Monday, April 22, 2013

Note to journalists -- you don't have to believe everything they tell you (business model edition)

File this one with the flack-to-hack series, that part of the decline in journalism that can be attributed to increased willingness to print whatever the PR person hands you.

You've probably heard about this:
While the world has no shortage of pie-in-the-sky renderings for floating cities, a new proposal by Silicon Valley start-up Blueseed is perhaps the first to invoke entrepreneurial spirit and the American Dream in its soapbox pitch. Looking for a way to give foreign-born tech entrepreneurs access to the enterprising atmosphere of Silicon Valley, the founders of Blueseed are hoping to revamp an old cruise ship to create a community, of sorts, 12 nautical miles off California's coast in international waters, so international techies could live within commuting distance without a work visa. With a simple business tourism visa, denizens of the vessel could take a 30-minute boat ride to the mainland once or twice a week. Of course, creating an inhabitable community on water—one that people would live on six months or a year at a time—requires some interior design finagling, including incorporating lots of light and open space.

The big issues here have to do with labor, immigration and industrial policy, but this also provides a small but useful example of gee-whiz, ddulite journalism. I will give the writer, Amy Schellenbaum, credit for using the phrase 'pie-in-the-sky' in her opening sentence but other than the occasional qualifier, that's pretty much the last trace of incredulity you'll find.

For example:
Blueseed still needs $18M (of the $27M required, total) before any building can take place, but if this actually gets rolling, Mart imagines he'll charge organizations anywhere between $1,200 a month to house their employees in a shared cabin to $3,000 a month per person. Just what everyone wants to do: shack up with their coworkers!
I looked at a few cruise ships on Wikipedia and where cost was given, they were all in the hundreds of millions (and sometimes much higher). Even done on the cheap with an old ship, between buying the damned thing and doing the kind of major refit described here, we've got to be talking nine figures.

Now, I have to admit, my experience with start-ups is very limited, so it's very likely that I'm missing some important aspect of funding in this casse. Perhaps this proposal is more credible than it looks, but as presented here, these numbers seem awfully screwy, and it's worrisome that the reporter either doesn't feel the need to explain the screwiness or, worse yet, doesn't even notice it.

No comments:

Post a Comment