The founder of hotels.ng, Mark Essien, is no doubt a visionary. At the time he founded the hotel booking portal, not many saw the untapped opportunity in the country’s hospitality industry. With the advent of his venture, travellers in and outside Nigeria no longer need to present themselves in person to book a hotel to lodge.
Essien adopted the exact model of Uber, the biggest car-hailing service in the world that owns no car, to establish hotels.ng. Hotels.ng is a booking portal that doesn’t own any hotel.
With hotels.ng, Essien solved the need to provide the most convenient solution to an industry that was rife with the traditional method and difficulty of booking hotels — the walk-in culture.
Essien is one of the very few business leaders in the country who are committed to inspiring people with their success stories. He is a frequent TedX speaker, having delivered talks on leveraging networks to build a business, and how Africa can lead in the global technology space, at TedXEuston and TedXGbagada respectively.
Laudably, the tech enthusiast has since successfully managed hotels.ng to become the biggest hotel booking portal in Nigeria. It is in this light that he is being featured on Nairametrics’ Founders’ profile this week.
Essien’s early life and education
Mark Essien was born on December 18, 1980, to Anthony Paul Essien and Monika Essien. His father, a prominent political figure in Akwa Ibom State, served as a Special Adviser to the state’s governor on Economic Affairs during Nigeria’s Third Republic. His mother, who emigrated from Germany in 1978, is a child education expert who owns a school in Ikot Ekpene.
Essien’s childhood education began at his mother’s school, Monika Kindergarten, followed by secondary education at Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene. He spent the first 18 years of his life in Ikot Ekpene, before moving to Germany, where he studied and obtained a Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) degree in Computer Engineering at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin. He later bagged a Master of Science degree in Computer Science at the Free University of Berlin.
While studying for his mandatory German Language Programme and A-Level examinations, he took up coding and worked part–time as a cinema attendant.
His Career milestones
While in Germany, Essien created a file-sharing software, Gnumm, which was later acquired by Snoopstar, a German company. He worked at Snoopstar for a while and went on to work on his own as a freelance software developer. Essien also created a DirectShow based software-only Mpeg encoder, Standard MPEG, which had clients such as the Walt Disney Company and The United States Armed forces.
After his bachelor’s programme in Germany, Essien became interested in building a technology company that could work in Nigeria. He realised then that the online travel space in Africa could use some innovation. This was when he created the first version of Hotels.ng which had a few hotels on its list at the time.
Going by his business philosophy, – “build a product for an existing market and not a market for your product,” Essien created a dummy hotel booking website, left it for a few months and noted the traffic that it generated.
Having proven the potential viability of what he had built, he founded Hotels.ng in 2013.
Hotels.ng soon caught the attention of Jason Njoku, the founder of Iroko TV, whose Spark.ng made an initial investment of $75,000 in Hotels.ng. A few months later, upon seeing significant promise and progress in Hotels.ng and its model, Spark.ng made another investment of $150,000.
In 2015, the company secured additional funding of $1.2 million from international investors, EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund.
The company has since grown exponentially and has extended its business out of Nigeria. In January 2018, Hotels.ng announced its international hotel booking site, Hotel.africa.
Hotels.ng also launched Fly.africa, its flight booking site, to provide cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
In 2016, Essien’s Hotels.ng co-invested with Njoku to establish OgaVenue, an event booking platform. Essien serves as a Director on the Board of OgaVenue.
In 2015, Essien made the Forbes list of 30 youngest entrepreneurs in Africa. He was also nominated for the Nigeria Future Awards, amongst others.
His Personal life
In 2017, Mark Essien married fellow software developer, Jenni Naiaretti.