by Monica Goyal
How close is to close?
I remember an advisor once suggesting that an entrepreneur should be located 150 miles from their investor. It was just to say that investors want to be close to their investments to adequately advice them. For all our talk of telecommuting, it still does not detract from the practical reality that most work is done face to face. And to really move quickly with new initiatives, nothing beats working face to face with your colleagues.
One of the best places in the world to raise capital and accelerate your tech startup is Silicon Valley, California. As Peter Theil, said in an interview with big think: “…Silicon Valley and California is still the best place for technology innovation which is the business that I’m in”. Wonderful if you are American, not so wonderful if you are from any other country. American immigration laws restrict the number of H1B visas they issue every year, making it difficult to secure a work visa even with an employment letter. On the other hand, obtaining a B1 business visa is supposedly relatively easy, and is granted for 10 years. It allows people to come for the day and even permits them to stay overnight.
One solution I recently learned of for non-US tech startups, who want the advantage of being located close to Silicon Valley, is to be offered by Blueseed: a 1000-person cruise ship 12 miles off the coast of Silicon Valley. It’s a floating incubator of sorts just beyond the US shores, where startups are housed, from which they can make day trips to investors, business partners or clients. There are many interesting details about the project in this article. Their website says they plan to launch in Q3 2013, and the cost of accommodation will be $1200/person/month.
While Blueseed presents an ingenious way for foreign entrepreneurs to access investor capital in the US, I find it ironic that the US is still struggling with immigration issues in the tech industry; a sector that has generated quite a bit of wealth for the US economy. In the late 90s, immigration policies and the lack of qualified human capital was impeding growth in the industry. What we saw in the 2000s was the outsourcing of many tech jobs to India. More than a commentary on cost of labour, it was a statement on the inability to supply labour for an industry hampered by restrictive immigration policies.
Although, it may appear we are moving towards more restrictive immigration policies in Canada, it is clear that policies that facilitated the immigration of skilled tech labour did provide a competitive advantage for tech companies. Blueseed highlights the challenges and the pitfalls of US immigration policies. Hopefully it’s not too late for lawmakers in the US to wake up to the dangers of continually hamstringing their own companies and not fully leveraging the ecosystems they have created.