paperwork, which is extremely easy to do. The immigration people are extremely helpful and very patient and give solid advice, in my experience.

        I have also lived in New Zealand for a little over 2 years, and the whole NZ immigration circus is extremely elitist, expensive if you're not careful, and there is a strong hate against Asian people and a very strong preference for people purebred in the UK.

    • Re:Or ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:57PM (#38206012)

      This is the part I don't get: why bother with this dumb ship? Just set up shop in Vancouver and ignore the US altogether. Vancouver is already home to lots of software companies. On top of this, while Canada's immigration laws are pretty strict, if you're a software engineer, that's pretty much a free pass to get into the country. In addition, if you have $300k ready to deposit into a Canadian bank account, that'll get you in too. Canada is very friendly to people who will improve their economy. And if you really need to travel to Silicon Valley, it's not that long a plane flight from Vancouver to San Jose.

      • Because they want to skip all sorts of legal regulations. Canada is just as bad and worse in some areas in terms of regulation.
    • This only approaches making economic sense because of the comparison to cost of living in the San Francisco Bay area. The Visa thing is a nice distraction, but if it cost more to keep the B-1 Visa holders afloat than it would to hire actual Americans, they would never bother to float the idea to investors.

    • by PaulBu (473180)

      As someone currently working for a high-tech start-up in Vancouver, BC, I can assure you that, as nice as it is here in the Summer, it's no Silicon Valley -- and when you have to make a trip there it's like $800 in plane tickets and a whole day of travel.

      But then, Valley is not exactly on the shore, so it's not just 12 miles boat ride, add another hour or so to get across the hills -- still beats air travel!

      Paul B.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        As someone currently working for a high-tech start-up in Vancouver, BC, I can assure you that, as nice as it is here in the Summer, it's no Silicon Valley -- and when you have to make a trip there it's like $800 in plane tickets and a whole day of travel.

        But then, Valley is not exactly on the shore, so it's not just 12 miles boat ride, add another hour or so to get across the hills -- still beats air travel!

        Paul B.

        $800 every week or two is cheaper than whatever it would cost to live full-time in a cruise ship. A direct flight from YVR to SFO is only around 2.5 hours.

    • ... set up shop in Tijuana. Or Vancouver BC.

      ...or set up Skype in shop.

    • Microsoft has already setup software development in Vancouver. Probably to take advantages of the easier immigration laws Canada has.
  • uhh yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <.nomadicworld. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:34PM (#38205718) Homepage
    FTA: "Some of the Silicon Valley's most important companies, including Intel, Google, and Yahoo, were cofounded by immigrants."

    Intel wasn't.

    "Yet America's creaky immigration system makes it difficult for talented young people born outside of the United States to come to the Bay Area"

    Riiiight, that's where there aren't any young people born outside of the United States in the Bay Area. Sure.
    • Re:uhh yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:43PM (#38205850)

      Intel wasn't.

      Andy Grove was born in Budapest

    • Re:uhh yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

      by purpledinoz (573045) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:50PM (#38205930)
      The US has the most retarded immigration policy. They make it too hard for highly educated/skilled people to legitimately immigrate, but they turn a blind eye to the MILLIONS of uneducated illegal immigrants. The US should be welcoming the highly educated/skilled people into their country, not turning them away, because they will most likely make a positive contribution to society. Instead, by turning them away, they go somewhere else and compete against the Americans.
      • Re:uhh yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tgd (2822) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:18PM (#38206288)

        The highly skilled people take jobs Americans want.

        The uneducated immigrants, all media hyperbole aside, take jobs Americans don't.

        Its as simple as that.

        • Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

          by goruka (1721094) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:54PM (#38206748)
          The highly skilled people take jobs Americans want regardless of where in the world they are located. This can't be avoided and is called outsourcing.
          I live in South America, and pretty much anyone I know here on the tech industry is taking jobs from American companies.
          If America lets the highly skilled people in, at least their money will be spent inside the country, and this will end up generating more jobs in the long run.
        • Re:uhh yeah (Score:5, Informative)

          by purpledinoz (573045) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:13PM (#38206952)

          The highly skilled people take jobs Americans want.

