One Eye On Nepal

A tech startup launched partly or fully by Nepalis that might manage to raise 100K or 200K from among Nepalis in the first round, also called seed round, or friends and family round, if it does good work positions itself to raise north of a million dollars in its second round from professional investors. But it would be hard, probably impossible, to raise a million dollars from among Nepalis.

There is a flip side to that coin. Say that tech startup does well and ends up with a valuation in the 100 million dollar range in five years. Interested Nepalis either invested in the first round or did not invest at all. Because round two onwards you have to be a licensed investor to invest. You can’t come into rounds two, three or four.

Granted a tech startup is high risk behavior. Bottom line, it could fail. You could lose your money as an investor. But I can’t think of a better vehicle than a tech startup to start tapping into the robust capital markets in this city, the finance capital of the world. And unless you are a successful entrepreneur, you have no moral standing to make any meaningful contribution to economic growth in Nepal. Lecturing goes only so far, you have to be in a position to make meaningful investments. In this era of globalization and the Internet one can hope to make major contributions to Nepal’s economic growth, even if it might be 10,000 miles away.

Let’s say you invest 5K in a tech startup that goes on from a million dollar valuation in round 1 to a 100 million dollar valuation in about five years. Your 5K just grew to half a million dollars. It can be argued that is retirement money. A 500,000 dollar trust fund could generate 50K every year forever. It could be set up that way. As in, your half million stays intact. And you are netting 50K a year forever. 50K a year is not fancy, but it can be if you were to choose to spend all your money in a country like Nepal.

By that token a 10K investment would bring you a million dollars in that startup. A 20K investment would bring you two million dollars. A two million dollar trust fund would bring you 200K every year. That is rich!

What if you invested 5K each into 10 startups and only one of them hit it big? Your 50K still became half a million.

By one count there are 30 millionaire Nepalis in Russia. Shesh Ghale is in Australia. No matter which way you look, Nepalis in America look to be in a bad shape. America should have minted more Nepali millionaires than any place else. But that has not happened because not enough Nepalis in this country have gone into entrepreneurship. I happen to think that is a shame.

In Russia you could have bought factories for cheap when the Soviet Union collapsed. In Australia I guess real estate and education were key. But in the American economy high tech is the way to go. Old economy companies make money but not wild money. The beauty of software is it allows you to cash on your old economy expertise. I believe many software companies like Uber and AirBnB are yet to be born, companies that will target major inefficiencies in the old economy at large scales. Both are multi-billion dollar companies.

Clean energy is another way to get on the cutting edge. Finally Nepal might start making some big moves in a few years. I think there is room to build multinational corporations that do business globally, but also are deeply engaged in Nepal’s hydro sector.

The other day I was at a rooftop party in Manhattan and I came across this guy who had a biotech background who was doing Big Data for some big bank. He was not cashing in on his biotech background, not yet. But just like there are intersections between software and biotech, there necessarily are intersections between clean energy and software.

Risk taking is the top quality entrepreneurs share. Risk taking is more important than smarts, more important than a great work ethic. Sometimes you simply have to jump in and let the chips fall where they may. No risk, no gain.

But to the ablest of entrepreneurs, it probably does not feel like risk taking. To those watching, it might look like risk taking. But the best of entrepreneurs move with the assurance of a sleep walker. Just like I think of New York City as not part of America, but a whole different country altogether, I think entrepreneurs are a whole different species.


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