How to start a startup without money: personal experience on the example of coworking in Thailand

Moscow-Phuket - feel the difference

This is not an ordinary success story about how I made a mega-successful project and cut money. Perhaps this article will change the life of a habrovchanin, give the magical pendell the necessary impetus, or at least dispel the myth that for any project, a lot of money is needed in the first place. Although a nuclear reactor is still without a bunch of money, perhaps, can not be built.

In the article I will share the experience of opening a rather unusual establishment of a coworking-anticafe hostel in Phuket in Thailand in the format of a short story, and in the comments I am ready to answer any questions on the topic, Thailand and Phuket in particular.

Quite a bit of background

In 2012, I was in the position of the lead developer of a typical startup laundering investor dough that successfully implemented an idea that, unfortunately, did not take root and has now gone into oblivion. I lived within the third transport, went to work on foot, walked with girls in the center of Moscow and could safely get home after that without a car or taxi.

Once in the freezing winter season, shortly before my 27th birthday, I walked home after a workout and noticed that there had been no cars around for a long time, but the air was still as disgusting as it was during the day. I felt dust particles in my nose, throat and even lungs. It could be attributed to cars during the day, but they aren’t around at night.

A couple of years before that, I already noticed that in Moscow I could not find a singleplaces in the open air where it will be really quiet, as in a normal forest. Even in the very center of Elk Island (do not offer bunkers).

Well, nafig, not for that I live to die in 50-60 years from cancer or stroke. In general, after a couple of minutes I already decided that I would leave my homeland soon, I should have received my passport soon after my birthday.

But why so radical?

At that time, the level of dissatisfaction with the government in the country was quite high, and I was firmly convinced that the standard of living and happiness in Russia was relatively low. As it turned out later, the first somehow pulls on the C grade, but with the second in this country a little worse than very bad.

Working remotely, you can live in much better conditions, even earning 2 times less than in Russia, and there isn’t much in our country (for example, cheap and high-quality housing, a warm sea all year round, delicious watermelons, mangoes and papaya at reasonable prices and much more).

Then I thought "in the worst case, I can always return to Russia . " Now I think, “But why?”


How did I choose the country for expatriation?

I read the forums a bit and then a colleague who traveled quite a lot gave me some advice.

I chose between Bali, Thailand, Bulgaria and the Caribbean, now I would add the Philippines, Vietnam, Chile, China, South Korea and Brazil to consider. Then I almost did not bother and thought that I could easily change my place in the future. In fact, in my case this is not entirely true. In the general case, this is done easily. But Phuket’s choice was definitely good , although it was somewhat random.

Well, what about coworking?

Thank you for your patience, dear habrozhitel, from here it will be closer to the point.

Arriving in Phuket, I had to learn a scooter (which took already 2 minutes), and later I lived in apartments with this view.

view from the balcony
Beauty! But the thrill of the impressions was to share them, but there was no one to share.

At that time, the anticafe boom began in Russia and the girls and I often walked along it; I met many wonderful people there. In general, something like this was clearly not enough for me. Well and even more so about any professional communication it was possible not to think. A month later, I decided that I would open my coworking anticafe with poker and courtesans here .

What got in the way?

My two problems were that I had neither business experience nor money.

no money, no experience

At that time, I worked remotely in two projects and naively believed that I would save money from them. I will not ship why it did not work, in general, the idea did not work. In general, the idea of ​​“accumulating and creating a dream project” is utopian. We can endorse this topic in the comments if you wish.

In the summer of the 13th, a close friend of mine asked him to help out with money, and at the same time the bank sent a text message (like most of you) that he was ready to kindly provide me a loan. Having estimated that there are no other options to quickly get money for renting a room, and unlike money, time is not a replenished resource, I took out a loan of more than 200 thousand rubles, of which about 150 were left after a loan to a friend. The problem of money for the next couple of months, thus, at least was solved.

The captain suggested that business experience as well as the experience of patching where for freebsd can be obtained only in practice.


We rented a modest house for 50+ thousand baht per month <sarcasm> and began our powerful promotional campaign .


In fact, almost any building can be adapted for coworking - in Asia, I saw a lot of coworking in residential buildings and even from bamboo! At the same time, strangely enough, often commercial real estate (at least in Tae) is not suitable for coworking.

Depending on the scale, you may not even organize a reception, but what you really need is a team of people who have the same vision of the establishment as you do. To begin with, you can find at least one employee, and in the future bring this amount to the necessary.

Pretty quickly it became clear that almost no one needed an anticafe in Phuket, here everyone has their own space for parties - their own house or apartments. Tourists were not considered - most of them are interested in where to have a drink, it is cheaper to rent prostitutes / transgender people, see the sights and go to the islands. In addition, they live in dumb tourist areas such as the Patong Hole, far removed from normal places. There were several tourist guys who even worked in coworking, but these are more likely exceptions and whoever needs it from the category, they will find it.


stepping on a rake hurts

My laziness and faith in the responsibility of people led to the fact that the space quickly became dirty and uncomfortable. At times, it was possible to fight this with varying degrees of success, but overall success was so-so until a good cleaning lady was hired.

With officiality, we, too, were a little worse than nothing, so people who were not familiar with the anticafe format (and they were almost a little less than everyone) did not understand why and even to whom they should pay for "coming to hang out with friends ".

After a while, they prompted me to populate people into our space. The idea was in demand. But an epic fail was made - the housing price was too small (because there was no money to make comfortable conditions, and it was a shame to take more for the mattress on the floor), it gave twice on the forehead: firstly, even with maximum occupancy, the space remained unprofitable, in -second, we attracted a bunch of people who belonged to space, to put it mildly, disgusting and not as intended.

