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  • Writer's pictureAdhish Gurung

How do you build a climate tech company in Kathmandu?

On day zero, nobody knew what climate tech meant. By day one hundred, Utopia built its first climate tech company. It should come as no surprise that growing a new venture in Nepal is excruciatingly difficult but at Utopia, we manage to make it a little less painful and for most of it, fun! So, who are the cofounders of our first climate tech company and what do they do? We’ll get to that in just a bit. We need to start at the beginning of how they ended up building this company in the first place and why they knew they could succeed.

The urban climate tech cohort at Utopia Kathmandu

Back in early 2022, when seemingly everyone was being infected by the omicron variant in Kathmandu, we sent out a call for applications for our first in-person venture building cohort: 55 people applied. Utopia’s venture studio model is based on the principle that if you find talented people and provide the resources to develop their ideas, they can build great companies together. We found six prospects, and they paired up. Five out of six were women: a proud achievement.

Over the next three months, the cohort explored urban problem areas, conducted hours of user research, came up with solutions, built prototypes, and tested them with people. Our model is heavily influenced by human centered design or HCD. The cohort camaraderie was strong. The “entrepreneurs- in-residence” as we call them came from different academic and professional backgrounds but were a tight-knit group. It’s noteworthy how much they supported each other’s venture ideas even though they were directly competing with one another.

Finally, the teams presented their venture decks during a Gateway Moment to a seasoned committee of internal and external venture building professionals. The goal was to progress to the next chapter and seize an opportunity to actually build that company. In reality any of those pitches could have progressed but we were limited in funds and time, so we selected one.

Our first cofounders are building a safe food company

Enter Urban Eats. Rosie Rai and Stuti Sharma were on it from the get-go. Even before the cohort had met in-person at the CITYLAB, the two shared momos and got to know each other. Stuti had built a library and worked for a prominent recycling company. Rosie had returned from Dubai after years as a successful interior design consultant. Their shared passion — safe food and where it came from.

Over the next three months, they tried a range of ideas and built exciting prototypes; a vertical garden, dried food packages, a blockchain based food transparency app were all part of the mix.

Now their focus is on a vegetables and dried goods subscription model that sources from Kathmandu’s local farmers and delivers to people in the city. The food is safe, trusted and sourced directly from the farms. The climate tech angle — eliminating food waste in the supply chain and reducing food mileage.

Why is the venture studio model effective?

Urban Eats was built in the Kathmandu CITYLAB where we invite talented individuals (you don’t need to have a venture idea) to apply to our urbantech cohort. After lengthy screening, we select the most gritty, promising, and collaborative prospects (You can’t have an existing registered company to apply).

We offer a physical space to build prototypes, masterclasses, seed funding, and a global network of experts. For many, these inputs are the difference between a failing startup and a successful one. In fact, a study of 23 leading venture studios found that of the 415 companies they created, 91% succeeded. Utopia is invested in the resulting startup’s long-term future. We work with cofounders for up to eighteen months and make three commitments:

  1. Launch an urbantech startup in 100 days

  2. Secure first 1000 customers together.

  3. Aim to help scale to other cities in the region.

In a nascent startup ecosystem such as Kathmandu, Utopia is one of the first companies introducing the venture studio model and definitely the first one to work on urbantech solutions.

Are you interested in building an urbantech company? Let us know below

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