Starting a startup is becoming easier and easier nowadays, with cloud computing eliminating the need for a physical server farm. But what hasn’t become easier, is relocating your startup to Silicon Valley if an entrepreneur from outside the US tries to do so. As usual, technology has progressed far faster than immigration legislation.
Indeed, if an Indian entrepreneur wants to move their startup to Silicon Valley in order to benefit from the abundance of capital, or perhaps to achieve a successful exit (Google has been acquiring a company about every two weeks for the past years), they will have a hard time doing so. At the moment, there is no Startup Visa.
While a bill was introduced in March 2011, the U.S. Congress hasn’t made any progress on it (and with the upcoming elections, it’s unlikely that any progress will be made). Business (B-1) or tourist (B-2) visas for Indian citizens are valid for 10 years, but they don’t allow for income to be earned. H-1B and L-1 visas require an employer. The E-2 investor visa is available only to “Treaty” countries, which include Albania and Kosovo, but not India. And the EB-5 visa requires an investment of $1,000,000.
Now let’s remember that Silicon Valley is in California, very close to its Pacific coast (about 45 minutes by car). Here’s a map. Note that on the map, in the ocean, there is a line that mirrors the coastline, and forms a partial circle around an island. That line is 12 nautical miles from shore (22 kilometers, or 30 minutes by ferry) and is the limit of the United States territorial waters. Outside this line, the U.S. has no jurisdiction.
What if a large ship were anchored in a spot beyond this line? The ship would be outside U.S. jurisdiction, where immigration laws don’t apply. At the same time, the ship would be close enough to shore that travelling to Silicon Valley would take about an hour and a half (ferry + disembarking + car travel).
An entrepreneur from India could live and work on that ship, and use their business / tourist visa to come to Silicon Valley for events or to meet investors. Partners from the mainland could come to the ship at any time as well, since they’d be U.S. residents.
The idea isn’t new – creating permanent communities on the ocean is called “seasteading”. This could well be a feasible & easier way for Indian Entrepreneurs wanting to move Silicon Valley!
What do you think? Will this idea sink or swim?
[The article is written by Dan Dascalescu, CIO of startup in Silicon Valley, Blueseed, that works on creating a seastead (or “shipstead”) especially for startup entrepreneurs. You can check out the most frequently asked questions ]