Paypal Founder Funds Startup Micro-Nations

August 20, 2011

2:00 pm

First, he launched Paypal, and then he went on to fund DNA sequencing, commercial space travel and Facebook. Peter Thiel is known for having big ideas and doing amazing things. Now, this self-made billionaire has his sights set on creating sovereign nations that will spring up from the ocean, free from the laws of any country.

Thiel is working closely with the Seasteading Institute to build these startup countries in international waters. He has invested $1.25 million to create what he sees as the next frontier. According to Thiel, a Libertarian, his islands will be instrumental in “experimenting with new ideas for government.” These new ideas include a society free of welfare, minimum wages, strict weapons restrictions and rigid building codes.

Another idea for the islands is called Appletopia, where a corporation would start the country as a business, increasing its real estate value as it becomes more popular.

To the skeptics, Thiel has this to say:  “We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.”

The new countries will be built on moveable, diesel-powered platforms similar to those that house oil rigs. Each island will accomodate up to 270 people, and the structures will be linked together to form a web of micro-countries.

Although the idea sounds like science fiction, Thiel already has concrete plans in place. He wants to launch a flotilla office park off the San Francisco coast next year, plans to fully settle his first island in 2019, and predicts there will be 10 million floating residents by 2050.

Is it wise for businesses to operate unfettered by rules and regulations? What do these Libertarian islands have in store for their inhabitants? And, how will the micro-countries be built in a way that is sustainable, considering the labor-intensive transport of goods that will be necessary to provide for them? These are just a few of the questions I have regarding the social ramifications of Thiel’s next big idea. What concerns/opinions do you have about the startup island nations?

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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