Blueseed ‘Googleplex of the Sea’ Highlights Need For Visa Reform

  • Share
  • Read Later
Blueseed / AP

A drawing provided by Blueseed Co. shows their ferry docking next their cruise ship outside of San Francisco. California startup Blueseed Co. wants to dock a vessel off the coast to house foreign entrepreneurs who have dreams of creating the next Google but can't get visas to work in the United States. The ship aims to provide a remedy by giving foreign entrepreneurs a place to build their companies only a short boat ride from high tech's hub.

As the U.S. continues to grapple with high unemployment, there is one place in the country where the jobless rate remains low: Silicon Valley. In fact, big U.S. tech companies like Google, Apple and Facebook are currently waging a war for top talent. Tech executives often talk about a shortage of highly-skilled workers, and the need to make it easier for immigrants with such skills to come to the U.S. But this year, the cap on H-1B visas — which allow educated foreign workers to get a job in the U.S. — has already been reached. The disconnect between our immigration system and the needs of Silicon Valley has become so acute that plans are being developed to anchor a giant ship off the coast of San Francisco, where immigrant entrepreneurs can live and work without needing to obtain a visa. This ambitious project, called Blueseed, highlights the lengths to which some are willing to go in the face of America’s flawed immigration system.

(SPECIAL: The Most Influential Places in History)

Silicon Valley has always relied heavily on immigrants — take Intel’s Andy Grove or Google’s Sergey Brin. Writing in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal last year, Marc Andreessen, the billionaire co-founder of Netscape who now runs his own venture capital firm, described the need for tech talent in the Valley.

Many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution. This is a tragedy since every company I work with is absolutely starved for talent. Qualified software engineers, managers, marketers and salespeople in Silicon Valley can rack up dozens of high-paying, high-upside job offers any time they want, while national unemployment and underemployment is sky high.

And yet as Jordan Weissmann wrote recently in The Atlantic, we’re telling skilled workers to get lost thanks to the H1-B visa cap:

Here’s how this ridiculous system works: Starting each April, the federal government distributes a limited supply of 85,000 of H1-B visas. Companies go on a mad charge to snap up as many as they need, and those who come up short are left to scheme up other, roundabout ways of getting their workers into the country. It’s a silly dance we do each year, when instead we could just welcome more smart, skilled professionals to come and work here.

This year, it took only ten weeks to reach the cap, according to Weissmann, compared to 33 weeks in 2011. It is utterly baffling that the U.S. would deprive itself of the skills of thousands of immigrants — any one of which could be the next Grove or Brin — because an arbitrary number has been reached six months early. There has been legislation proposed to help address this problem, but these efforts invariably get drowned out by the din over illegal immigration, border security, and the fate of America’s 12 million undocumented workers.

(MORE: We Are Americans, Just Not Legally)

One of the consequences of the current U.S. immigration system is that we literally tell highly-skilled immigrant workers to leave the country after a certain period of time. What’s more, there is no “entrepreneurs visa” designed specifically for immigrants aiming to build startups — the lifeblood of Silicon Valley innovation. This is what Blueseed has been designed to address. As the initiative states: “Google and Yahoo! and Intel and other famous companies that were co-founded by immigrant entrepreneurs have created tens of thousands of jobs, and have built products and services that we all use every day. But who knows how many other companies we don’t have, because their immigrant co-founders were not allowed to remain in Silicon Valley?”

Blueseed, which aims to launch next year, will be anchored 12 nautical miles off the coast of San Fransisco, and will be able to accommodate up to 1,800 foreign entrepreneurs. A visa is not required, just a passport. Blueseed has skeptics, and faces a number of challenges, not least of all raising the tens of millions of dollars needed to make the venture a reality. If nothing else, the project is useful because it spotlights the need for immigration reform — and the need for a new type of entrepreneurs visa. Watch Blueseed’s founders discuss the project here:

46 comments
HirenPatel
HirenPatel

There are plenty of engineers, scientist and programmers in the United States already. It's just that companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple don't want to hire them. I realize that the news journalists at Time keep repeating the conventional wisdom that there is a shortage of engineers, scientist and programmers but that's because they are too LAZY to dig up the truth. The H-1B, L-1 and L-2 visas are being abused to put qualified Americans out of work. I lick SMS Jokes

Martin Middelmann
Martin Middelmann

Awesome! Now the wealthy of this country are raising money to build floating slave labor camps. I've worked at companies that have abused "cheap foreign labor" to the point of flying developers in from India and making them work 24 hours a day to push out a product.  This is just another method to hire cheap labor at the expense of American Jobs and keep it "out of site" at the same time.  Who is going to regulate these "floating slave labor camps"?  Doesn't this sound a lot like the working conditions in Chinese factories (company dorms, company dining, company everything...)?

