Startups have a hard enough time getting started on dry land, but a wacky idea may just take hold to build a floating startup city off the coast of California. Called Blueseed.co, the idea is that non-Americans have trouble getting work visas and can’t come here to startup their ideas. So why not repurpose an old cruise ship and stock it with brainy and motivated folks who will live and work just outside the 12-mile coastal limit of US territory?
Blueseed’s plan is to anchor their new geek nation just off Half Moon Bay, and ferry folks back and forth on a regular schedule. So far they have thousands of people from half the world’s countries who have signed up saying they are interested.
It could work, but there is a lot to deal with before the notion can float their boat. To begin with, the 200-mile limit (rather than 12) may apply to such ventures, and the US government could say it is a tax haven or supporting criminal activities and take possession. That has some legal precedent. Or getting a reliable Internet connection that doesn’t have gobs of network latency might be an issue for all those entrepreneurs that are trying to build their next Big Data apps scooping up all the bandwidth-at-sea. Then there is the comfort factor and you may want to pack your pills when you head out. Having a cruise ship sitting idle on the high seas defeats their stabilizers, which only work when the propulsion system is operating. It is bad enough that you want to pull an all-nighter and then have to deal with mal de mer the next day. That could cut down on your productivity and crush that innovative spirit quickly.
Blueseed has raised some money from some interesting VCs that have been around the tech space for some time, but they are just getting started. They have some nice concept drawings (see above) of what life at sea would look like, and they remind me of an aquatic Paolo Soleri. The architect of Arcosanti in the Arizona desert is still alive, and credited with being one of the early visionaries of seasteading, as these efforts are called. There is a foundation with that name as well that has been making some noise and holding conferences.
I visited Arcosanti probably 30 years ago and it was a curiosity then. There were large-scale concrete structures that took their cues from sci-fi movie sets, and dedicated 20-somethings trying to live there full-time. Apparently, few want to live there now, and those large structures are still unfinished. I bought one of their wind chimes that they were selling, and that you can still find in hip gift shops. Here is an interesting interview with Soleri done a few years ago that explains more of his vision.
Does seasteading have a smooth sail ahead? Who knows. It is certainly an intriguing idea.