Last week we talked about what jobs you can do on a seastead, and this week the topic will be talking about what businesses you can run. There is a lot of overlap between these two posts. To start with, operating a deep sea fish farm can be done by a small group like a family, so while this could be a common job, it could also be a family business.
Most standard seastead designs incorporate solar panels or solar energy of one form or another into their build (OTEC is also a form of solar energy, as the energy differential that creates the electricity the system generates is made by the sun). During peak sunlight hours, especially near the equator, the amount of electricity being generated will often be more than what is being consumed. Seasteads that are designed to connect could share power lines, creating an interconnected power grid, this would allow for the sale of cheap electricity during these peak hours for pennies on the dollar. When combined with a strong Starlink connection, this creates incentive to create electricity oriented businesses such as cryptocurrency mining. ASIC mining rigs could be run during these peak hours and the electricity they are using to generate crypto would be very cheap. This means that at the scale of small cities or large communities, it could be a very profitable venture to mine cryptos like Bitcoin, Dogecoin, or Monero.
Here we can see a street of connected seasteads, each of these could be rented units, while others could be repurposed to house restaurants or scuba equipment rental stores.
Before we get that far though, we need to talk about early stage seasteading. In the earliest stages, it is likely that tourism will be a major source of income, partially just for the novelty of staying in a floating hotel. One of those has existed before of course with limited success (and another smaller one was later constructed in Southeast Asia that our Engineering team has stayed in before). Floating hotels have often been large structures meant for hundreds of guests at a time, but this model will be a bit different, since many seasteads can exist either separately or in a large group connected to each other.
This creates the market conditions for a sort of ‘AirBnB’ of floating hotel rooms, or full units. Some people will want to purchase seasteads in a startup community just to book them out as vacation rentals, and looking at some coastal real estate prices around Florida and in other locations in the US tells us that this will be a very profitable business venture.
Later on down the road, when more permanent settlement is expected, the people who got in early on their investment will also be able to transition to long term rentals and leases. All of this can be done using smart contracts on the blockchain as well, to allow for quick and easy rental of rooms and units.
An adjacent business model in early seasteading communities will be property management, for foreign property owners who don’t want to live in a small floating community, but choose to invest their money in this real estate nonetheless. The property managers themselves will be the people who are more ‘hands on’ with the tourism aspect of the operation.
Cropping up around these rented vacation units, will be other important tourist industries. as we said in our last blog post, the four most common activities that survey respondents said they would like to do in a floating city, was eating at a seafood restaurant, scuba diving, renting jet skis, and finally snorkeling. While these are common vacation activities already, they will be greatly enhanced on a seastead!
Since seasteads are inherently environment building and repairing structures, they will attract fish and other wildlife from all around the ocean, leading to better snorkeling and scuba diving experiences. And many seastead hulls will probably be fitted with windows at or below sea level, which makes for a better dining experience. Underwater themed restaurants have often proven to be some of the most popular in many tourism hotspots.
Depending on the location of the floating city, it might also be along a major trade route. For these locations, working to serve the local shipping industry can also make way for several new types of businesses. From shipping container storage at sea, to ship staffing, and all other shipping and trade related ventures. It is easy to see a floating city becoming a major hub for shipping, and as Panama and Singapore can tell you, this tends to have a very positive effect on longterm economic growth. Due to the mobile nature of floating cities, one which isn’t positioned along a trade route can be maneuvered into place to take advantage of trade if its population decided it were a good idea, with that in mind we can also imagine a future where floating cities exist in rows along major shipping highways, in a kind of ‘merchant super-highway’.
Going back to focus on small but quickly growing seastead communities, we can finally get back to basics. Every city will need a market, a gas station, a hair salon, a medical clinic, and a school. All of these roles will likely be filled by private companies and are all further opportunities for operating a small business, dependent on the size of the population.
Once these basic needs are taken care of we can start seeing population growth, and yet more opportunity for business. Some floating cities will have very lax ideas about immigration, and will allow a large number of people to move in, during a short amount of time. Depending on geographic location, this could mean an influx in high skilled labor looking to create new tech startups, low cost labor from developing countries looking for new work opportunities, or both! In the former case, we can again see blockchain being an early focus of some of the businesses that get going in such a unique business environment, but in the latter case we would expect to see a lot of BPO or Business Process Outsourcing take place, where the lower cost of low and medium skilled labor drives jobs into the seastead community from abroad. In both cases, the effects of such industries cropping up will have knock on effects on the rest of the economy as well.
We can’t forget about exports. Growing fish, seaweed, mussels, oysters, pearls, clams, lobster, crab, or other aquacultural products will allow the burgeoning of new export industries for seastead specific products. This can lead to canning factories for food products, which could lead down the road to larger industry built out on specialized platforms including metal working. As much as we pull out of the Earth’s crust to fulfill our annual metal needs, a lot more of it is available on the sea floor just waiting for someone to scoop it up. In fact, trillions of dollars of nickel, cobalt, and other Rare Earth metals are within relatively easy reach waiting on the ocean floor, provided that you have a floating platform from which to extract them.
Finally, we have the last major development that seasteads are well positioned to take advantage of: Spaceports.
Most rocket launches today take place near major population centers, and in coastal areas. This is because falling debris from a failed launch could come careening back down and land on someone’s house if the launches took place over land and other populated areas. The oceans are vast and almost entirely empty spaces, and thus launching from locations like Florida, means that leftover debris from each launch can plummet down into the water where it won’t be a threat to anyone. But the next generation of spacecraft are becoming more powerful and louder. Soon, launching near major population centers could become very unpopular. Combine this with the reusable rockets that SpaceX has made being recollected on floating platforms already, and we can see why performing the entire launch process from the ocean seems like an appealing proposition to future private space companies. In addition, many launches have had to be aborted, due to rapid temperature fluctuations in the early morning hours before said launch. Wild temperature swings are a uniquely terrestrial problem. Near the equator, on the ocean, temperature swings are extremely mild and sometimes non-existent, as salt water maintains about the same temperature throughout the night. This means that by morning the ambient air temperature is consistent and changes much less than it would on land. This stable environment is ideal for large industrial spaceports to operate in.
As we can see, there are many near term, and far term economic opportunities that are afforded to seasteading communities. From tourism, to real estate, to aquaculture, to shipping, to blockchain, to space industry. The opportunities are almost endless. Which areas will take off first when the first floating city is founded, is anyone’s guess.