Karsten Aichholz – A pro-gamer turned tech entrepreneur in Thailand

Most of us spend our lives in one country and travel just for fun or work.
Karsten is the youngest of three sons to a British mom and a German dad who met in a sing-along bar in Canada.

At the start of his career in airline management he worked in India, Dubai, Austria and Germany. He gave up this more traditional corporate career out of a profound fear of missing out. So what does an entrepreneurial young man (23 years old) like Karsten do? Well, he negotiated an investment promotion with the Royal Thai Government to leverage a Bangkok-based video game company from zero to a million USD in revenue within five years.

Karsten provides advice to and invests in fellow tech entrepreneurs. He gives talks at events and universities, checks nutrition labels for carbohydrates, and gets into trouble with tuk-tuk touts. His fluency in Thai has really been put in use. Karsten also blogs about living and working in Bangkok at karstenaichholz.com.

Since I work myself in digital marketing I was interested in hearing more about Karsten whose skills encompass anything from search engine optimization to affiliate marketing and monetization. All of that in addition to his vast experience with online gaming industry – and he also works in domain registrations and online dating.

I learned Karsten has given guest lectures on entrepreneurship at a number of universities in Germany and Thailand. To him working with students is pleasure so if you are looking for a speaker, you should definitely get in touch with him. Given his background it is easy to guess that he is lucky enough to speak German and English fluently. Some of us speak strange languages like Finnish that does take you very far in any country.

And having worked in multiple countries tells us this guy likes to travel. His sense of adventure had lead him to 60+ different countries such as Armenia, Iceland, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Rwanda, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan, Uganda and Zimbabwe among others.

What do you think is the most difficult issues for foreigners to adjust in Thailand (cultural ddaptability?)

There are a few things expats aren’t inherently aware of that are second nature to Thais – e.g. mixing personal and work life. That goes both ways: People use Facebook at work, but also don’t mind helping out with something work related outside of normal office hours and days. Many people try to impose their style of working on local staff. While that can work – though it not often does – it’s usually much easier to see what the local mode of operation is and go with that. I’ve put together a guide on cross cultural management that shows what I learned in regards to this as an entrepreneur myself.

Why do you want to live in Thailand instead of for example Silicon Valley or UK as an entrepreneur?

I think for many people it’s not just the quality of life: The cost of talent, infrastructure and pretty much everything else is significantly lower. That gives companies a much better cost basis than those located in more central regions of the tech world. There are also a lot more opportunities in the local market whereas in the US or Europe the market is more mature and opportunities are a bit more rare.

After living so in some many countries do you feel there is any one country or culture that is better for an entrepreneur and why?

A great many country make an excellent base for a business. Of course it depends on the individual business which country is the best location. Thailand tends to be a great choice because it unites available infrastructure, a talented pool of labor and easy of doing business with personal quality of life and lower cost of bootstrapping. However, there’s also something to be said for starting a business in your home country: It’s where you have the strongest network, the least uncertainty and the most in-depth know-how. Having your operational base elsewhere might bring advantages, but it adds a lot of complexities that can quickly add up. Nowadays a lot of countries in Eastern Europe are worth looking into – e.g Bulgaria or Georgia.

Who are the people you follow or admire as entrepreneurs – and why?

It depends on the specific issue. The majority of people I admire and follow tend to be people I know a little better in person: From them I not only get to see the show they put on stage, but also have an insight into what’s going on backstage. There is no shortage of gurus and celebrity entrepreneurs who cultivated an image that they now also need to protect. The most authentic insights tend to come to me from people closer to home who also know me a little better. One such example is Seppo Puusa – he runs the website AcneEinstein.com. I really admire the ethical approach and diligence he brings to content creation.

If I can grant you the life you want you want for the rest of your life, what would it be like?

Pretty close to what I have now I’d say. Maybe I’d get to fly more business class ;-).


Contact Karsten

Life, Work and Doing Business in Thailand
Thailand Company Incorporation Dos and Don’ts
Expat life in Thailand (Abroad Podcast)

Playing Serious: Gaming meets Entrepreneurship
Das Leben in Bangkok, Bloggen und Computerspielsuch (Humor is Art) – in German

Attention is Money: How to be a More Productive Entrepreneur
What do Entrepreneurs do All Day? (Inc.com)


Population: 65,002,000
Capital: Bangkok – 6,604,000 (almost 10 million in metro area)
Area: 513,115 square kilometers (198,115 square miles)
Language: Thai, English, ethnic and regional dialects
Religion: Buddhist, Muslim
Currency: Baht
Life Expectancy: 71
GDP per Capita: U.S. $7,000
Literacy Percent: 96

Industry: Tourism, textiles and garments, agricultural processing, beverages, tobacco, cement
Exports: Computers, transistors, seafood, clothing, rice
Agriculture: Rice, cassava (tapioca), rubber, corn