An ambitious start-up is targeting 2020 for the launch of a floating city off French Polynesia, where it hopes to use a “start-up” ethos to eventually create a climate-friendly, small-government alternative to land-based nations.

The non-profit think-tank Seasteading Institute hopes to secure approval for its Floating City Project from the French Polynesian government next year, at which point it will begin construction on the first of an anticipated 15 floating platforms. The domed, greenery-filled platforms will each be roughly the size of a baseball diamond, and can be rearranged to connect to different points on the floating city’s framework.

The first “city” is expected to house approximately 300 people, but the ultimate goal is to bring in people from various countries to found new, ocean-based nations.

“We’re going to start very small and non-threatening,” Joe Quirk, president of the Seasteading Institute, told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday. He said his aim is to “create completely independent floating nations,” where new forms of governance can leave behind some of the issues people face in land-based countries.

“Seasteading solves two of the biggest challenges in the world,” he said. “One is sea level rise and the other is the lack of startup innovation in governance.”

The first floating city will be built in a lagoon, where it will be protected from the potentially violent conditions of the open ocean.

“We’re going to start in a very placid, peaceful, easy place to float,” Quirk said.

The project is Quirk’s brainchild, but it’s moving forward in large part thanks to the financial and political support of venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Thiel, who has been outspoken about his Libertarian views, hailed the project in 2009 as a potential “escape from politics in all its forms.” Several other major Silicon Valley investors have also backed the project.

In addition to founding a new form of society, the proposed city might also become an attractive tourist destination, with underwater restaurants and homes offering unprecedented views of the ocean life.

“You will be looking through your glass walls in your aquarium bedroom,” Quirk said.

He added that the city is expected to attract and support aquatic life, so that it will be a net benefit to the environment.

“Imagine if the more cities you built, the more sea life you could create,” he said.