'Start-up ships' floated as solution to foreign brain drain

Current U.S. immigration and work visa rules can be so challenging that foreign students, workers and entrepreneurs have to head to other countries to fulfill their high-tech dreams. Now, a California startup is proposing to stem the tide of the brain drain by docking a residence vessel in international waters 12 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

Future innovators would then be just a short boat ride away from the Silicon Valley action. Max Marty, CEO and co-founder of Sunnyvale-based Blueseed, said, "A lot of people say, `I'd like to go to Silicon Valley' but there is no way for them to do it." Marty, the son of Cuban immigrants came up with the idea after hearing his international classmates at the University of Miami wish they could stay on in the U.S. after graduation.

It's an issue that has been debated in political circles; no one wants to restrict innovation and job creation, nor do politicians wish to see talent trained here leave for foreign shores.

The Startup Visa Act was a bill reintroduced into Congress this year by Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., John Kerry, D-Mass., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind. It would allow immigrant entrepreneurs and foreign graduates from U.S. universities to appeal for a two-year visa "on condition that they secure financing from a qualified U.S. investor and can demonstrate the ability to create American jobs."

While the introduction of the bill shows there are those in Washington paying attention to the loss of talent, the team at Blueseed felt the need to come up with a forward thinking solution given a challenging political climate.

Floating cities aren't new. Aircraft carriers house thousands for long stretches at sea as do oil rigs and cargo ships. The infrastructure would not be hard to replicate and update to include all the modern conveniences, environmentally sustainable design and safety precautions for mooring in potentially stormy seas.

This "start-up ship" would be registered in a country that has reputable laws; those laws would bind residents at sea. They could obtain temporary or tourist visas to head ashore for important meetings — an important selling point for according to the team at Blueseed who believe in the risky business of tech start-ups, the in-person factor is key to the culture.

With plans to accommodate approximately 1,000 people, a live-work space would cost about $1,200 a month.

Critics believe investors would be better served contributing to ventures that help Americans create businesses.

Proponents point to the positive effect it would have on local businesses as potential suppliers for the vessel. Supporters also note that if the U.S. does nothing to attract and retain foreign entrepreneurship, other countries will.

Peter Thiel, a founder of PayPal and a supporter of the off-shore movement has announced he would lead Blueseed's financing search. Blueseed wants to raise $10 million to $30 million over the next year and a half. The goal would be to launch in late 2013.

Via Huffington Post

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook