Karsten Aichholz, Founder of Thailand Starter Kit

Karsten Aichholz – a pro-gamer turned tech entrepreneur.
What’s your story?
I’m a pro-gamer turned tech entrepreneur.
Ever since high school I spent a seriously impressive (or frightening, depending on who you ask) amount of time playing video games. In fact it reached a point where I was playing games for other people and ended up getting paid for it. I pretty much paid for my entire life throughout university by playing video games. After graduating I asked a fellow student to join me and together we started our own business in the gaming industry. A year into the venture, we decided to double down, move the company to Thailand and scale it up here in Bangkok.

What excites you most about your industry?
I’ve been in a number of different industries over the years. What I really liked about gaming was how it’s full of bright, tech savvy, dedicated people who are often in it for the hobby first and the money second. It’s not all roses and gamers can be some of the most cynical people out there, but the immersion into the industry and what it brings with it feels very unique.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m running two tech companies out of Bangkok. I moved here after only ever visiting the city for a single weekend. Having been to India and Japan before, I figured it would be somewhere in between – and not only in geographic terms. 11 years later that turned out to have been not far off the mark.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Bangkok – it’s a perfect mix of ease of doing business and quality of life. While not as smooth and seamless as Singapore or Hong Kong, the lower cost of doing business gives you a much longer runway for a great many ventures. In addition, it’s a place you can genuinely enjoy living, making for a happier and more productive entrepreneur.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You can be loved or you can be feared, but you can’t be both at the same time.” Advice given to me by a lawyer when I was about to face my first major labor dispute within a year of coming to Thailand. Taking his advice, I opted to back down and resolved it amicably. In hindsight it was definitely the strategy that fit my own management style and company culture best.

Who inspires you?
Everyday people who do the right thing regardless of circumstances. You don’t have to look very far to find someone who sticks to their guns in spite of temptation on one side or hardship on the other. I see plenty of bloggers who have really great standards that they follow consistently and who I admire for that: Jodi Ettenberg (http://www.legalnomads.com), Stuart McDonald (https://www.travelfish.org/) and Shannon O’Donnell (http://alittleadrift.com/) are three blog entrepreneurs setting great examples.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That in 2011 the United States considered issuing a 1 trillion dollar coin as an accounting trick to resolve the debt ceiling crisis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trillion_dollar_coin

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d love to have seen how different branches of my life would have played out, but not at the price of giving up my current one. Thus, I wouldn’t change anything. Time travel complications aside and with a focus on my business, I wish I had been more laid back, considerate and long-term oriented as a young entrepreneur. When you first get started, it’s easy to focus on the short-term game at hand rather than on the big picture.

How do you unwind?
By going on week-long video game, book or travel benders from which I come back with a hunger and energy that carries me for months.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the out-of-the-way towns on the Mae Hong Son loop in Northern Thailand. You can either do the entire loop on a motorcycle or just kick back in one of the tiny towns along the way. Enjoy some good coffee while staying in a cozy guest house. Once you get out of Chiang Mai and Pai you’ll have many places to yourself.

Everyone in business should read this book:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Awful title, amazing book. I expected ‘Warren Buffet checks his emails only once a day’ and instead I got a value system that I really took to heart.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’ve put together a free resource for people looking to live, work or start a company in Thailand. It’s called Thailand Starter Kit. For entrepreneurs there’s a lot of practical advice, including how to hire a lawyer in Thailand (https://www.thailandstarterkit.com/legal/thailand-lawyers/) and how to best deal with common cross-cultural management and communication issues (https://www.thailandstarterkit.com/business/cross-cultural-management-thailand/).

How can people connect with you?
Send me a message on the contact form of my personal blog at https://www.karstenaichholz.com/contact

Twitter handle?

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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