Such is the psychology of people that the value of services and goods in the eyes of the majority is primarily determined not by objective assessments, but by its value. Well, many in general in the format were completely not our audience - they did not like to play games, most did not need coworking at all. It was necessary to immediately filter, but then every baht was counted and psychologically it was very difficult to do.

It so happened that wintering people from Russia became our main audience, who are absolutely convinced that in the summer in Phuket there is "nothing to do and not a season at all." That the weather in the summer is much more pleasant, fewer cars on the roads and even lower prices - many do not even believe in it!


From the point of view of profit, we got complete garbage. The actual result is a zero balance, but with monthly loan payments of 9k rubles. Someone may now say, “Well, you are a fool - you just poured money into a pipe, you spent time, you didn’t get any success, why write about it at all? Shame only .
Perhaps he is right. However, let’s go back a year and remember what I was missing? Is it money? Not. Something interesting was missing . Did I get it? Hell yeah!

With all the unprofitableness, I never had the thought that I did it in vain - it was so cool.

In the month of May, all the wintering people flew away, and we, having deserted, turned off our activities.

Phoenix Rebirth

phoenix rebirth

Nevertheless, this was only the beginning, and not the end, as one might think. When the bumps from the rake on the forehead passed, then a vision came of what to do next.

A bit of reasoning

Any anticafe or coworking is held regularly . It is they who create the feeling of life in this place, they are “their own” here. In big cities, if we talk about anti-cafes, then this is about 150-200 people who love the place (the figure is real, insight from the director of the anti-cafe RebelArtHouse in Moscow). Of course, each of them cannot walk every day, but a certain median of frequency times this number gives the necessary result. Unfortunately, I do not have an adult coworking insight with numbers, and in our example, even with 1 coworker per 12 square meters of space, there is no longer a feeling of emptiness.

The problem is that in Phuket there are about 12 thousand non-asocial expats who speak English or Russian of adequate age, and far from all of them are freelancers. Most of them are rentiers, guides, wintering men, young mothers; Of course, most of them are not at all interested in our format. In general, it’s difficult to make a party place for locales, it’s the same as to open such a place in some Melenki.

The solution was to place in the same space those who like the idea, those who like to socialize, make friends and work in such a place in a warm climate and by the sea. Thus, it is possible to reduce the required number of regulars by an order of magnitude (12-15 people are already quite enough). Those. essentially just attractsuch people who want to change their place of residence, but are afraid that in another country he will not have friends and is generally scared .

Current state of affairs

Now we rented another space, smaller and already almost full before the start of the season. I would say that there is not enough large space for events, as in the previous place, but otherwise everything is fine.

What did I get in general?

  • The most important thing is the vision of what I want. If a year ago everything was in a fog, now it is very clear;
  • Experience and knowledge;
  • Many new interesting friends and acquaintances from around the world;
  • From them there is a lot of interesting things about other cities and countries;
  • Fans of our establishment who add confidence that the idea is cool;
  • An interesting pastime without leaving the "home";
  • The ability to roll at sea at any time;
  • Warmth - mom no longer tells me “put on your hat!”;
  • True, now always have to wear a helmet when riding a bike. Oh, this universal injustice;
  • The cost of food / housing / clothing decreased by 3 times;
  • I met my wife. Still, if I were not in Phuket, I would not have met her.

Of the minuses - the lack of money because any income is immediately spent on improving the comfort of the institution. Although it is temporary and the borders are quite visible.

What are your plans?

Now one of the top priorities is to maximize comfort. We plan to buy comfortable mattresses with beds, deliver air conditioners where they are not there and other little things.

There is still an idea to provide those who have a tight, self-motivated, unique “head” service for coworking - a day / week plan is agreed with the “head” and he gives magic pendels. If there are those who consider such a service potentially in demand - write in the comments, plz.

A bit of insight and generalization

The cost items of such a place come down to renting a house (700-3000USD per month), salary of a cleaning woman (in any country, immediately look for a filipina, about 300 USD per month), electricity costs (100-300 USD per month), Internet, and at the stage openings also on furniture (tables, armchairs, beds, mattresses) (~ 300-500 USD per potential client once), household appliances (the most expensive - air conditioners) and if it is a difficult country to register (for example, in Thailand it’s about 4000 USD with all). If the country is not complicated, then you can register later. Organization of ownership - Internet cafe and / or hostel.

There is no specific requirement for space - this can be done in a house, in an office building, but at least put an awning. The main thing is to create an atmosphere. It all depends on the awl in your ass. Doing nothing - nothing will work, even in a posh place.

If suddenly someone wants to open such a project, then the only thing that is really necessary is to really want this. My desire to do this a year ago was very close to "I cannot help but do it . " Announce your intentions to your friends (give a social promise), do not hesitate to ask questions and most importantly - act! I’ll be happy to help than I can in such a matter. Why? Because the idea is cool and IMHO to make such a format of establishments the norm throughout the world is much more useful than being the only institution that is not very clear to everyone.

Such a place can be opened in Vietnam in Dalat, South Korea on Jeju, the Philippines in Baguio or Panglao, on Penang in Malaysia. And this is just a snap. A couple of months ago I would add Sevastopol, but from what happens to the ruble, my hair stands on end, including on my head .

PS If someone is interested in learning how to launch any project without money at all, then I can write an article in the form of instructions. Web projects are so much easier to run.

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