Hotel Booking Start Up Takes Off
Mark Essien’s Hotel Booking Start Up Takes Off, Attracts Investors
By Drive Africa Writer
Tech entrepreneurs in Africa are riding the wave of Africa’s growth, shifting demographics, and growing internet penetration. One of Africa’s fast growing industries is the hospitality sector which is seeing record investments as local and foreign direct investments in the sector continue to grow. At the same Africa’s tech space quickly evolving, driven in part by the growing penetration of internet capable smartphones and a young tech savvy generation of Africans who going into the middle class. Entrepreneurs across the continent are cashing in on this wave of growth. One such company is Nigeria’s Hotels.ng which was founded by Mark Essien. Mark’s interest in the intersection of technology and the hospitality industry begun while he was studying for his computer science studies in Germany.
Upon completion of his Bachelors in Computer Engineering at Germany’s Beuth University, Mark returned to Nigeria during his gap year prior to going for graduate studies. During the gap year Mark built the initial pilot version of his company’s website which was then simply a listing of hotels. At the end of the gap year, Mark returned to Germany to pursue his Msc in Computer Science at the Freie University in Berlin Germany. Upon completion of his studies Mark decided to pursue the venture. Back in Nigeria, Mark begun signing up hotels to list on his site which had by then begun posting growing traffic numbers. In 2013, Hotels.ng was born as an online hotel booking agency and currently lists over 6,500 hotels. With growth in the usage of the site, the company began to enable online bookings for hotel rooms.
Mark’s next stop was to begin mobilising funding for the site. The company landed its first major investment from Spark.ng, the investment company founded by Nigerian entrepreneur Jason Njoku, founder of Iroko TV, a platform that d i s t r i b u t e s N i g e r i a n m o v i e s g l o b a l l y . S p a r k . n g i n v e s t e d $250,000 to position Hotels.ng for further growth. With the funding secured the company was able to expand its hotel listings. In 2014, the company reported revenues of $ 4 8 0 , 0 0 0 a n d h a s r e c e n t l y announced plans to expand into Ghana, the West Africa n region, and the rest of Africa. The company has reportedly garnered upwards of 65,000 new users and over a million hotel searches annually. With the growth of mobile telephony and growing smartphone penetration across the continent, Hotels ng plans to develop its mobile platform. The company also seeks drive SMS and phone based reservation systems which would be valuable in areas where connectivity is a problem. The early success of the company has attracted investors to the startup. Recently, Hotels ng accounted a $1.2 million investment into the company which will be used for its Africa expansion. Investors who have expressed interest in the company include the Omidyar Network and the Echo VC Pan Africa Fund. In the last couple of months there have been swirling rumours that Hotels ng is in talks with tycoon Aliko Dangote’s i n v e s t m e n t f i r m , D a n g o t e Investment Group (DIG) for a $10 million investment deal.