          But aren't skilled enough to do. It's better to bring the skilled people to America, rather than forcing the job to another country. I heard a statistic once, that Silicon Valley has 1% of the Canadian population. One of Canada's problems is losing highly skilled, highly educated people to the US. The best tech minds in the world concentrate in Silicon Valley. It is no coincidence that Silicon Valley innovates like no other. Kick out all the highly-skilled, highly-educated immigrants from Silicon Valley, and you'll see that things come quickly to a halt. The US is in an envious position, where highly skilled/educated people WANT to move there, and do.

          The uneducated immigrants, all media hyperbole aside, take jobs Americans don't.

          Exactly my point. These are ILLEGAL immigrants. Why does the US have a system where illegal is the norm? It makes no sense! Naturalize them, bring them into the system, and have them pay their share of the taxes. Having so many people in this grey area is ridiculous.

          • Re:uhh yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

            by martas (1439879) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:44PM (#38207314)

            Why does the US have a system where illegal is the norm? It makes no sense! Naturalize them, bring them into the system, and have them pay their share of the taxes. Having so many people in this grey area is ridiculous.

            Because slave labor kicks ass, that's why.

      • The US has the most retarded immigration policy. They make it too hard for highly educated/skilled people to legitimately immigrate, but they turn a blind eye to the MILLIONS of uneducated illegal immigrants. The US should be welcoming the highly educated/skilled people into their country, not turning them away, because they will most likely make a positive contribution to society. Instead, by turning them away, they go somewhere else and compete against the Americans.

        The reason is that there are a lot of jobs that Americans simply won't do because it's hard physical work, such as harvest food manually in the fields (this is well documented). Unlike more skilled labor, these illegals aren't taking jobs away from anyone. When they don't show up, the crops die in the field.

      • It's obvious. Millions of undedicated illegal immigrants make for a HUGE potential voting bloc. I say 'potential', because eventually they will have the right to vote soon after they've been granted amnesty. Politicians salivate at the very notion. The biggest game changer of them all.

    • Andrew Grove was born in Hungary.
  • by nomadic (141991) <.nomadicworld. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:38PM (#38205774) Homepage
    Parking 12 nautical miles away from the coast still leaves the ship in the EEZ, so the US can easily regulate it (in fact, there are probably laws already in force that would apply to this).
    • Yea definitely. Article 60: In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have the exclusive right to construct and to authorize and regulate the construction, operation and use of: (a) artificial islands; (b) installations and structures for the purposes provided for in article 56 and other economic purposes; (c) installations and structures which may interfere with the exercise of the rights of the coastal State in the zone.

      Chances are ship parked there for any length of time can probably be cl
  • you can come to America and live on a floating prison. I'm not sure what sort of abject misery you'd have to be coming from to make living/working on a prison ship seem like a good idea.

    I've been on boats around the bay and off the coast and I can tell you that about 30% of the time there won't be any work getting done because everyone will be hanging over the rails puking their guts out.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:42PM (#38205822)

    I love the people who seem to think international waters means "You can do whatever you want." No, not really. You can declare yourself to be your own country or whatever but that doesn't matter. There are only two real ways to be an independent country:

    1) Get recognized as such by one or more major international bodies like the UN, NATO, etc. When the big boys say "Yup, you are independent," then you are. This is more or less how it goes for countries like Iceland, that have effectively no military.

    2) Have enough guns that nobody can challenge your independence. That's how it works for countries like the US or China. Doesn't really matter what anyone wants to think, they are independent by virtue of nobody has the ability to invade them.

    Neither of that would be the case for this little offshore platform. The US could screw them over real simply by just refusing to allow sea or air traffic to or from the platform. If there was any real problem, they could send in the Coast Guard. In the event the people on the platform fired on the USCG, well that is that as per US law that's an act of war and then the Navy can get involved.

