Entrepreneur wants to build visa-free, floating tech incubator in international waters


Blueseed is a proposed tech incubator that will float in the ocean near Silicon Valley. Because it will be located in international waters, it won't be subject to immigration laws (and other laws). The developers say it will be open for business in late 2013 or early 2014.

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. Tentatively, depending on the ship we will end up selecting, we estimate that prices will be starting at $1,200/person/month for our basic accommodations. For comparison, the average monthly rent for a studio in San Francisco is $1750 as of October 2011, competition for apartments is fierce, and incubator spaces sell for $400-$650 per desk.

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.

Blueseed: Silicon Valley's visa-free offshore startup community (Via Laughing Squid)


  1. Don’t forget to check the prices at the company store. Hopefully that $1250/mo includes enough scrip to eat on.

      1. In fairness, it takes years to build one of those things and most have an operational lifespan of several decades… so deciding when the best time to build one is a tricky prospect at best.

        1. Some designers think that the supersized ones are just doomed to have accidents because they’re too damned big.

          1. I’m sure we’ll get another well-publicized disaster sooner or later. But it’s been a full century now since a whole full-sized luxury liner was lost due to accident, so statistically speaking they seem pretty safe way to go.

            Not that they don’t have serious downsides too… like all the places where sensitive coral reefs get dynamited just to provide deep enough ocean passages for the behemoths to reach port.

          2. But it’s been a full century now since a whole full-sized luxury liner was lost due to accident

            Costa Concordia?

          3. Brainspore, you’re usually more on the ball than that, or else that phrase “by accident” is doing an awful lot of work for you. Have you forgotten the Costa Concordia? The only sense in which it’s not “lost” is that we know exactly where it is. And, yes, it was lost to pilot error – but then, the Titanic was lost due to massive errors of judgment as well.

          4. I consider that one more “leaning” than “lost.” Which is admittedly still pretty bad.

  2. Float it next to Somalia during perfect-storm weather conditions and you’ve got the next (3d of course!) die-hard/disaster/waterworld fusion film  (“…in a world gone mad…”)

  3. 2003 or 2004? I can’t wait until we reach these marvelous years of technological prowess, where scientists from all over the world can collaborate free from boundaries and the general public does its grocery shopping in hovercars!

  4. So let’s see. 

    I want a bunch of talented Indians to work for me. 

    I can: 

    1. get them visas to come to San Francisco.
    2. set up a nice workplace in Mumbai/Bangalore and hire them there, using the latest and greatest in IT to integrate their work to what I’m doing in SF.
    3. hold them effectively in a prison ship thousands of miles away from any dry land where they are legally allowed to enter. 

    Gee. Which option here is best??

    1. I want a bunch of talented Indians to work for me. I can:1. get them visas to come to San Francisco.

      I believe the driving force behind this proposal is that quite often the answer is no, you can’t. Agree with the gist of what you’re saying though.

      1. If you can’t effectively lobby to change the H1B program, you can;t lobby to prevent a tightening of American regulations to clamp down on this either. 

        1. Maybe, but thus far those regulations don’t exist. We’ll see what the future brings.

        2. That’s most certainly not true. It is much, much easier to block a change in the laws and regulations of the US (especially when international maritime law is implicated, as it is here) than it is to drive a change forward. I think these guys are likely safe from any explicit regulatory changes.

    2. Don’t forget that your connection to the outside world (including data) would be satellite only! Woo hoo!

      1.  Hopefully they’ll set enough aside for the inevitable “coercive”  Coast Guard / Navy rescues. 

        1. not gonna happen. good luck getting the ship to sit still to preserve the P2P link…

          1. Your ignorance is showing. That’s a solved problem; it’s called dynamic positioning and it’s pretty much bog standard technology for big ships at this point.

        2.  30 something miles of deepsee glassfiber backbone are actualy rather cheap. With that in place one could have a offshored serverfarm with quite low latencies.

          I would be worried about the energy on that ship. either they get a grid connection by the same cable or produce power in other ways. I doubt they can afford a nuclear reactor (unless they buy a russian sub) and diesel gets very expensive in the long run. Solar? Offshore wind?

    3. The goal is the same as H-1b: drive down wages. So far its working well. Wages are flat and unemployment is high.

      The weird part is how many tech workers support wage suppression.

