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Floating colony for startup entrepreneurs [Novel Idea?]

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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.

startup vessel

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.

blueseed vessel

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 ]

  1. Brajeshwar Oinam says

    Girish of Freshdesk have done a good job of outlining how to incorporate a Company in US from India – http://www.pluggd.in/incorporating-company-in-usa-from-outside-297/.

  2. Lovely. But "they" should remove the employer tying up of H1B visa (Work visa). If a guy/gal has proven to move back to parent country and return back on business, he/she can get long term work visa's based on own knowledge cognizance, without any fuzz. After all, he/she is going to pay up the taxes, inlcuding local sales tax apart from the Income Tax @ Federal and Local levels + about 16% of total income, paycheck after paycheck towards the Social Security and Medicare Taxes that never comes back, unless he/she stays back there to benefit from it.

    1. Brajeshwar says

      I don’t quite understand what you’re trying to explain. No person can have a dual-visa (H-1B and B-1/B-2), any Visa granted the last over-rides the earlier one. So, if someone applies and is granted a B-1 Visa, the H Visa is nullified.

      And you cannot, even if you want to, pay tax and whatever you said, on a B-1 Visa. You’re not allowed to earn money on US soil under a B-1 Visa. You’re however, allowed to be reimbursed – travel, entertainment, et al. by a person/entity with whom you’ve business relations (supposedly while you were still in your home country).

      Of course, there are special cases where a B-1 Visa holder can work pretty much like a H-1B on a short term, but then you’re not paid, you do not need to pay tax in US.

      And I’m pretty sure, you cannot simply walk in and get an SSN while you’re visiting on a B Visa to the US. For that matter, you’re not even allowed to take-up any course/education run by a registered institution, specially if it involved fee payment. You’re however, allowed to take-up any course which are free, etc. etc.

      It’s pretty weird and the **** is all over the place. These are few things that I know and again, none of the above have any legal prudence and I’ll disavow anything to do with it’s application or otherwise. ;-)

  3. James Greg says

    The idea seems fascinating and I might do much good. However living on a ferry would get tedious after sometime and the constant salt air would become less pleasing and would result in less creativity as the excitement wears off.

  4. Brajeshwar Oinam says

    First, I love this idea and Blueseed is pretty interesting. I would like to experience it even if its for the fun part of it.

    With regards to the H-1B and L-1, I think we need to elaborate a little bit more on that.
    With the recently updated 'clarification' if a company's board agrees and vote that a person can stay and work (even for his own company) and sustain himself, s/he can be granted a H-1B. Which translates rather like this, "if you get funded, seed or otherwise." You can bring yourself under H-1B working for your own company.

    For L-1, You don't really need an employer per se. Setting up a Delaware Incorporation in US don't really require that you be a Green Card or a Citizen. You can 'visit' the US and incorporate a company, stating that you plan come to the US in future and will seek legalities (EIN, et al). You can even say that you don't have a Social Security Number at that moment (while incorporating). With that, you start a company in US, perhaps employ people there or you yourself work from India after forming either a parent, sister or subsidiary in India (Pvt. Ltd. the best option). L-1 is applicable once you work for 1+ year in India.

    That is the vague detail, to the best I can write-down at this moment. I'd have a Lawyer the very day zero you want to do any of the above. Most lawyer in Silicon Valley are very Startup Savvy, pitch them your ideas and wish that they like it; then get them for equity. On the other hand, there are already quite a lot of law firms in India (Bangalore and alike) who work in tandem with the US counterpart to guide you through the proper legal channels.

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Brajeshwar, I just saw your comment…somehow FB comments were not showing up… but thanks for the information you have shared. I really did not know that you could setup a company in US without having GC or being a citizen… Can you point me to some link which can let me know more on this…

      Even better would you be interested in writing an article :) so that many like me could know about it?

      1. Brajeshwar says

        That is one of my to-write. I’m shy of few more details and I don’t want to just write without doing a good research for an article as important as this.

        InterviewStreet, the first Indian YC Startup is a good example. They’ve a Delaware Incorporated Company and I’m sure the founders are planning to move to the Bay Area on L-1.

        I know another company from Pune, which is doing a similar incorporation. I’m not sure if the info is public for me to name them.

        Of course, my current Company – Levoma – http://levoma.com is incorporated in Delaware. I’m lucky to have a US-Citizen co-founder but the lawyer told us that I can start one on my own too.

        Will definitely write the details, when I’ve more confirmations, details and will remind you too.

        1. Arun Prabhudesai says

          That would be really awesome Brajeshwar – Many would benefit from it… I am personally looking forward to it as well. Thanks for dropping by and letting us know about it…

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