StuartMill
StuartMill

Let's look at why these "skilled workers" are in shortage. First, you have a campaign system that essentially allows congress to do the bidding of corporations who would like cheaper labor. Not surprisingly, the corporations get what they want, and behold--the IT industry moves offshore with rapid speed, with crazy, unenforced loopholes such as the L1 supplementing the local foreign labor pool. Now you have foreign populations (born in countries whose populations exceeds a billion) who are trained in what the corporations need, and IT requires deep experience over time. Behold: A shortage of Americans, as an entire US generation misses an opportunity to share in that valuable opportunity to gain their skills. But wait--each of these foreign workers brings three jobs in America we are told; what is forgotten is that the jobs they bring are at the discount clothing stores and the food courts frequented by the highly skilled IT workers on H1s and L1s.  The great US middle class that IT enabled, the same folks who propped up home prices in the golden days of Clinton, disappears, and with it goes the home prices beloved by Americans everywhere. For more of this model: See Romney--a very potential Outsourcer in Chief, for it is his style of economics that pushes this model--his party, after all, is the one that blocks the removal of tax exemptions on overseas profit.

spoton101
spoton101

I find it ironic that most americans believe that all of corporate america is lying when it comes to a shortage of skilled workers.

Google, Apple, IBM are lying!.  Microsoft,  Facebook, Amazon are lying!.

HP, Oracle, SAP are lying!

Everybody is a darn liar. There is no shortage at all. It only greed and narrow sightedness on the part of business.

Do you see how stupid that sounds?

No less a person than Bill Gates has said and I quote: 'Microsoft has plenty of 100,000 jobs (Yes 100K, not minimum wage) but we are not finding enough skilled people to fill those positions.

dandv
dandv

The whole discussion around H-1B is misleading. All that needs to be said about visas is this part from the article:

[[there is no “entrepreneurs visa” designed specifically for immigrants aiming to build startups — the lifeblood of Silicon Valley innovation. This is what Blueseed has been designed to address.]]

dalef
dalef

"Many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and

skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of

the software revolution."

Why don't Google, Apple, Microsoft, HP, etc. train American citizens to positively participate in the "software revolution"? At one time, many companies spent the time, money, and resources needed to train employees to be skilled and knowledgeable in their fields (i.e. apprenticeships). Now many companies do not want to take responsibility to train their workers, but want to pass this task off to the government (public schools) or force someone to spend large sums of money he/she does not have, and thus has to borrow, to pay for education. If a business wants someone with certain skills, why don't they teach these skills?

Once the supply of Americans who are able and willing to be trained to participate in the technology industry is exhausted, then let us talk about importing people from foreign countries for these jobs.

Sachi Mohanty
Sachi Mohanty

The Statue of Liberty has these words in part:

'Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.'

It doesn't say give me your PhDs, the most talented inventors, entrepreneurs ... 

afmajret
afmajret

not even the right argument. What has Google and Yahoo done to improve the economy, create new, sustainable industry, and add to the tax base? Who says they're the model of business success we should be striving for. I'd be more impressed if one of the H1B holders contributed to an improved manufacturing process for durable goods that resulted in a decrease in imports and an increase in domestic manufacturing output. Bring some of those people over here, and you'll have my support.

dale880
dale880

Our media has become little more than dumbed down propaganda over the last 3 decades, yelling asinine platitudes at us.

One of them (and this was true long before Obama) was that 'Change' is always good.  That's ludicrous.  Nuclear war, would be 'Change'.  The Great Depression, was 'Change'.  The question is always, change, to WHAT?!?

Similarly, that 'immigration' is always good, and more is always better, because it's our 'tradition'.  But again, it's ludicrous to compare a nation that just doubled it's size in the Louisiana Purchase and needed to settle the land as it was a very dangerous military liability.  When my ancestors came here, about 40 years after that purchase, the nation waas 1/10th the population.  Does anyone else notice that it is all but FORBIDDEN to even ask 'what should the maximum population be'  Ever notice how this is NEVER mentioned?

what should that be?  10 times what it is now?  3 billion people?

The fact that the open borders crowd has made the maximum population a taboo subject de-legitimises it

sirwired
sirwired

The INTENT of the H1-B program is to bring in highly-skilled workers that cannot be obtained domestically. 

What actually HAPPENS is that low-rent outfits pretend to look for rank-and-file programmers in the US (never intending to actually hire anybody they "recruit" domestically), proclaim they can't find anybody, and then bring over IT workers from overseas to work at a low wage to the US for a few years.  They get trained, and then take their job overseas when their visa runs out.   The pay is bad, and the hours punishing, but the workers can't quit, because that means immediate deportation; it's a form of indentured servitude.  This form of fraud is rampant and has been going on for well over a decade.

