The second I-Cube Business Incubation Program wrapped up on a successful note highlighting innovation, investment and collaboration for amazing Nepali entrepreneurs. Nepal Communitere concluded the program by hosting a Demo Day and Graduation celebration on January 17, 2020, at Hotel Himalaya, where 5 outstanding startups pitched their ideas to potential seed investors, financial institutions, banks, donor agencies and key players of the Nepali entrepreneurial ecosystem. The event successfully raised seed investments of up to 50 lakhs – WOW!
Nepal Communitere started this year-long, I-Cube program two years back with a commitment to boost innovation and uplift the entrepreneurial spirit in Nepal by supporting early-stage entrepreneurs to be investment-ready and connect them to domestic seed investors. It strongly believes that the nation is full of creative minds that can stimulate economic growth once they are supported with proper training, coaching and partnerships. As a result, the I-Cube program facilitates aspiring startups with monthly masterclasses, 1-1 strategic business coaching, a network of industry experts and technical consultants.
The graduating cohort of 2019 comprised of 5 startups: Antidote Apparels that offers designer clothing on rent; Ecoorb Ventures that manufactures paper from elephant dung; Airlift that offers 3D and 2D mapping and remote monitoring services via drones; Nuga: that produces personal care products using natural ingredients and Samata who manufactures and sells leather footwear and accessories. Out of these startups, Antidote and Ecoorb successfully raised a total of 20 lakhs in debt financing from private investors, and Nuga and Samata secured subsidized bank loans from Nabil Bank for 15 lakhs each. In year 2, the I-Cube Program continues to test different financing models for early-stage startups. Most startups are not ready to give up equity so early and don’t have enough data and traction for a meaningful valuation process, so debt financing with continued post-investment support is what’s required for growth and sustainability.
Nathanael Bevan, Deputy Director of DFID/UKAID Nepal highlighted how globally, startups generate 4 new jobs within the first year. The I-Cube Program has successfully created over 45 new jobs across 15 incubated startups showing that our numbers are quite close! He also announced the exciting expansion of the I-Cube Program into Province 5 in 2020. Likewise, Trishagni Shakya, Director of KGH Foundation and one of the investors for two I-Cube startups, highlighted the significance of private investment which acts as a catalyst for Nepal based startups to solve local problems more efficiently and effectively- which should ultimately lead national development.
Reflecting on the entire one-year incubation journey, Manish Jung Thapa, the Founder of Antidote Apparels shares how all the graduating teams have transformed both professionally and personally. The cohort has now become more organized with suitable office space and access to the entrepreneurial network. Moreover, they have evolved with elevated confidence and an inquisitive mindset to think differently and continuously challenge themselves. Sunny Rajopadhyaya, the co-founder of Ecoorb Ventures further added on how despite having no prior business experience, the I-Cube Program was practical, hands-on and accessible enough to be understood.