Start-ups jump on-board Silicon Valley ship

Summary:Working alongside like-minded entrepreneurs in start-up spaces like the York Butter Factory and Fishburners has been favoured by many fledgling firms, but recognised as being too far from Silicon Valley. But another start-up has now garnered support for its idea that could make California much more accessible.

Working alongside like-minded entrepreneurs in start-up spaces like the York Butter Factory and Fishburners has been favoured by many fledgling firms, but recognised as being too far from Silicon Valley. But another start-up has now garnered support for its idea that could make California much more accessible.

Peter Thiel
(2008-09-08_17-24-26 image by TechCrunch50-2008, CC BY 2.0)

Start-up Blueseed wants to launch a ship in the third quarter of 2013, or the first quarter of 2014 — a ship that's capable of carrying 1000 entrepreneurs within 12 miles of California's coast. That's just out of reach of US jurisdiction, and places the Blueseed vessel in international waters. It will provide entrepreneurs with a 90-minute commute to Silicon Valley via ferry or speedboat, or, for the more cashed-up, 15 minutes via helicopter. Visa requirements for this sort of travel are reduced to only needing an accessible business visa, as the would-be entrepreneur would technically not be living in the US.

Backed by venture capitalist Peter Thiel and announced at the end of last year, the project has now attracted a raft of start-ups willing to jump on-board. Including eight Australian firms, 148 start-ups in total have expressed an interest in being the first aboard what is envisioned to be the "Googleplex of the sea". The majority of interested firms come from the US, representing 23.3 per cent of the ship's theoretical population at the moment, followed by India, at 10.1 per cent. Australian start-ups represent 5.4 per cent.

Despite the effort of creating a space on a ship outside of US jurisdiction, in a preliminary survey, start-ups indicated that one of the most critical factors for their interest is to live and work in a technology start-up-oriented space. Second on the list is the need to be close to Silicon Valley investors.

There is also the promise that the idea could save start-ups some money. Company overheads could be reduced by literally offshoring office space; space is currently estimated to range between US$1200 (if you're willing to share) to US$3000 per person, per month. Comparable space in San Francisco costs US$1750 per person, per month, according to Blueseed, and the floating start-up space has said that it won't impose a tax on its tenants. Start-ups can also choose to provide a share in the firm to Blueseed, and pay less in rent.

Blueseed has yet to decide on what vessel it will use, but it's clear that it will not be a small boat. Concept vessel art depicts Blueseed as less of a ship and more a giant floating city, complete with one or more helipads, loading areas for shipping containers, sports facilities and even landscaping on the ship's decks. So far, the company plans to convert an existing cruise ship, use an accommodation barge, or custom build its own. Blueseed has been supported in this decision by two maritime advisors, and it has also brought on two immigration/political advisors.

In the future, it hopes to look at other business models, such as renting out space on the vessel for events and conferences, and, at a later date, possibly launching similar ships in other parts of the world.

Although the project was begun to solve the problem of creating a business in Silicon Valley, the start-up has recognised that the US might respond by fixing its visa issues. In that case, Blueseed has a simple answer: "We'll move the ship 1 mile from shore."

Topics: Start-Ups, Government : AU

About

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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