    Alternatively they could flag themselves under some nation, but then they are subject to that nations laws, and of course that nation will have treaties with the US and so on.

    • by Forbman (794277)

      Methinks the real intent of this is just a tax dodge.

      • by jd (1658)

        If that was the case, a base in Texas would be cheaper than a base out on the ocean.

    • by Aryden (1872756)
      if they are in international waters, the US Navy can get involved even without shots fired at the USCG.
      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        There's pretty strict laws, including laws of the sea, governing when governments are and aren't allowed to board civilian vessels in both international and territorial waters, as well as EEZs, which this should would be inside of (the US EEZ extends to 200 nautical miles from shore). The Navy can't just go board some civilian vessel in international waters without just cause, and doing so would be an international incident.

        They can, of course (assuming the govt really cares that much) harass them and have

        • by Aryden (1872756)
          Never said anything about boarding them. I said get involved. I'm sure that, as a developer, you would love to have fighters buzzing your boat at all hours of the day and night...
          • Never said anything about boarding them. I said get involved. I'm sure that, as a developer, you would love to have fighters buzzing your boat at all hours of the day and night...

            Do I get to control one from the comfort of my desk? :-D

      • by jd (1658)

        That's an act international piracy ("Piracy on the High Seas"). The US might not be too worried by it, but neither will the lawyers who will see $ signs sprout before their eyes like weeds.

    • by jythie (914043)
      They will probably have to go the 'flag of some nation' route.

      Legally this whole idea is a mess.. they will need their own police and court systems, not to mention their own immigration laws.... and as you point out, this will only really work till they annoy the US enough that the coast guard goes out and seizes the ship for breaking US laws.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      I love the people who seem to think international waters means "You can do whatever you want." No, not really. You can declare yourself to be your own country or whatever but that doesn't matter.

      You're leaving out option 3: Nobody cares enough to do anything about it. For instance, if the Brits really cared about Sealand, they could easily take it over.

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        That doesn't make them a nation, really. The GP poster's pretty much right about this.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Except that they don't want to declare their own nation, just dodge immigration laws. And immigration laws don't apply in international waters.

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:04PM (#38206102)

        I think not. Again they'd have two choices:

        1) Flag under a country, as any other ship does. Do that, and you are subject to the laws of that country.

        2) Don't flag. In that case any nation can board your ship, just for not being flagged. You can bet the US would do just that.

        Basically if they want to set up a little fake island for fun, the US won't care, and would probably even help save them when the seas get rough. If they want to set it up to try and evade US law, that isn't going to fly.

        • by Hentes (2461350)

          They can sail under US flag, a US ship is permitted to house non-US people.

          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:15PM (#38206250)

            And then they are subject to all US laws. That is what a flag means. When you flag yourself in a given country (by the way the country has to permit it and register you) you are declaring that ship to be a little floating part of that country, subject to all its laws and regulations. You can also be subject to more laws, for example if you are in the waters of another country you are also subject to that country's laws, but no matter what you are subject to the laws of your flag nation.

            In the US, that includes things like immigration law.

    • I think you're being a little pessimistic on the US here.

      I have no idea on the economics of it all, but it doesn't seem like this should bother the US. The people on the ship would most likely be the high-tech worker... so nothing the US would be against. It most likely be funded by the tech startups and big companies who would have no interest in using the ship as a platform to smuggle in undesirable immigrants. They simply travel to the US when needed, like most business people do.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Found some details. Apparently yes, they plan to take on the flag of some minor country.
    • by cashman73 (855518)
      Don't forget, this little ship would be getting its internet access from the United States, too. It would be rather easy for authorities to shut that off. I suppose they could rig something up with wi-fi, but that could be jammed quite easily, too; or those offering the wi-fi could have their internet access shut off as well.
  • Gosh, Wally, what do you think they'd use those for?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:45PM (#38205866)

    .. this particular assumption is wrong.
    I am based out of Canada at the moment and I work in a big IT company. We had our annual conference in Chicago, I applied for a B1 and was refused. The grounds were that i apparently could not prove "strong ties to my home country" . I am originally from India, and my job requires me to travel a lot. This situation ( having stayed in Canada for 6 months only ) was the criteria for them to reject my entry. And i had a perfectly valid reason to visit the US.
    This is not a rant. I hope the backers of the venture understand that there are many more visa issues than what they are aware off.

