Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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5/2/2005
02:12 PM
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Entrepreneurs Pitch "Code Boat" For Near-Shore IT Outsourcing

Two California entrepreneurs are developing an IT services business plan that calls for staffing a cruise ship three miles off the Southern California coast with IT specialists.

Two California entrepreneurs are developing an IT services business plan that reads like a CIO's paradise: sharply lower IT prices coupled with easy access to software and engineering outsourcing developers just a short boat ride away.

It's the "Code Boat," a plan by David Cook and Roger Green, the founders of SeaCode. Their venture calls for staffing a cruise ship three miles off the Southern California coast with customer IT specialists and then making the ship available to IT headquarters staffers through a short water taxi ride.

"We're getting a good reception," said Green, a veteran software developer and executive. "Our plan is resonating mostly with companies that are already outsourcing."

The founders say they have secured financing for their venture and they are now attempting to line up a cruise ship and IT customers for SeaCode. Says Cook: "Our goal is to be in the water by the end of the year."

Their idea has drawn some criticism from critics who are labeling it a "slave ship" and a "sweatshop," prompting some to doubt SeaCode will ever get launched.

Not so, say Cook and Green, who say they plan to pay engineers and software developers well. The believe they can skirt H-1B visa regulations by categorizing their specialists as "seamen" and who would therefore be able to visit the U.S. mainland on shore passes. They will do a significant amount of hiring among non-U.S. lands to sign up top experts.

Green said, for instance, that SeaCode will look for back office and SAP experts in India, network engineers in China, and embedded developers in Russia. Non-American employees would likely receive much less than their counterparts on the mainland. Still, he added, SeaCode plans to hire plenty of American experts, noting that about half of job applicants so far are from Americans.

The plan is for SeaCode's engineers to work 8 to 10-hour shifts days and nights to get fast completion times of IT projects. The ship would sail to Encinada in Baja Mexico for vacation and leisure time. The employees would be housed in comfortable cabins and visiting CIO staffers from the mainland would likewise be housed in comfortable cruise ship accommodations when they visit to check on the progress of their outsourced work.

Green and Cook said a key element of their plan is to free IT managers from long and fatiguing trips to outsourcing centers like India.

The business plan revolves largely on plans to get engineering and software specialists declared "seamen" with U.S. immigration authorities. With that designation, the "seamen" can fly into Los Angeles and move to the ship and take shore leave breaks, too.

Cook is the maritime expert in the venture. He studied at the California Maritime Academy and spent 16 years at sea as a ship captain before entering the IT field. Green said he has about 30 years experience in the software industry, working for several years at the former Boole and Babbage as well as more recently at Cymer in outsourcing.

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