Pirates of Silicon Valley: High Tech on the High Seas

May 9, 2012

The startup world has been clamoring for ways to make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the U.S., but so far, Congress has  failed to do its part. 

But now some entrepreneurs are taking matters into their own hands.  Nearly 140 start-up companies are vying to get onboard Blueseed, the world’s first floating incubator. 

Set to launch next year, Blueseed is a visa-free startup community on a vessel anchored outside U.S. waters, half an hour from Silicon Valley.  According to the Huffington post,

“The idea behind Blueseed is to provide a visa-free locale where foreign entrepreneurs can create technology companies that utilize resources in Silicon Valley without having to deal with the cumbersome process of obtaining a U.S. visa.”

What kind of person would want to spend months at sea?  Blueseed released a survey of its members and 20% of participating startups were already based in the U.S., with others hailing from India (10%), Australia (6%), Canada (5%), and Great Brittan (5%).  Of those 133 ready startups, 35% say they would be ready to move in now, if the ship was complete.  On average, each startup would move around four people to the ship to begin building their company. 

Of course, visa-related issues are very important to these entrepreneurs.  Forty-four percent of those surveyed said an “alternative to having to get US work visa for myself or other company founders” was critical to them and over half said that "streamlined legal and regulatory environment made with low overhead in mind" is "very important" or "critical" when deciding where to locate their business. 

The case for welcoming immigrant entrepreneurs is a strong one.  Many of the American companies you think of today, including Google, eBay and Yahoo, would not exist without immigrant entrepreneurs.  According to a Duke University research study, over a quarter of all engineering and technology firms launched in the U.S. over the last 10 years have had at least one immigrant founder.

The Chamber has a been a vocal supporter of improving federal policy to better cater to immigrant entrepreneurs and permit foreign talent to work in the United States to create jobs.  Earlier this year the Chamber released a report on steps the U.S. can take to tailor immigration laws to encourage the best and the brightest to create jobs on U.S. soil.  Among the recommendations:

  • Cut red tape by eliminating the bureaucratic procedures that restrict entrepreneurs trying to emigrate to the United States to start businesses and hire American workers.
  • Create a visa category specifically targeted for immigrant entrepreneurs who want to establish a U.S. enterprise and create jobs. Current law typically only permits foreign nationals to remain in the United States if they are employed by an existing company or can invest $500,000 or more.

You can read the full report and here.


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