I’m going to go out on a limb here, but my guess is if you went around and asked people in the startup community what they thought about Mike Maples at Floodgate, they would describe him as a sensible and successful entrepreneur turned investor and someone you’d most likely be thrilled to have on your team. In my personal opinion as an investor, I think he makes some pretty sound investment decisions. His previous bets include Modcloth, Chegg, CoTweet, Formspring and an early investment in Twitter.
Given all of this sensibility, you might imagine my eyes popped a bit when the Blueseed founders Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija got in touch to tell me that Maples joined their team by investing in the first closing ($300k) of their $700k seed round. I mean, Peter Thiel is known for investing in unusual and big ideas like space travel (SpaceX), sea platforms (Seasteading Institute) and the like, so if you heard about Peter getting involved with something in this arena, you wouldn’t bat an eyelash.
Just in case you missed the buzz last year, Blueseed is a company that is looking to create a sea platform about 30 minutes off the shore of Half Moon Bay. The platform will host startups from around the world that are looking to be close to the magic of Silicon Valley, but for various reasons surrounding immigration red tape, they can’t have their offices located in the U.S. yet.
Peter had originally offered to lead this round as a personal investment. However, as part of a new agreement with Founders Fund shortly thereafter, Peter no longer does seed investing outside of the fund. I reached out to Founders Fund and verified this change. Although Peter is personally incredibly passionate about Seasteading and believes in it, it wasn’t a good investment match at this stage for Founders Fund. I talked to Max and Dario about this and they are hopeful that Peter and his team will renew their interest later on down the road once they have more traction.
I think, for whatever my thoughts are worth, that Maples and Floodgate add a whole new dimension and legitimacy to this endeavor. I mean, I’m a huge Peter Thiel fan. Peter naturally gets and supports a different way of thinking and problem solving. He consistently believes in the impossible. It is much harder to convince someone that’s not like Peter (and very few people are like him in this world) that this is a viable option. This is, without a doubt, an incredibly hard venture. Mike Maples acknowledging that and deciding that he too believes it is worthwhile, well, that’s a huge milestone. Peter just seems like low hanging fruit. Maples is a very tall Christmas tree topper. As big of a fan of Peter as I am, I’m even more impressed they landed Floodgate.
I reached out to Mike Maples to find out what his thoughts were on Floodgate’s investment and he responded:
“Floodgate has invested in Blueseed because we think it is critical to find new ways to empower the smartest and most talented people in the world to come together to build great companies without being encumbered by archane work visa restrictions. We want to be part of the solution however we can and we love the Blueseed team’s willingness to tackle this problem in a totally original and ambitious way.”
Also joining Floodgate are Correlation Ventures and two investors (Xu Xiaoping and Wang Qiang) from Zhenfund, who are based in China. If you are building something international, it is good to get buy in from, well, folks who aren’t here.
I was also able to reach Correlation Ventures and here’s why they invested:
“Correlation Ventures is very pleased to be joining Floodgate and the rest of the syndicate in backing Blueseed’s highly committed and passionate management team. We applaud Blueseed’s plan to offer a unique and innovative approach to accessing the most relevant elements of the Silicon Valley start-up ecosystem to world-class entrepreneurs from around the world.”
With cash in hand now, I had to wonder how far the founders have progressed. Blueseed now has more than 1100 individuals from 336 companies and 64 countries who have applied, several committed partners including Pillsbury Law and Fenwick & West. They plan on using this seed investment to work on policy and work out all of the nitty-gritty details they will need to have tackled before leasing a ship. Once they get to that stage, they will seek a much larger round of financing.
A lot of people reading this article might not quite understand the market need for a sea platform, so I asked the team to share some of the applicant’s feedback on why they want to leave out on the open ocean. I think the real customers convey the need louder than anyone ever could. The first two are foreign applicants and the second two are domestic:
“This is the perfect solution for me and my company; it’s everything I could possibly want. If I could, I would move my startup to Silicon Valley in a heartbeat but there isn’t a visa option for the stage I’m at and budget I’m working on. Up until discovering Blueseed, my lawyer advised me to get a job with a digital media firm since I qualify for an Extraordinary Ability Visa because I’m an Emmy Award winner. That Visa could lead to a Green Card in a few years and then I’d be able to continue with my business. But I truly believe the time for my business is now. I have so much momentum and I want to run with it. Thank you for dreaming up such an awesome incubator concept and I hope to meet the Blueseed team on board in 2014!”
– Natalie MacNeil (Canada), Emmy Award winner, founder and editor-in-chief She Takes on the World, digital magazine empowering ambitious Gen-Y women
“We are big fans of Blueseed and the team behind it. The proximity to the US and what that opens up in terms of finance, resources and strategic partnerships is key to our growth plans. Added to this is the opportunity for the talented engineers, designers and programmers we bring on board from Africa to work in such an innovative environment. We are very excited to be involved in Blueseed’s launch.”
– Andrew Considine (Ireland), Willstream, remittances service empowering African small businesses to accept mobile payments from their foreign diaspora.
“Blueseed is a game changer and is the reason why I love technology. There really is no cap to what this idea could accomplish. Our engineers are from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and though US citizens, we realize the importance of being able to bring others from the Middle East or elsewhere on board (ha ha), and would love the opportunity to do so. Besides, I’ve traveled the world but never been on a cruise before… so pretty much, nothing could be cooler. Appreciate your team’s initiative with this ship, testing the waters (hehe), and opening the doors up for global collaboration without borders. This is the perfect example of how brilliant minds can leverage technology to change the way the world operates for the better. Keep it up, I look forward to reading more of your updates!”
– Sarah Ware (Washington, DC), Markerly, textual content sharing (Pinterest for text/Pandora for articles)
“What an amazing idea. I can think of nothing cooler than living in a place where entrepreneurship can operate without limits amongst some of the smartest minds on the planet.”
– Patrick Widen (Nashville, TN), EYES|ONLY, lifestyle blog
Mike Maples, Jr. is the managing partner of Maples Investments, and was recently named as one of “8 Rising VC Stars” by Fortune Magazine for his investments in business and consumer technology companies. Before becoming a full-time investor, Mike was an entrepreneur and operating executive who worked in a variety of senior management roles in high-growth companies. His background spans a variety of markets including consumer technology, small business, and the enterprise, and he has led various functions in...
Blueseed is the upcoming startup community on a cruise ship stationed in Silicon Valley’s international waters. The location, half an hour by ferry from the coast of Silicon Valley, enables entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world to start or scale companies on the ship without requiring U.S. work visas. They can travel to the mainland for business or recreation using easier-to-obtain business/tourism (B1/B2) visas. As of May 2013, Blueseed has received interest from over 400 startups, and has been covered in...