It is impossible to mention the African technology ecosystem without giving credit to bigwigs like Mark Essien, founder and CEO of Hotels.ng, Africa’s biggest online hotel booking platform. Founded in 2013, Hotels.ng currently has a listing of more than 7,000 hotels in 21 states across Nigeria and has facilitated up to two million hotel reservations since its inception. The platform also employs 150 people and recently successfully raised $1.2 million from Omidyar Network, the investment vehicle of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, a seed-stage technology fund.
Mark 39, attended Federal Government College Ikot Ekpene in the late nineties and Beuth University of Applied Science in Germany. Whiles in Germany, he became fascinated with computers and, since he did not own one at the time, his older sister, who was also based in Germany, allowed him to use hers, and from then he branched into software development. He has created outstanding software like Gnumm a file sharing service which was later acquired by the Bertelmann group and Standard MPEG which was sold to a number of notable clients, including Disney and the US military. With the advent of smartphones and the transformation in the use technology, Mark adapted and developed apps for the Apple’s App Store. When the market for apps in Western countries became saturated, Mark decided to bring back his technology skills to Africa.
Mark moved back to Nigeria to build his hotel booking platform using Calabar as his pilot point. He divided his time between developing the website and signing-up hotels on the platform. After signing up majority of the hotels in the Calabar market, it was time to expand. Seeking investment, Essien met with a well-known African entrepreneur, Jason Njoku, founder of iROKO Partners Limited, who offered him USD 75,000 in seed funding. The funding was mainly used for recruiting sales agents, who would sign hotels up to the platform. As the business grew, the number of agents increased to 300, many of whom were hired via Facebook.
Seven years after founding Hotels.ng, Mark, has also established a number of other successful businesses. He continues to impact the ecosystem through his writing, speaking, and internship programs in collaboration with local hubs like the Uyo based Startup Hub. This initiative has given birth to the next generation of tech developers and leaders. Mark’s life passion is to see Africa’s problems solved and he believes that the key to this is for the continent’s citizens to take responsibility.
Mark Essien, Akwa Ibom celebrates you!