INTERVIEW: A Life Aboard Ship As A Way To Solve US Visa Blockages On Start-Ups

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, 19 November 2012


The West Coast of the US is renowned for its tech start-ups but even by these standards, the idea of a "sea-stead” community for businesses off the California coast is audacious. But wealth managers should take note of the new "Blueseed" project.

The West Coast of the US is renowned for its tech start-ups and entrepreneurial flair but even by these standards, the idea of creating a new “sea-stead” community for businesses off the California coast is audacious.

A project known as Blueseed intends, as described on its website, to “station a ship 12 nautical miles from the coast of San Francisco, in international waters”. It continues: “The location will allow start-up entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world to start or grow their company near Silicon Valley, without the need for a US work visa. The ship will be converted into a co-working and co-living space, and will have high-speed internet access and daily transportation to the mainland via ferry boat. So far, over 1,000 entrepreneurs from 60-plus countries expressed interest in living on the ship. The project is backed by PayPal founder and Facebook early investor Peter Thiel.”

That’s impressive but like all such ventures, the devil is in the legal and political detail. There have been attempts, of varying success and failure in the past to create such “new jurisdictions”. Only a few weeks ago, the world was reminded that such ventures can still appear when the self-styled Prince Roy of Sealand, otherwise known as Roy Bates, died at the age of 91 after having created, back in the late 60s, his own micro-jurisdiction on an abandoned anti-aircraft tower off the UK’s East Anglia coast.

One issue is that at a time when offshore jurisdictions have been pressured by other nations for their status as so-called tax havens, no such location can afford to be seen as a place where people hide money. And the US, with its worldwide approach in taxing US citizens, is particularly assertive. As a result, any "jurisdiction entrepreneurs" need to be very mindful of national and international law. 

As far as Blueseed’s founders are concerned, there is nothing utopian about its venture. Also, the desire to foster entrepreneurship at a time when immigration visas have been squeezed by recent US administrations is an issue of direct relevance to the US wealth management industry. Today’s rookie businessmen and women could hopefully be tomorrow’s high net worth or ultra HNW individuals. So with this thought in mind, Family Wealth Report recently visited San Francisco and spoke to Max Marty, chief executive, to find out more.

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