Could Techies Buy a Home Fixing California that is Floating?

Imagine working and living on a floating community 12 miles off the coast of Northern California. Blueseed, a Palo Alto start-up founded in 2011 by Max Marty and partly backed by Mike Maples of Floodgate, wants to make that a reality.

The crazy idea is that foreign-based companies and their workers may set up shop aboard the boat, reside in residential suites and run their start-ups without the need for U.S. work visas. A 30-minute ferry trip to Half Moon Bay would set them about a half-hour car ride from shareholders and key industry people in Silicon Valley. Could it happen?

“The general rule is, if a person isn’t physically within the U.S., then you don’t need U.S. immigration status,” says Emily Curray, a managing partner at Stern & Curray, a global immigration law firm. She states the legality of Blueseed’s operation appears sound. If the citizens aboard Blueseed are employed by foreign-based companies, they can visit Silicon Valley on a visitor’s visa (easier to obtain than a work visa) and take part in numerous activities, such as attending meetings with potential business partners and future investors, negotiating contracts and even training employees. “It is a creative solution,” Curray states.

Foreign companies stand to benefit most, as they’d have unprecedented physical accessibility to tech heavyweights and their investment dollars, but could still be the overseas operations.

The onboard apartments would offer some interesting side benefits for residents, also. The designs are intended to help people connect and share ideas, and there would be tree-lined promenades with shops and cafés.

Marty still wants to raise $18 million of the $27 million that he wants to start, which he’s hoping to do at the end of 2013. And since he’s looking to save money by renting an old cruise ship rather than buying and retrofitting a fresh one, he has big plans to fall about $10 million to make stunning interior layouts through well-chosen colors, carpeting, tricked-out lighting, modern furniture and bright spatial preparation.

Making Matters Livable

“I want to make more of a town-community feel,” Marty says. “Cruise ships are designed for people to stay for a week or two a month at the most. These people will soon be living here six months to annually.”

He wishes to make a modern workspace which gets people talking to one another. He’s studying the psychology of spatial planning and the best way to make spaces that foster engagement with different people to discuss ideas.

This rendering shows his strategies to do that by remodeling a cruise ship’s dining hall in an airy, open workspace with hallways and passages which induce people to walk through different places and from different people when coming to work, walking into the restroom, going to dinner and leaving job.

Bringing in lots of lighting is significant also, so placing the work area within an atrium space with lots of windows is essential. “You already feel isolated on a boat,” he states. “We don’t want people to feel as they’re cooped up in the middle of a dark building”

He’s also looking at the psychology behind the way bright colors can positively affect moods and productivity. Having trees and plants also helps, as does mimicking them with the color green. “Bascially, we don’t want to make a sterile environment,” Marty says.

Each corporation would pay a combination of equity and rent to Blueseed. The monthly rent would range from $1,200 for a shared cottage to $3,000 for a high-end single room. The cost would include office space.

Personal experience influenced Marty’s vision for the public spaces. When he went on a cruise in 2005, he loved the adventure. There was a promenade with cafés and shops that spanned the period of the boat. It was a big, open space with multiple levels going up. Windows from interior-facing cabins looked within the open space. “It had this European city sense on the boat,” he states. “It did not feel isolated at all. It felt like sitting in Venice.”

A similar encounter is imagined for the first Blueseed ship.

While trees and plants indoors are crucial, Marty says, outdoor green space would be equally as significant. Tree-lined walkways and seating areas are made to bring people together.

Marty wants to add creative layout and lighting to make the encounter stand out and never feel stale.

In addition, he wants the cabins in addition to have a opinion of the cafés below, so people can feel connected with other people gathering from the public spaces.

Rough Waters

There are still legal hurdles to get through for the idea move forward. However to be solved: The best way to eliminate onboard waste while at open water, the environmental impact of ferrying people across the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, also where to dock the boat for general maintenance (the business is contemplating Vancouver and Mexico as alternatives).

“We all know we have to comply with the rules,” states Blueseed president Dario Mutabdzija, who states the environmental storms are the most complicated difficulties. “We are hoping to do an even better job than we’ve got to.”

Kurt Micklow, a maritime lawyer at Brodsky, Micklow, Bull and Weiss at Oakland, California, is skeptical. “For 30 years I have seen dreamers and schemers trying to do something like this in the middle of the ocean,” he states. “It is not easy. Sure, it’s possible, but not in any kind of decent timetable and cost.”

However, Blueseed hopes that Silicon Valley mind-set of invention will power the business through the rough waters ahead. “After all, what’s the purpose of becoming an entrepreneur in case you don’t believe you can solve all the problems along the way?” Mutabdzija states.

Tell us : Would you like to live and work on a boat like this?

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