Recently a former colleague asked me about setting up office in India and San Francisco. Compiling these tidbits made me realize how reusable this database is. A part of it is useful for any foreigner setting up shop in the Valley.
Cucumbertown is a network for cooks. Think Tumblr for cooks. We are a platform with users from around 162 countries but we haven’t generated revenue yet. Our lead investors are from the Valley and by virtue of that, we set up shop in the United States with a subsidiary company in India. Fortunately or not, we don’t have to deal with payments in India.
I have met quite a few entrepreneurs building SaaS products billed both in the U.S. and in India. If that happens to be your case, reach out to a CPA in the U.S. and a CA in India.
Ryan Roberts is Cucumbertown’s attorney. I picked up Ryan’s details from this Freshdesk post. Ryan’s been instrumental in setting up everything from the registration to convertible notes and privacy policies and generally responds to emails in a day. Super fast with output and advice.
Vincent Sunder is the best for bookkeeping. I spent 3 months searching for someone who has the experience, patience and is reasonable. Most of them were either prohibitively expensive or did not understand the nuances of international bookkeeping. Vincent is a veteran.
Umesh Hegde is the top choice in India for chartered accountants, and most startups I know in Bangalore already use his service. He does everything from company registrations to audits, and also handles Indian taxes.
Jino Joseph is great for U.S. taxes. He is reasonable and you only need to talk to him via email. Plus, Jino and Vincent work in close tandem.
Finally, for U.S. banking, I recommend Silicon Valley Bank. This is by far the simplest choice. SVB will help create an account without any hassles.
U.S./India Company Relations
This is actually a simple concept that can get complicated if not addressed right. To set things clear, there are two primary scenarios:
- Business in the U.S., operations in India (fairly common)
- Business in the U.S. and in India (revenues in both the countries)
Cucumbertown falls under the first category. And that makes the case for the Indian company to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the American firm.
If you are building a company for international markets and your investors are from the valley, consider registering your firm as a Delaware entity. Then register the Indian subsidiary. I have friends who had to go through a complex acquisition process (with the American firm acquiring the Indian entity) just to solve tax issues in India.
Networking and Mentorship
- Consider an accelerator for funding and/or networking like 500. We raised funding through 500 at Cucumbertown. The 500 alumni have become a powerful vehicle to build your network on. Cucumbertown was not part of the accelerator but the resources and people we have access to is an unfair advantage. We even have a food founder’s get-together once a year. Besides, 500 has a strong international community and the Indian family’s pretty strong too.
- Look for strong advisors. Mukund Mohan is a great example; he’s among the most connected and reliable angel investor/advisor/mentor to bank on. I can’t emphasize how much he extends his network to help an entrepreneur. Plus, he’s well-connected with the Valley and heads Microsoft’s entrepreneurship wing.
Logistics, From Travel to Cash Transfers
- Air travel: Cathay Pacific offers the best value. No Lufthansa please. And Emirates is expensive. Book directly from the Cathay site. The site is a mess of a design but re-booking is $50 to $75 in comparison to the extra tax and commission you need to pay the agent or the booking site. You always reschedule.
- Founders Card: FoundersCard gives you great upgrades and entitlements. I have a Cathay Marco Polo membership via this.
- Cash transfers: Always, always transfer directly to your bank in India. Transfer the cash in U.S. dollars and let the receiving bank do the conversion. We were screwed up twice over for transferring cash in INR, converted by our bank in the U.S. India has a system for accepting incoming funds. If this does not apply to you, AFEX is my next option.
- Getting things done: Use TaskRabbit if you need things done. When I need help transporting or cleaning up an an Airbnb’ed apartment, TaskRabbit is my choice.
- Cellular: I like T-Mobile’s prepaid plans, which include unlimited calls and Internet.
- Car rentals: Hotwire offers economical deals. For driver service, Uber and Lyft are the default choices in major cities like San Francisco.
- Cash: We bank with HDFC in India and every time I travel we get the prepaid credit cards.
- Storage: If you are like me and move back and forth every 6-7 months, I’d suggest you store furniture, mattress and other stuff in a storage space. Colisieum Storage is my favorite solution in the Bay Area. See reddit thread.
I hope this list is useful to you. Please feel free to correct/add to this in the comments for other entrepreneurs who may be facing similar challenges.
A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.