Kathmandu & Startups: How can we make it work?

Recently, I wrote a post on the opportunities & the challenges that lay ahead of anyone who wanted to launch a startup in Nepal. This was in response to the original post by Akshay Sthapit, the CTO of Socialect. Sthapit has a great vantage point on the topic as Socialect has moved its operation to Kathmandu. I had an enlightening discussion with Sthapit on Soicalect & few other memnbers joined in with their opinion on the issue. After the discussions there, I think I have a better understanding on how to avoid the challenges that I listed on the original post.

Here are the ways someone who wants to launch a startup and take advantage of the cheaper operational & living cost in Nepal (Most of these steps come from Sthapit’s response # 19 on the discussion):

  1. Register the company in the US: The advantage to this is that you avoid dealing with the government of Nepal. A company registered in the US is also helpful at the later stage if you decide to get VC funding as VCs are particular about where the company is registered.
  2. Ensure that you have a backup option to return to the US: Given the political climate and inherent security risks because of it, it is crucial to have a path back to the US. This usually means that you need to either be a permanent resident of the US or have a valid business visa that allows you to come back to the US.
  3. Open a development office in Nepal: This is the key step in taking advantage of the lower operational & living costs. Once the entire development team, which is majority of people for most startup, is in Kathmandu, they can stretch the limited funds much longer as cost of living, marketing & hiring people are much less in Kathmandu.
  4. Decentralize Workflow: A decentralized workflow allows the employees to work from home when they cannot make it to the office. In a place like Kathmandu where riots, curfews and random closing of the city is rampant due to the unstable political climate, it is crucial to give the employees the ability to work from home when it is not safe for them to come to the office.
  5. Have redundant power/network supply: Make sure there are backup sources of power ready since load-shedding/power cuts are a regular phenomenon. It also pays to have redundant access to the internet in case one of the provider goes down, you can jump on the secondary provider without risking loss of productivity.
  6. Run on the cloud: With cloud computing becoming a household term, it is very easy and affordable to deploy your application over the cloud.
  7. Provide proper incentives to employees: While this applies to every startup looking for retention of its employees, it is especially necessary in case of Nepal because most of the people are fed up by the direction the country is headed. With proper incentives and freedom for employees to exercise their creativity, it will be that much easier to find and retain talent in Kathmandu.

I understand that these steps may not apply to everyone as a permanent residency in the US or the business visa are something that are not easily acquired. However, this is encouraging to the nepalese population as well as the members of tech community in general who are considering Nepal as an option for their startups.

I would like to thank everyone who joined the discussion, especially Akshay Sthapit. I would also love to get feedback from you on what you have to add to this based on your own personal experiences. I will be on the look out for some great comments!


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