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My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything - Business (5) - Nairaland

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My Startup Journey / Problem With My Startup / Nigeria’s Hotels.ng Grabs $1.2M To Expand Listings Across Africa (2) (3) (4)

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Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Eltneg: 12:04pm On May 28, 2015
Hello Mark,
Congrats on your achievement. I´ve come to appreciate the importance of statups in every developing economy. I like the fact that you appear to have your act together.
I have two questions though.
1) $1.2m (about 240M NGN) is something that should be ´sourcable´ within Nigeria. Is there any reason why you sourced for this money from international investors?
2) How can the average Nigerian, with cash to invest, get information on the promising startups that are seeking angel investors or sourcing seed funds?


Thanks.

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 12:11pm On May 28, 2015
ghettodreamz:


Easy bro, no offense whatsoever is meant. Just a piece of advice taken wrongly, I guess undecided To answer your Q on how, I went through your signature and landed on starttell.net I guess that's not your domain, right? Secondly, .NG is a CCTLD domain name extension for Nigeria, just like .US is for USA and .CA is for Canada. Op's startup is one domiciled in Nigeria, as such investors wouldn't have had problem taking him serious.

I hope this explains my previous point clearly. All the same, sorry if I was being misunderstood.
lol. Sth i just think that the group of words 'how do you know' shouldn't be in a sentence cox most times it seems the person asking is taking offense.
I wanted to know how you knew, cox someone went ahead of me to purchase the domain, and then hijack the price to $799 thinking that i will still buy it. I wanted to be further sure that the person that did it is a nairalander that went through my siggy.
Thanks for ur piece of advice, i later on decided to go with a .com ext but with a diff domain name.
Wn't reveal it till my tech partner is done coding.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by myklangelo(m): 12:13pm On May 28, 2015
ghettodreamz:


Though, I have seen something similar to what you are doing elsewhere BUT don't give up. It's a good niche and I pray it flourishes into something BIG for you someday. Amen
Thanks a lot bro. Your endeavours also will always be fruitful. Amen.

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by einsteine(m): 12:14pm On May 28, 2015
Hello Mark,

I once booked a hotel through Hotels.ng and on getting to the hotel, they didn't have rooms available. How is you company working to prevent such occurrences?

Did you have a commercial co-founder? How has it been competing against the Rocket Internet crew?

How much input does Jason(iroko) have in the Hotels.ng business?

Thanks for your time.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by myklangelo(m): 12:15pm On May 28, 2015
mbulela:


Some huge effort you have put in there.
Well done and may your just reward come in the future.
Amen Bro, I pray same for you.

The 1st Igbo language blog is out, it is fun and insightful. Visit, comment, share and criticize.www.odeniigbo..com
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by growrich: 12:19pm On May 28, 2015
are you gonna be paying the investors dividned annually? Or it is free fund?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by krestup: 12:19pm On May 28, 2015
Mr Mark.. great work, people like you are bringing investment into Nigeria online space and opening the eyes of the world to Nigeria startup.
I have one question... I would like to share techniques on branding and marketing for startup with little capital

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by myklangelo(m): 12:20pm On May 28, 2015
eagleeye2:

You just put a smile to my face. I have been sick since yesterday, and reading this just made me smile.



.
Ndewo nwanne m. Jisie ike.
Reading that I made you smile put a big cheeky smile on my face. I pray you regain your health very soon, Amen.

The 1st Igbo language blog is out, it is fun and insightful. Visit, comment, share and criticize.www.odeniigbo..com
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by wandyvirus(m): 12:21pm On May 28, 2015
bukkytroni:
Honestly at MarkEssien, thank you for your contribution to the entrepreneurial space. Your story is a huge breath of fresh air.
As regards funding, would like to know what more rounds of fund raising you are looking to and what your projections are. I have a few foreign tech PEs who will be interested in brilliant opportunities like yours and may want to consider co-investing.
You could PM me for further discussions.