      1. You believe in the “lump of labor” theory?

        In any case, open-source programming is an even lower-cost producer than these ships and I’ve heard little protest about it.

  5. Yea tech people. You thought work for hire, non-compete contracts, H1b visa servitude sucked wait until your labor is covered by the law of the sea! EA could work employees to death and only be liable for burial cost. Think about how little burial at sea costs.

  6. My new business plan:

    1. Get the contract to provide security services.
    2. Wait until we’re in international waters.
    3. Kick everyone off and steal giant luxury ship.
    4. Profit!

  7. Whoever’s planning this never has been out on a ship off the coast for much time.  Same for the concept artist.

    1. Especially off the coast of the San Francisco Peninsula. It is not equatorial people. It is going to be utterly miserable in the winter.

      1. The whole thing smells like a Bruce McCall humor piece.  That the illustration style is 99.44% McCall leads me to HOAX ALERT HOAX ALERT HOAX ALERT !!!

        Bad Boing Boing.  Bad.

        1. Agreeing a bit here.  Seriously, there is no way you’d have that kind of illustrated shipboard experience off CA in the winter.  Someone is seriously deluded.

        1. Good one. Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said something like “the coldest winter I ever spent was one summer in San Francisco?”

          1. I lived in the Outer Sunset for 12 years. It was quite literally colder in the summer than winter in particularly bad years. We had no sun, not even one single second of sun or clear sky, for three months at one point.

    2. The San Francisco Pilots have a dangerous enough job boarding and disembarking ships off-shore.  Now, I can only imagine stranded, seasick techies not meeting productivity metrics.  Lends a new meaning to “heaving” decks.

    3. You are entirely correct. This thing is not going to be sunk by regulations — it will be sunk by the difficulties and expense of operating on the open sea. Anyone who believes the $1200/mon number is a fool.

  8. I think they need to be a little careful about the kinds of business they allow. Apparently, the United States can (and does) arrest people in international waters, bring them to the US, try, and convict them for violating US law.  Here’s a story about a guy who was stopped in international waters off Columbia by American law enforcement, arrested, brought to Florida, and convicted of cocaine smuggling.  Not to side with cocaine smugglers, but hey.  The War of 1812 was fought to prevent the British Navy from  doing just about the same kind of thing to US merchantmen.


    1. Any nation can arrest anyone in international waters if they’re wanted for crimes, even if the crime wasn’t done within that nation. It’s called universal jurisdiction.

        1. In this case, the crime would have been committed in Columbia (I suppose) when the cocaine was smuggled out.  So wouldn’t the United States then have to return the smuggler to Columbia to face trial, rather than do so in Florida, where no crime had been committed?  

    2. “A little careful” you say?  I’d be “a little careful” choosing to work at a place that hosted most anything shady that wasn’t legal in the US.  

    3. No, the War of 1812 was fought to stop the British Navy conscripting American sailors.

      I’m not sure if they were also stopping American slave ships by this point- it’s in the short period between the establishment of the West Africa Preventive Squadron and the US Navy starting to contribute ships to it.

  9. I like how all these libertarian nerds fancy themselves as something like Superhero/Bond villains gone Galt…

    I keep waiting to here about one of these being built in a tiny island’s dormant volcano……

    1. They’ve got a much better track record at proposing these things than actually building them. I don’t know why they don’t just go the extra mile and propose a giant hover-fortress.

        1. How dare you, sir. No self-respecting libertarian would ever pin their hopes on a plan that involved something as nefarious as GOVERNMENT.

    1. Seems like libertarians have been floating this idea for a decade or more, but they never seem to move any closer to an actual launch. At least if it’s associated with Silicon Valley, everyone involved will have a convenient jargon term to use when this plan fails: “vaporware.”

  10. Hmmm. A large visible reminder to the US government of how stupid its immigration laws are? Oh, like they’re going to tolerate that for long…

    1. If there was a labor shortage then wages would be rising. There is no data to support that. In fact, there is high unemployment.

      1.  In general, this is a correct statement. However, wages for certain kinds of software developers and other engineers, especially in the Bay Area, are currently rising.

      2.  It is none of the State’s business whether there’s a “shortage” or not.

  11. I’ve seen a few posts about these guys lately. Surely it’d be cheaper to setup in the border areas of Mexico or on a Caribbean island, no?

