Ahoy me hearties; an offshore way around America’s green card requirements?

By Peter Kerr 15/12/2011

Partly because they were cheeky enough to ask, and partly because it is such a wild idea, here’s a plug for would-be entrepreneurial pirates.

Along similar lines to Radio Hauraki, way back in the 1960s beating the then broadcasting laws by positioning their ship outside the (then) three mile territorial limit, Blueseed is looking to do something similar for foreign entrepreneurs in Northern California.

That is, set up a platform (also known as a seastead) 12 miles offshore in international waters, with regular ferries to the mainland — which just happens to have Silicon Valley and its associated innovation ecosystem just down the road.

As Dan Dascalescu (Blueseed’s CIO who sent the ‘do a story on us’ email) says, the investor-seeking start up is looking to establish a 1000 person vessel and offshore incubator in the second half of 2013.

‘This way we’ll allow foreign startup entrepreneurs to live and work in close proximity to Silicon Valley, in a unique setting geared towards creativity and innovation, with a streamlined regulatory environment,’ he says. The operation would be visa-free.

At this stage, Blueseed intends to charge $1,200 per person per month for a shared room and bathroom, up to $3,000/month for a private cabin/bathroom. The company’s business model includes taking a 1%-9% negotiable equity stake in younger startups depending on how much equity they have on hand.

The venture’s an attempt to get around the often-restrictive USA immigration laws that make it very difficult for those non-Americans attempting to set up new, innovative businesses in the land of the good and the free.

The founders (Dascalescu, Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija) readily admit that there’s a hell of a lot of logistical, political, operational and financial hurdles to overcome. However, the trio has raised a small amount of seed money, and is looking to raise another US$500,000 in the next few months, and then obtain another $10 million to $30 million to charter or purchase a suitable vessel.

Blueseed recently announced that PayPal founder, Xero investor and promoter of the Seasteading Institute (see here), Peter Thiel, has offered to lead the seed funding round.

They reckon the space they’d create would be interesting and enticing and innovative, attracting the best startups and their founders. It could even entice U.S. entrepreneurs currently living on dry land, such would be the positive environment that could be part of the whole operation.

Obviously the reality gap between talking the talk and walking the walk for the Blueseed venture is immense. But, you can’t accuse the founders of thinking small. New Zealand entrepreneurs have recently been provided with a Silicon Valley ‘landing pad’ via New Zealand’s Ministry of Science & Innovation (see sticK story here).

As evidenced by the artist’s conception of what a potential seastead could look like, landing pads of a helicopter kind would be part and parcel of the Blueseed bid. At this stage, it would certainly be one way round the American visa problem.

As you can imagine, the ad(venture) has gathered media interest. CNET News gives it version of Blueseed here, TechCrunch gives its rundown here, and Slashdot here.

Dascalescu also recommended Blueseed’s FAQ page as answering some of the host of questions asked for what is, if nothing else, a potentially clever way around the USA’s green card issues.