    • by jd (1658)

      The US has some amazing restrictions and employment laws. For example, I am a US citizen born abroad. Because I was born abroad and lived abroad, I didn't sign up for "Selective Service". Well, duh. However, this makes me ineligible for most government jobs or indeed student loans. (Yes, I have been told this in person by government officials.) I may have lived in the US now for over half my life, paid taxes, yadda yadda yadda, but if I want additional schooling then I'd have to go back to my country of ori

      • by Aquitaine (102097) <sam@ i a m s a m . o rg> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:51PM (#38207426) Homepage

        I didn't sign up for "Selective Service".

        You seem to be under the impression that Selective Service is optional. It isn't. You were required by law to register for it within 30 days of turning 18. Being abroad doesn't exempt you from this requirement.

        Your attitude of blowing off selective service has probably got to do with the fact that nobody has been drafted in decades, but if they instituted a draft tomorrow, they can't just start collecting the information they need then - they have to maintain a database of eligible conscriptees. It sucks but that's the way of the world. If the worst that happened to you is that you can't get a federal loan or a government job, I'd say you got off pretty easy compared to, I don't know, going to Vietnam.

        That you so lightly prefer 'gulags' to the 'bigotry' you have received tells me that you have never seen a real gulag, and also that you've probably never experienced real bigotry. May you be reincarnated as a Tsarist after the Bolshevik revolution or a Japanese American during the internment camps. You'll probably bitch less about gulags and bigotry in 2011.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:45PM (#38205874) Journal
    Presumably, this would not be subject to any laws protecting employment, civil rights, etc.. Your employment and life would be subject to the whims of whoever runs the place. Even contracts need courts and laws to make them effective.
    • by jd (1658)

      Well, of course. Absolute freedom is it's own punishment. In international waters, certain laws do apply but enforcing them is extremely difficult and would be almost impossible for a permanent base out to sea. Whilst the crew still couldn't legally provide failing innovators with concrete boots, and could be prosecuted if they ever landed, nothing would require them to ever land.

  • Legalites aside... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xs650 (741277) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:49PM (#38205900)
    Legalities aside, that can be a pretty nasty hunk of ocean. There will be considerable periods of time when that ship will either be maneuvering to ride out a storm, or going someplace else to avoid a storm. A big share of the year it will need to underway just to provide a reasonable amount of stability.
  • Yes, it would be legal for such an off shore ship to house coders and do some programing jobs.

    But it would also be legal for the U.S Govt to declare that these ships are not going to be eligible for rescue and recovery by US Coast Guard, and US Navy to declare it is not their job to protect such ships from pirates. (Real ones not the software DVD pirates).

    It would also be legal for people to find the customers of these ship borne companies and the products made by them and give wide publicity for them.

  • Snow Crash??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tekrat (242117) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:49PM (#38205904) Homepage Journal

    It sounds like someone read the last half of Snow Crash and thought that this was somehow a good idea. Either that, or the Wikipedia article on L. Ron Hubbard, and figured he could get a lot of underage girls that way.

  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:50PM (#38205928) Journal

    http://developers.slashdot.org/story/05/04/20/2251203/offshoring-to-a-ship-in-international-waters [slashdot.org]

    This is a very attractive idea, and people have been attracted to it a few times before!

    This article isn't exactly a dup, but as Mark Twain said "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes"

  • ... that we don't enforce the immigration laws in many ways, but for those who would truly bring wealth to the country, this sort of approach is seriously proposed.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:53PM (#38205954) Homepage

    The proposed location is 12 miles off Maverick's Beach in Half Moon Bay, one of the world's great surfing spots.

