Blueseed is a Silicon Valley-based startup company and a seasteading venture to create a startup community located on a vessel stationed in international waters near the coast of Silicon Valley in the United States. The intended location (outside the territorial seas of the United States, 12 nautical miles from the coast of California, in the so-called “contiguous zone”) would enable non-U.S. startup entrepreneurs to work on their ventures without the need for a US work visa (H1B), while living in proximity to Silicon Valley and using relatively easier to obtain business and tourism visas (B1/B2) to travel to the mainland. After the conclusion of their incubation on the vessel, successful startups may relocate to Silicon Valley and employ local workforce. The project received wide media coverage and the promise of funding from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who also supports The Seasteading Institute, who ultimately did not invest in the seed round. Blueseed later obtained US$300,000 in seed funding, Bitcoin investments, and $9M from an undisclosed investor and planned to lease a ship for its platform. Launch was planned for summer 2014, provided that $18M more was raised.
Blueseed is now on hold due to insufficient funding and the founders are working on different projects.
Blueseed was co-founded in July 2011 by Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija, who had worked together at The Seasteading Institute as Directors of Business Strategy and Legal Strategy, respectively. Blueseed's CIO/CTO (later COO), Dan Dascalescu, who joined the company shortly after its incorporation, is also an ambassador for the Seasteading Institute.
The stated motivations of the project include providing an entrepreneurial alternative to the Startup Visa Act, which has not seen any progress in Congress, and creating "a vibrant workplace for innovative industries to bloom, unencumbered by onerous regulations on new technology-sector businesses". On November 30, 2011, venture capitalist Peter Thiel offered to lead Blueseed's seed financing round. The number of startups that expressed interest in locating on Blueseed grew from 31 on November 14, 2011, to 60 a month later, to over 100 by February 2012, 133 on May 7, 194 as of May 9, more than 250 as of June 6, and 336 on December 13, 2012.
In October 2012, Blueseed made public a page listing its partnerships with a number of other companies and organizations, including startup accelerators, incubators, and venture capitalists in the US and abroad, as well as companies that would help provide services and resources that could help Blueseed operate its seasteading platform. Notable partners include Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman (legal representation), Fenwick & West (legal representation), Startup Weekend, Nanyang Technological University, Golden Gate Ventures, Open Network Labs, Start-Up Chile, MassChallenge (global pipeline partners), Singularity University, the Seasteading Institute (Blueseed being the first commercial seasteading venture), and Shopify (e-commerce platform).
In December 2012, Blueseed announced that it had successfully closed its seed round with funding from Mike Maples of Floodgate Fund as well as Trevor Kienzle of Correlation Ventures, Xu Xiaoping and Wang Qiang of ZhenFund, and other investors. Thiel decided not to invest in that round.
In March 2013, Blueseed announced the project's launch cost to be $27M, of which $9M were reserved for an existing investor.
In April 2013, first non-founder employee, CFO Sam Bhagwat, left after thirteen months.
In July 2013, Blueseed closed a funding round from Bitcoin investors.
On July 31, 2013, two years after its founding, Blueseed co-founder Marty announced that he was stepping down from his day-to-day activities at the company and taking the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors. Dascalescu, the erstwhile CIO/CTO, became the COO of Blueseed, while Mutabdzija took the role of CEO.
Blueseed originally estimated a launch timeframe of Q3 2013 but has since revised its launch estimate to Q3-Q4 2014.
Blueseed co-founder Marty claims that the idea of Blueseed came to him while on a Reason Cruise in February 2011. Marty also cited his experience seeing fellow students at US universities leave the US because of the difficulty of getting visas for startups as an inspiration for the idea.
A similar idea was proposed by Theresa Klein as an entry for The Seasteading Institute's "Sink or Swim Business Contest" for 2010 and won the second prize. The entry was titled "Boundless Talent Consulting Services" and the business plan was released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Marty was one of the judges for that contest. The contest winners were announced in January 2011. Klein's proposal differed from Blueseed's plan in that Klein focused on workers in general who had difficulty getting H-1Bs whereas Blueseed has been focused on startups and entrepreneurs.
A Los Angeles Times article about Blueseed noted that another company called SeaCode, led by Roger Green and David Cook, had attempted something similar in the past but had to put the project aside because they were unable to raise enough money to launch. SeaCode had been covered in the press as far back as 2005.
The project plans to either convert a cruise ship or remodel a barge in order to provide a living accommodations, coworking space, and entertainment facilities for approximately 1,000 customers paying an average of USD 1500 in monthly rent (ranging between $1200 and $3000, and combined with a small equity stake). The vessel would be stationed 12 nautical miles from the coast of California, near the port of Half Moon Bay, and would have a crew of 200-300. The location is situated outside the territorial waters of the United States of America, thus not being subject to its immigration laws. Internet connectivity would be provided via a point-to-point microwave link, submarine communications cable, a laser link, or a mesh network of wireless routers placed on autonomous Liquid Robotics environmentally-powered ocean platforms.
The Blueseed ship will be stationed in the contiguous zone outside the territorial waters of the United States, which according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, allows it to be present as long as it does not engage in the exploitation of natural resources, and exhibits no intent of infringing on the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the United States.
In September 2013, Blueseed announced successful discussions with the United States Coast Guard regarding the legality and logistics of the project.
Following the precedent set by the cruise shipping industry, the Blueseed ship will fly the flag of an open registry country such as Marshall Islands or The Bahamas, which will determine the de jure laws that apply on board.
In terms of taxation, Blueseed will not impose tax; however, individuals are responsible for paying their financial dues according to their country of residence. Corporate tax will be paid by startups located on board based on the country of incorporation.
Businesses that are generally illegal in the United States, such as gambling or prostitution, will be forbidden on the ship.
News anchor Melissa Francis called Blueseed a "genius idea". Craig Montuori, an evangelist for the Startup Visa, writes of Blueseed that "I can vouch for their passion on creating workarounds for jobs creating foreign entrepreneurs while waiting for Congress to create a Startup Visa as someone who has been advocating for Startup Visa for the past year." Cyan Banister writes for TechCrunch: "Hats off to Max and Dario for dreaming big and trying to make a difference in the world." Stewart Alsop, a startup co-founder, writes on Quora: "I really have no doubt as to whether Blueseed will be successful at promoting innovation. It will have close access to investors, an international environment without precedent that I can find, and a self selecting population that will be highly entrepreneurial." Natalie MacNeil, an Emmy Award winner who has applied to be on board Blueseed's vessel, writes, "This is the perfect solution for me and my company; it’s everything I could possibly want. If I could, I would move my startup to Silicon Valley in a heartbeat but there isn’t a visa option for the stage I’m at and budget I’m working on. Up until discovering Blueseed, my lawyer advised me to get a job with a digital media firm since I qualify for an Extraordinary Ability Visa because I’m an Emmy Award winner. That Visa could lead to a Green Card in a few years and then I’d be able to continue with my business. But I truly believe the time for my business is now. I have so much momentum and I want to run with it. Thank you for dreaming up such an awesome incubator concept and I hope to meet the Blueseed team on board in 2014!"