    If you want to be near Silicon Valley you setup in Tijuana. You’d have the same benefits without the need for a helicopter or ferry boat ride to get to shore. And building a nice big building on dry land is substantially cheaper than a boat. All it requires is a visa for your employees to work in Mexico. I’d be willing to bet that it wouldn’t be hard to arrange something with the Mexican government to fast track visas for any business that setup in this incubator.

    Similarly if you want to be near the US East coast you setup on a Caribbean island.

    And as a bonus you have terrestrial high speed Internet options instead of needing to use satellite or microwave links.

    But setting up an incubator for startups somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean isn’t nearly as sexy as doing it on a boat.

    1.  I think you’re forgetting that Mexico and Carribean islands have existing governments with very definite opinions about such things. And Mexico has a nasty problem with kidnapping and violence.

      1. Governments which would be happy to have millions and millions of dollars invested in infrastructure (buildings, etc) needed to operate the incubator. Even if none of the local population was hired to do programming work you’re talking about a multi-million dollar investment in the building itself, the staff needed to maintain it, not to mention that everyone that winds up working at one of the startups will be spending some amount of money in the area. And once the incubator has been established you’ve just created a place for educated locals to find high paying jobs.

        TJ may not be the place to locate it, but my point stands – doing this on land has got to be way cheaper. Even if you had to build a huge compound and pay for awesome security it would still be cheaper than just the operating costs for a ship anchored off the coast.

  12. At the bottom of their main website, I see

    Want Blueseed to launch faster? Vote for us and spread the word.

    Hmmm, I think, what interesting compitition can it be that will give this startup the millions it will need to actually launch faster?

    I click on the link and see what they would actually get from “VatorSplash” if they won:

    The Splash winner will get:

    — Professional video of his/her presentation– One-hour sit-down meeting with Javelin Venture Partners — One-hour sit-down meeting with Rustic Canyon Partners– A magnum of wine, courtesy Cult of 8– $2,000 per month of cloud hosting credits for 12 months, courtesy Rackspace

    The Splash People’s Choice Award will get: 

    — A magnum of wine, courtesy Cult of 8

    Now I understand that this idea is 100% bullshit. Really? 12 months of a small bit of cloudhosting space plus a magnum of wine is going to help this gigantic luxury living liner launch faster? Is this whole idea just a scam to try and win that magnum of wine?

  13. And it won’t be bound by labor laws or petty things like health and safety inspections. Don’t YOU want to be on ship with impoverished, frustrated service staff that have no recourse?

    1.  Any ship that meets a US port (I am assuming they’ll have to dock at some point to get everyone on from the get go, trucking all that equipment 12 miles out is going to be a nightmare…) must meet US Coast Guard and health and safety inspections.  There’s a reason the Scientologists don’t have their ship dock in the US anymore.

      1. I am reassured that any boat docking in the us has to pass certain inspections.
        My assumption, based on the image, was that, once built, they wouldn’t have to dock again, and that they would be using the ferry and helipads for passengers and cargo, or offloading from other ships (the giant cargo containers on the deck).  I have heard horror stories about cruise ship working conditions, and I can easily imagine how much worse it could be…

    2. A ship in the brightest of spotlights would face a PR nightmare if anything aboard would be unsafe. It’s in the interest of Blueseed, from a pure business point of view, to ensure things run well, and everyone aboard is safe.

      1. Hi there. I understand you’re trying to defend the legitimacy of Blueseed against all of us annoying skeptical people. As someone who’s had my fair share of ideas-that-everyone-else-thinks-are-crazy, let me offer you some advice:

        Nobody is going to stop thinking you’re crazy. Nobody is going to stop telling you that you’re crazy. Everybody who thinks that Blueseed is going to be a catastrophic failure will never, ever stop thinking that until it is not a catastrophic failure.

        We think you’re wrong. You think we’re wrong. The only way this impasse is going to be resolved is for one of us to prove the other wrong. The only way that’s going to happen is for you to focus all of your energy on making Blueseed a reality, instead of wasting it trying to convert non-supporters. Talk to the people who aren’t completely rolling their eyes at you.

        The sooner this freedom-boat thing actually happens, the sooner one of us is going to eat our words. See if you can make it be me. I wish you luck with that.

