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Please check DHS's website. You can always work UNPAID. You can not accept any sort of compensation on F1 visa if you dont have approval from DHS.

I was myself on F1 and I know many students working unpaid for experience.




But, isn't this kind of unpaid internship illegal for everybody? (http://laborlaw.typepad.com/labor_and_employment_law_/2007/1...). though, of course, starting your own startup isn't exactly an unpaid internship. I'm sure the dividend payment bit would complicate things.

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That's bad advice. You CANNOT work unpaid. If you don't have a work permit you can't do any type of activity that might be considered _work_ by the DHS, even if you are not compensated. Work is defined as an activity that usually carries compensation.

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