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CA startup sees entrepreneur-ship as visa solution
“Yes, we live in an interconnected age with Skype and other video conferencing. But if you want to grow a company, physical interactions are of paramount importance,” Mutabdzija said. “We’re a startup. We ran into this. Some people said if you’re not within a 20 mile radius, we won’t talk to you.”
The proximity to high-tech’s center, Silicon Valley, is also important.
“The talent, the money, the expertise and a cultural acceptance of risk. Elsewhere if it doesn’t work out, you’re a black sheep and the funds dry up,” Mutabdzija said.
The ship would be a remodeled cruise ship or barge that Blueseed leases or owns. It would have all the high-tech amenities expected of a startup incubator and the look of employee-friendly Internet giants Facebook and Google, famous for their modern campuses complete with gourmet cafeterias, exercise facilities and an environmentally-sustainable design.
A live-work space would cost about $1,200 a month.
Logistical support, including food and other supplies, would come from local businesses along the coast, helping the economies of Half Moon Bay and San Francisco, though it hasn’t been determined exactly which port Blueseed would use.
A helicopter also would be available for emergencies.
Critics deride the ship as a publicity stunt, and say investors would be better served contributing to ventures that help Americans create businesses.
“I would say the whole thing is a perfect metaphor for how in corporate America the practice to grow talent and incubate business locally is drifting away _ quite literally,” said Bob Dane, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for limited immigration.
But supporters of foreign entrepreneurship say immigrants are responsible for some of the most successful businesses in the world and if the U.S. doesn’t try to attract them, others will.
“The ship may sound like a crazy idea but it illustrates how seriously flawed the immigration system here is,” said John Feinblatt, who runs Partnership for a New American Economy, which advocates for immigration reform.
The organization published a report in June that said 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
Feinblatt said countries including Chile, Singapore and the United Kingdom have programs to attract immigrant entrepreneurs.
“While the U.S. is driving people away, other countries are welcoming them with open arms,” he said. “If you miss out on them, you miss their talent, their ideas and ultimately the jobs that they create and the taxes that they pay.”
Christopher S. Bentley, a spokesman with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency has not seen the proposal and it’s premature to comment.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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