As teachers, coaches and mentors know, one of the most powerful efforts one can undertake is to help someone learn and thrive. Silicon Valley is renowned for this characteristic, and tech-centric communities throughout the United States and other countries avidly seek to duplicate the Valley’s environment and record of success. The Valley’s success path may soon be dwarfed by Blueseed. And that’s important for the entire world because Blueseed’s leaders are passionate about not only creating a blueprint for high-tech startup success but also about changing the way non-tech businesses around the world solve problems.
Blueseed’s location is a ship 12 nautical miles from San Francisco in international waters, where thousands of startups and entrepreneurs will, by Q2 2014, live and work and have access to the Silicon Valley ecosystem without the need for a U.S. work visa. Its co-founder and president, Dario Mutabdzija, is a Yugoslavian immigrant who came to the United States as a teenage refugee from his war-torn country. Co-founder and CEO Max Marty is a Cuban immigrant. Mutabdzija says the opportunity in America to work hard as entrepreneurs and do well is a fundamental fact and a notion that is near and dear to their hearts. Both men lived and worked in Silicon Valley and have first-hand knowledge of its uniqueness. They believe it is, by far, the best place for enterprises to grow.
“The fundamental issue we set out to solve with Blueseed is related to visas,” says Mutabdzija. “The current U.S. regulatory environment doesn’t provide foreign entrepreneurs and startup founders with an easy way of coming to the United States since they’re not employees and they don’t have the money to buy visas.”
Then came the “aha” moment. Both founders are involved in the Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit venture for creating floating cities in international waters, thus facilitating creating a new way of life that is more equitable and entrepreneurial. “We connected the notion of seasteading with the problem that we wanted to solve for entrepreneurs and then created a business plan for our solution,” says Mutabdzija. Blueseed is the first seasteading enterprise.
Where innovation happens
They didn’t realize at the outset that the ship’s environment could have such a dramatic impact on the way that startups grow, but it’s now a focal point in their marketing. That fact came to light when they noticed that the single largest contingent of startups from 64 countries, which are applying for a place on the ship, are from the United States. Some are even located in Silicon Valley. The applicants stated on a questionnaire that they want to live and work in a “cool environment.”
So what makes it cool? Data from Blueseed surveys and questionnaires reveal that entrepreneurs greatly value being in an awesome place and surrounded by awesome people who are all hard-working, ambitious, smart, share similar ambitions and yet are diverse.
Mutabdzija explains, “When you live together with such people in a close physical proximity to each other in a, relatively speaking, small space, something happens as far as productivity is concerned. Having a startup is not an easy proposition. There are so many different issues to solve. Solutions are found in a much better way when surrounded with people who are going through similar travails.”
Another important point: Mutabdzija says it will be “like the Olympics where you have the best athletes around the world. Blueseed will have the best entrepreneurs throughout the world, which will further enhance and mentally stimulate the nature of being on the ship.”
Innovation never happens in a vacuum, he explains. It’s the result of numerous activities, some serendipitous events and, to some extent, planning. It thrives in a system that facilitates those elements and breakthrough thinking. That system or ecosystem is what makes Silicon Valley so special and so successful at creating new, scalable companies. A huge part of the system is the willingness of people to share information even though they compete fiercely.
Blueseed is tapping into this phenomenon and creating an ecosystem that will give startups access to a high-quality network of mentors, coaches, lawyers, successful former entrepreneurs and even artists and scientists while also giving investors access to the startups.
On the ship sharing of information will be streamlined so innovation can happen at a more rapid pace. By making it easier for foreign high-tech startups to plug themselves into the Silicon Valley ecosystem, Blueseed intends to provide startups with the extra edge that will enable them to scale and thus will change the startup success rate.
Global business vision
As Blueseed’s first group of entrepreneurs in 2014 succeed, the concept and brand of Blueseed will succeed as well, which will enable the founders’ larger vision of expanding the concept globally to non-tech startups.
“Part of our overall strategy is to create a quality brand that will become an asset that can be used by other people to some extent who are trying to solve other problems around the world. There are numerous opportunities for doing that while being located on ships,” Mutabdzija.
“We’re excited about helping startups in fields such as biotech and clean energy, where it is more difficult to execute properly, where they need more care and nurturing because of the complexities in play,” he adds. Helping these types of fledgling businesses get traction to succeed and scale will enable them to “fundamentally change the way people live and work.”
Preparing for launch
Besides the startups, entrepreneurs and volunteers, partners (such as incubators and large software companies, investors and lawyers) are also part of the Blueseed picture. The venture’s leaders are currently developing relationships with some of the biggest high-quality names in Silicon Valley. Investors can invest in Blueseed directly or establish partnerships that allow them access to the startups.
Mutabdzija says they still have a lot of fundraising to do but they’re on track for launching in Q2 2014. They already have some “cool co-investors that we greatly admire and respect” and are looking for some big entities to co-invest and help them make further progress toward launching Blueseed and changing the way businesses grow and succeed.
Dario Mutabdzija is co-founder and president of Blueseed. Dario studied and/or worked in Hawaii, China, California, Austria and Bosnia. He received his J.D. and LL.M. in Transnational Business Practice from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif., and the University of Salzburg in Austria. Prior to Blueseed, Dario served as director of legal strategy for The Seasteading Institute. He is passionate about connecting people and businesses around the world.