  14. I wonder who they’ll run to when the pirates show up.  These floating city ideas never seem to grasp that when you’re in international waters, you’re on you’re own.  Unless they’re going to have military defense systems installed or something.  That might be interesting…

    1. While this is a bad idea for a number of reasons, I don’t think there is a big piracy problem just off the California coast.

      1.  Sure, not yet.  There’s no giant floating City of Nerds out there waiting to be overrun.

  15. Wasn’t this a Laurel and Hardy movie? The Libertarian Utopia idea comes up every 10-20 years, sucks a bunch of money out of the gullible and then vanishes until the next time.

  16. For those of you who read German and are in for a treat: Arno Schmidt, Die Gelehrtenrepublik. Weird and funny. cold war sci-fi.

  17. Isn’t this the same thing as Seacode from 2005? Boingboing post: http://boingboing.net/2005/04/19/sweat-ship-offshore.html 

    A Forbes article had two hilarious quotes from the founders: “We’re not a slave ship,” says Cook. Adds Green, “It’s like the International Space Station.””Try to get American software engineers to work at night,” says Cook. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2005/0509/048.html?_requestid=2103 

    1. Not like it’s near one of the world’s highest concentrations of great white sharks or nuthin’.

    2. Here in San Francisco we call this weather “summer”. 

      I really, really want them to build and launch this since it will make our local news so much more entertaining during the first winter storm…

  18. “I am Andrew Ryan, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? ‘No!’ says the man in Washington, ‘It belongs to the poor.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘It belongs to God.’ ‘No!’ says the man in Moscow, ‘It belongs to everyone.’ I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, Where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.”
    Let the social experiment begin…

  19. The concept art is missing something; Rafts of garbage and floating human turds, and gleaming slicks of waste oil.

    Because, really, can you imagine trying to get the kind of bozos who’d propose something like this to clean up after themselves?

  20. Cruises to Nowhere …?

    “In 1994 Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, already a multi-millionaire by founding the Miami Subs sandwich shop franchise, bought a number of luxury yachts. He remodeled the yachts as casinos, and began to operate his “cruises to nowhere,” sailing three miles from the Florida coast into what was then considered international waters.[5] There, out on the sea, passengers would gamble on poker, blackjack and slot machines. Boulis called his fleet of 11 ships the SunCruz Casino line. By the time he sold the company in 2000, SunCruz Casinos was earning tens of millions of dollars in annual profits, and employed over 2,000 people.In September 2007, SunCruz discontinued operation at Palm Beach.[6] Service has subsequently been discontinued at Daytona and Treasure Island.”


    Lots of criminal business going on with SunCruz …

    “February 6, 2001, Boulis was found shot to death in his car on a Fort Lauderdale street.”

    Perhaps there is a market for “Cruises to Nowhere (without organized criminal gambling and money laundering) for Techies” …?  

    On the other hand, there will be a lot of tech entrepreneur money pouring into a project like this (assuming it sails) … that’s gambling, with more diverse outcomes … tech entrepreneurs, lots of unrestrained youthful appetites … perhaps crime would yield better returns, after all.

  21. This reminds me of the sweat ship story from a week or two ago, how cruise ships are able to screw employees and ignore labor and safety and environmental laws by registering with Liberia, or whatever country has the most lax standards.
    http://boingboing.net/2012/04/29/75ph-on-the-high-seas-tippin.html There's also an organization that sails around Europe to countries where abortion is banned or highly restricted, picks up women who would like an abortion or contraceptives, and takes them out to international waters to perform abortions, like pirates of pro-choice. http://www.womenonwaves.org/article-234-en.html

  22. Why do i just see the translator microbes going off to the phrase no immigration laws  and international waters meaning “Slave labor, and sex slaves with no way off unless dead” Worst case Scenario is we get people who graft other peoples skin on to them and develop telekinetic powers …

  23. Just took another look at the illustration – the flat, balmy ocean surface is actually hilarious to anybody who’s ever been out on the water around San Francisco. 

  24. Sealand Called. It wanted it’s stupid non-working idea back…


    Just putting something off the coast of a country, and then declaring yourself independent, doesn’t make it so.

    I’m sure the US navy might have something to say about an independent nation springing up off the coast of California saying it doesn’t have to abide by US law.

  25. If you don’t think that the primary motive here is to create a tax shelter, I’ve got a floating office to sell you. 

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