Atlas Mara Co-founder Ashish Thakkar on how to make it past your third year as a start-up


To truly have sustainable success as an entrepreneur with a start-up, one needs to prioritise empowering the country they are investing in, says the Co-founder of Atlas Mara, Ashish Thakkar.

As start-ups start to expand, many entrepreneurs find it difficult to cope with the growing workload and as a result 92 per cent of start-ups do not make it to their third year.

Thakkar wants entrepreneurs to be prepared for the unexpected because it may take a different direction which you need to be prepared to adjust to.


“When you think about scalability and the transformation that is truly taking place, firstly it is adopting to the change, realising that you may think you know what the trend is going to be like in the next one or two years, but you have to be prepared, it may be quicker or slower than you anticipate,” he said.

The entrepreneur needs to be agile in an entrepreneurial environment, but at the same time an institutional framework needs to exist.

“Because when you do want to scale up, you are always going to have to go and raise more external capital, large amounts of debt, large amounts of equity and if you don’t have the right framework of governance around you then it is always a challenge,” said Thakkar.

One of the biggest difficulties is learning how to create a blend between having an institutional framework but still remaining entrepreneurial, something Thakkar believes Atlas Mara does well.

He also believes on-shoring is important and that the days of offshoring are over and that claiming that there is a skills deficit is nothing more than an excuse.

“You can put training mechanisms in place in order to enable people to understand that particular sector or piece of expertise that you require – it sometimes boils down into the lack of trying and that is the wrong mind-set, it is not going to last.”

In order to succeed in the markets now, Thakkar says you need to truly empower and transform local institutions and that can be applied to any sector. 

“Entrepreneurs should not look for the easy way out because it is not sustainable, that trend is going to change whether we like it or not and if you are ahead of the curve and you want to positively benefit the country and the people of that country then only will you succeed in the long run.”