But yes, after all the fraudulent workers exhaust the cap, it's harder to bring over workers the law was actually intended to recruit.  The solution isn't to raise the cap, it's to stamp out the blatant fraud that has plagued the program.

dale880
dale880

Once upon a time, about 30 years ago, people mocked the Soviet Union's 'Pravda' as the standard of a useless parrot that squauked the party line.  But what do we have?

For starters, this article vastly understates the true number of visas, not mentioning the research, educational and non-profit exemptions to the H-1b cap.  Nor are L1, B1 TN-Status, and F1-OPT which are all used for the same purposes, and have in some years more than TRIPLED the stated figure of 85,000

Once upon a time, this publication would have pointed our the vast fraud and abuse of the H-1b visa, or woulod have noticed that in a so-called 'shortage', that salaries have been headed DOWN for over 10 years.

But most importantly, the media would have pointed out what a security nightmare this would be, overburdoning shore leave security to accomodate a ship that never sails.  The publication would also point out how the most likely thing 'incubated' would be an intractable PANDEMIC of disease.

But, that was back when our media was better than Pravda

John80224
John80224

"any one of which could be the next Grove or Brin"

or conversely

"virtually or precisely all of whom will not"

Brin immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union at the age of six.  Grove escaped communism in 1956 at age 20.  Neither of them was eligible for any modern high-skilled work visas with criteria more geared to identifying whether or not someone is trained to fill a role than whether they will spark innovation.

Before lamenting the artificial caps on the H-1b, please provide us a couple of Brins or Groves who've come on this visa to the tech industry.  About the greatest example I've heard is that Google News came out of one and that technology has yet to grasp the difference between "sort" and "filter".  How many millions of role players and thousands of failed and lackluster startups are you not mentioning?

Look, immigration has its place.  For example, the idea behind the entrepreneur visa is a step in the right direction, but in its current form there is as much room for abuse as anything.  And I believe there can legitimately be a shortage of a skill.  But pieces like this never discuss how we cultivate those talents domestically or the hand that business and education have played in creating the state we're in or why blatant racism and ageism are fine so long as they're practiced against citizens.

MaryWaterton
MaryWaterton

There are plenty of engineers, scientist and programmers in the United States already. It's just that companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple don't want to hire them. I realize that the news journalists at Time keep repeating the conventional wisdom that there is a shortage of engineers, scientist and programmers but that's because they are too LAZY to dig up the truth. The H-1B, L-1 and L-2 visas are being abused to put qualified Americans out of work.

It is a myth that talented immigrants like Sergey Brin are coming here and founding (((ALL))) the high tech companies. The truth is that most companies in America were founded by home grown talent. If Brin had stayed in Russia, would Google be a Russian company today? Not likely. Because every country has its talented people. What makes America the goose that lays the golden eggs is CAPITALISM ... not immigrants on H-1B visas. Unfortunately, Washington is evolving a system of socialism that works AGAINST those who are citizens and in favor of those who aren't!

talwar
talwar

If Gustin spent any time interviewing a siginificant cross section of H1b workers he would have found that they are simply cheap labor.  Look deeper into the "Indian entrepreneur who got away" stories and you will see that at best they are simply copying things they learned in the US.  The only innovators in India are the body shop creators like Nilekani, Murthy, etc..  who do what India does better than anyone else: exploit cheap labor.  And when they get caught....let the weasling begin.... 

BirchL
BirchL

This article is Silicon Valley propaganda, simply transferred to a Time Business opinion piece.

In reality, the H-1B program is primarily used to import young, cheaper labor from developing countries for technical and engineering work; displacing many U.S. citizens from their professions or discouraging them from entering their previously-chosen profession. It is NOT typically used to bring in the "best and brightest" minds. According to a January 14 2011 GAO report, most of the H-1B workers are categorized as having entry-level skills. The program is also plagued by rampant fraud, which the government has only recently begun to address. But fraud is not the biggest problem: the loopholes are.

Suggested reading:

Economic Policy Institute, October 14, 2010:

The H-1B and L-1 Visa programs: Out of Controlhttp://www.epi.org/publ...

ComputerWorld - Fed indictments tell how H-1B visas were used to undercut wages:http://www.computerworld.com/a...

ComputerWorld - H-1B visa use cuts U.S. programmer, software engineer wages by up to 6%http://www.computerworld.com/s...

BusinessWeek - Work Visas May Work Against the U.S.:http://www.businessweek.com/bw...

BusinessWeek - America's High-Tech Sweatshops:http://www.businessweek.com/ma...