It’s a Monday morning and I’m meeting with Kwang at Roastniyom, a favorite coffee shop for expats living in Chiang Mai. Kwang is a smiling young Thai woman with long shiny hair. Like me, she orders an herbal tea, and like me, she keeps her laptop near her fingertips. We’re talking for the first time about a new business venture in women’s apparel. And it’s exciting for both us. She’s been making jewelry and working in fashion for a long time and has just started selling on Etsy. I’ve been doing marketing for corporate, non-profit and as a consultant. Now I look forward to having a business of my own to market.
We were introduced to each other by Matt. An entrepreneur who has set up his home base in Chiang Mai. Oddly enough, Matt and I met on Tinder! At a time when I needed a job and Matt needed a content marketer more than either of us needed a significant other :). The timing was serendipitous. We worked together for eight months, and when I told him I was ready to start my own company, he knew just the girl I should meet. And serendipity ensues as I sit with Kwang. Perhaps this is why I have complete faith in the world to deliver what you need when you need it… But that’s all tangent.
To me, Chiang Mai is the tropical version of Silicon Valley. Full of co-working spaces and big ideas. Sure, it’s much smaller than the valley, but give it time. Over 60,000 expats enjoy an alternative lifestyle here – Where fresh coconut is a staple and a good meal never costs more than a few dollars. Bootstrapping your startup here in CM (as we call it, affectionately) will cost you a fraction of even the tightest budget in San Francisco. Except here you don’t have to limit yourself to a garage and a dog, you can have a 2 bedroom house with circling terrace and balcony for about $260/ month. The mountains are near, the islands are near, and there are plenty of intellectuals waiting to talk philosophy or innovation with you (but it probably won’t have anything to do with big data).
What attracts people here and who does it attract? Well, I’d say it attracts people with shallow pockets who dream big. I’ve met drop shipping entrepreneurs, Amazon entrepreneurs, e-Commerce and so on. Most of them started with very little capital. The beauty of being in Asia is that you can still afford to do it. You don’t need more than $1,000 a month to live on, and truthfully, you could live on much less depending on what you deem ‘necessity’ ;). So with a small amount of savings or a steady consulting gig to keep you funded, a little goes a long way towards your dreams.
The entrepreneurs I meet here differ in one big way from the entrepreneurs I met in Silicon Valley. They have lifestyle goals, not just monetary ones. They are working hard now to earn more free time later. Like me, they’ve fallen in love with tropical living. The slow pace of life. The hammocks. The scooters. The night markets and the zen infused culture that surrounds us here in Thailand. No one honking horns. A strong belief in karma and kindness. And an unbeatable cost for the quality of living.
No, I won’t bump into Woz here, or brush elbows with Marrisa Maher, but there’s a freshness here. A new budding epicenter. I can feel it. I suppose that’s why I’m naming my new company Tropic Bliss… because there’s no better way to describe it.
It’s here… The Dawn of the Tropipreneur ;).
For a list of the best co-working spaces in Chiang Mai, click here.