13-19 October 2017 #879

Business builders

Connecting Nepali start-up entrepreneurs with venture capital
Shreejana Shrestha

Five years after it launched, RedMud Coffee is already a well-established brand in Nepal, on track to be this country’s version of Starbucks. Founded in 2012 with just two employees, the company now employs over 70 young people, and is preparing to open its fifth outlet in 2017.

“Our long-term plan is to open at least 10 outlets in Nepal and sell three tons of coffee annually,” says founder Aashish Adhikari, a USA returnee.

But RedMud’s future might not have been so rosy without the help of Rockstart Impact, a Dutch program that helps Nepali start-ups secure crucial venture capital.

RedMud Coffee received international investment in 2015 – and hasn’t looked back since. “Our growth would have definitely been slower if it weren’t for foreign investment,” says Adhikari. “We all should be happy that Nepali start-ups are getting such support from Rockstart Impact.”

Started in Nepal in 2014, Rockstart Impact has already helped 29 companies, out of the 521 applications that it received. Of them, 21 firms have secured international investment pledges totalling over Euro 3 million.

Best Paani, Karkhana, Cotton Mill, Bloom Nepal School, Fresh Meats, Smart Tech Solution, ICT for Agriculture, Rammed Earth Solution and Intercontinental systems are among the alumni. Rockstart Impact is one of four programs of Rockstart, started by journalist-turned-serial-entrepreneur Oscar Kneppers in 2011 to help entrepreneurs realise their dreams. Nepal is Rockstart Impact’s first country: its priority areas include agriculture, food, education, environment, clean tech and healthcare.

“There is a big gap between people building scalable, innovation-driven companies and the expectation of investors,” Kneppers told Nepali Times during a recent visit. “Rockstart Impact helps to bridge the gap between start-ups and investors by sharing the best practices to grow business,” he adds.

The program has now received applications for its fourth iteration in which, as in earlier rounds, 10 participants will be selected and given intensive training for 100 days.

Says program director Victoria Ous: “We seek ambitious entrepreneurs with scalable and innovative business models that can create social impact. The selected entrepreneurs will learn to build a business plan, develop communication skills and pitch business to investors in 100 days of mentorship with us.”

After mentorship, the Nepali entrepreneurs have to pitch their business plans to potential investors in Amsterdam.

Kneppers says that starting Rockstart Impact in Nepal has been a successful experiment and, encouraged by its popularity and positive response, the program is being expanded to Myanmar.

“I feel very thankful that Nepal will always be the launch pad for Rockstart Impact in Asia,” he says, adding, “we will continue the program as long as we find entrepreneurs who want to make the local ecosystem and economy stronger.”

Read also:

Kathmandu’s Silinepalitimescon Alley and the Law,Sonia Awale

Encouraging womentrepreneurs, Stéphane Huët

Nepali Kagaj, Neresh Newar

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