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Paycorp Saw an Opportunity… and Took It

Paycorp was first launched as ATM Solutions in 1999. Founder Steven Kark was 25 years old. He’d seen an article in Forbes magazine describing the success of the largest independent ATM company in the US.

Nadine Todd




It was the late 90s, and the retail landscape in South Africa was changing. Convenience retail was on the rise, and large retail shops, 7/11s, and garage shops were popping up everywhere. Retail was becoming more convenient, and yet there was one glaring gap: Very few ways to access cash outside of banks.

“In the US, companies were installing ATMs in retail areas. I knew there was an additional opportunity in South Africa: Previously under-serviced areas and retail locations, which had traditionally been neglected, but offered a huge market.

“After a lot of searching, I found an email address and managed to get in touch with the guys in the US who I’d read about. They weren’t interested in international expansion, but they were happy to put me in contact with the manufacturers, a company called Triton based in Mississippi.

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Off to the US

“I jumped on a plane to the US to make contact. I had some money saved up and for the next few months I cultivated the idea. I also realised I needed someone who understood technology. I contacted a family friend, Rowan Swartz, and asked him if he was interested in launching a start-up. He was.

“We formed an amazing partnership with Triton. They facilitated introductions to all the big ATM guys in the US. By the end of 1999 our first 23 machines arrived. Now we needed a bank to connect to. Our proposal was simple: ‘We’ll extend your footprint of ATMs into retail locations. Through our ATMs, you’ll have access to more transactions, particularly in under-serviced markets; you’ll service your customers, but you won’t carry the costs.’ The big four banks didn’t bite. We just couldn’t make the idea fly until Saambou got on board. They had a large cardholder base but few machines, so the idea worked for them.

“On 24 March 2000 the first machine went live at an office park in Pretoria, across the road from a Saambou bank. In quick succession, there were 23 Cash Express machines supported by Saambou live around Joburg and Pretoria. For the next 14 years we installed a machine per day.”

The Business Model

Kark and Swartz had hit on a serious market need. All retail stores wanted an ATM. They increased foot traffic, spend and basket size. But it was difficult for merchants to get ATMs from banks, which didn’t view them as a retail product.

“We approached the retailer directly. There were two options. One, the retailer paid R1 800 per month rental, and we took care of all services except the cash, which was loaded from their tills. Two, the retailer paid R2 800 monthly rental, and we did the cash stock as well (this made things more complicated because we now needed cash-in-transit partners). The back-end was complicated, but very simple for the retailer: For either R1 800 or R2 800, they got a fully-serviced ATM.

“There was a huge demand. We installed 650 ATMs in two years. We signed 60-month agreements upfront, and this helped us secure the finance to order and ship more ATMs.

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“We get an annuity stream of bank fees: Every time a machine is used, the retailer gets a percentage of the fees, we get a percentage of the fees, and the bank’s footprint grows.”

Once the transaction processing capability was established, additional complementary products and services were added. The business quickly expanded into card acceptance services and prepaid card programmes. Today, Paycorp has expanded even further with acquisitions and partnerships to extend the payment solutions to emerging markets.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Company Posts

Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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