  • Thoughts (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by DaMattster (977781)
    I am sorry to say have to say this but it should be tough for foreign entrepreneurs to make inroads into the United States. It should be a policy of US citizens first. Americans do not have a shortfall of talent that we need to import entrepreneurs. I have to beg to differ on this one.
  • Hey, dumbass. We have this thing called The Internet now. You can videoconference over it, and share text and pictures you create on your computer. Actually being in the same room with someone is less productive, overall, since you end up catching their diseases and have to spend the next week on the ship hanging over the rail. And then the pirates take all your shit and kidnap your IT department and the US Navy bills you 18 times your 5-year-plan to get them back for you.

    Fucking seriously. Why are air

  • Wonderful. We have relatively loose and liberal immigration laws, and already have tons of foreigners coming into the country to take jobs. Not just farming or service job labor, but even taking technical jobs and thus keeping wages low for Americans. Not to mention the job shortages of a weak economy. Now we have someone announcing plans to further erode what little imagined protection American workers have.

    I'm sure I've offended someone who thinks that the United States just has to open its boarders to

  • by itsme1234 (199680) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:10PM (#38206168)

    http://www.blueseed.co/ [blueseed.co]

    Now let's see if we can flood it :-)

    • Finally something factual.

      There are a lot of ignorant comments in this thread. This isn't about oppressing anyone or making people poor - it's about freeing people and letting them be productive.

      The fact that so many people find the idea horrifying explains quite well why the idea is necessary. The United States used to be known for innovation and industry, now it appears to be protectionist and stuck in its ways. That's not just a bad thing for the United States, it's a bad thing for humanity.

      Also

  • You can fill software positions. I guess if you're an insecure boss who only wants to hire people H1B so you can pay them less, treat them like crap, and they're almost forced to stay with the same company; then this will work out for you. Oh and software developers from India don't really want to come over to the US as much as they used to.
  • We could pirate intellectual property there.

  • by chiph (523845) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:43PM (#38207302)

    The navy spent years figuring out how to refuel and transfer high-value parts between two ships at sea. But they don't transfer large cargo containers, which these people would need to do in order to feed 600+ developers, staff and crew.

    And then there's the garbage issue. You can't just dump garbage over the side any more. You need to package it up and bring it back to port when you return. Oh. Wait. These people can't dock the ship anywhere, because hardly anyone on board will have a visa. So they need to move a container full of trash across to the resupply ship, too.

    This was a dumb idea in 2005, and it's still dumb today.

  • First of all, you don't just anchor a big ship 24 miles offshore in several thousand feet of water. You have to either keep the ship underway; essentially in a holding pattern... or you dynamically position the ship using thrusters and sea-floor beacons. Neither of these is cheap, requiring 24/7/365 licensed merchant marine officers on the bridge and in the engine room. And if the ship is dynamically positioned you need officers who are qualified to operate this equipment as well. Drill ships use these guys... and they are expensive and expect to work 28 days on and get 28 days off... with pay. So you'll need two crews.

    Provisioning... getting food, fuel and other supplies out to the ship... is also not cheap and would probably require a "workboat" of the type drill rigs use. If nothing else, the insurance company (you *are* going to be insured, right?) will require this as a safety measure.

    If you flag your ship offshore you cannot move it from one U.S. port to another... you have to touch at another - foreign - port in between. This is why cruise ships from Seattle to Alaska stop in British Columbia. Crew is cheaper but you incur a whole slew of other problems including convincing the USA that you can operate a foreign flag ship in the economic exclusion zone.

    Cell phones do not work 24 nm at sea... or even 12 nm offshore... and satellite communication is remarkably expensive. And bandwidth is not all that great over the communications satellites. You can get bandwidth from other sources but the latency is terrible. At least it's cheaper.

    Since I am a retired merchant marine officer (who also operated dynamic positioning equipment on several drill rigs) I can tell you that many people get very claustrophobic on a ship. Seven days on a cruise liner is no preparation for a couple of months on a converted whatever.

    I'm sure there are other pitfalls but those are just the most obvious ones.

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