Congrats for what you are doing and the landmark feat.
I sent you a mail request. Lets talk....don't want to reveal identity here. I am reveling in Mark's success. Great news. if you do have PEs, please lets connect.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by ghettodreamz(m): 12:29pm On May 28, 2015
Bossforeva:
lol. Sth i just think that the group of words 'how do you know' shouldn't be in a sentence cox most times it seems the person asking is taking offense.
I wanted to know how you knew, cox someone went ahead of me to purchase the domain, and then hijack the price to $799 thinking that i will still buy it. I wanted to be further sure that the person that did it is a nairalander that went through my siggy.
Thanks for ur piece of advice, i later on decided to go with a .com ext but with a diff domain name.
Wn't reveal it till my tech partner is done coding.

.com ext was first reg'd in 2011 though, and updated last month (currently owned by an entity based in the states). So, it's not certain if the domain was actually hijacked and registered by a Nairalander before you could make the move. Anyways, good thing you have found another befitting name as a replacement and you have decided to protect it. Wishing you the very best in your endeavours.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by philips70(m): 12:33pm On May 28, 2015
4stylz:


Great Job seun; You are really good at what you are doing; not Dele momudu who turned his oviation into a political forum; not good for the business

There are many routes to nation building. Seun is doing his part likewise Dele Momodu in his own way.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by adexsimply(m): 12:38pm On May 28, 2015
Olucheye:
I'm impressed with the giant strides Mark Essien made with Hotels.Ng

Kudos sir!


I'm not sure if this would derail this thread, but i'm in search of a Female Co-Founder for a tech startup biz.

Do you have what it takes to build a business from scratch?
Kindly mention me.
Why female? I just want to know if your reasons is the same with mine.
Thanks
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 12:40pm On May 28, 2015
ghettodreamz:


.com ext was first reg'd in 2011 though, and updated last month (currently owned by an entity based in the states). So, it's not certain if the domain was actually hijacked and registered by a Nairalander before you could make the move. Anyways, good thing you have found another befitting name as a replacement and you have decided to protect it. Wishing you the very best in your endeavours.
k bro, the one i said was hijacked was the .net
acquiring the former may not be possible.

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by bosunjohns(m): 12:42pm On May 28, 2015
This is awesome! I've booked several times using the site. I'm really impressed.
Quick question. I have a great idea but reqiure guys with programming skills. I've contacted some guys but their charges are exorbitant for a startup like mine. I personally I'm into business development and not much of a programmer. Please what do I do?
markessien:
Hello Guys,

I am Mark Essien, the founder of Hotels.ng and Hotels.ng just raised $1.2m in funding from international investors. I started this business on my own two years ago in Calabar, and now we have become a big business. Hopefully, some people will read this and know that it's possible to be innovative, creative and build something from nothing in a few years.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/mfonobongnsehe/2015/05/26/nigerias-hotels-ng-raises-1-2-million/

Questions that people have asked me and answers. If you have any other questions, ask below and I will reply.

What's your view on competition? How closely do you follow what Wakanow, Travelstart, etc., are doing relative to hotels.ng?

Competition is necessary for you to have a baseline on which you want to improve from. Otherwise you can have a really crappy product, and you don't know because there is nothing to compare it with.

At the end of 2014, you made the following statement: "We recorded almost no customer complaints in last two months, while booking tens of thousands of people.” So...what's your approach towards customer service? And how has your team (apparently) been able to proactively address issues?

Customer service in my opinion, is about empowering customer service to do the best they can to help people, no matter what it costs.

As an entrepreneur, getting the right staff is usually a challenge. How do you get talented people? What is your recruiting trick for finding great staff?

I do things like this - https://medium.com/mark-essien/hotels-ng-interview-questions-to-screen-for-a-genius-49bb6cb9946a - to find people.

What was your biggest fear on the journey to this point, and how long did you anticipate it will take you to cross this threshold?
My biggest fear was that we would not make enough money in time to be able to survive, in case we did not raise money in time. Luckily, with focus and a bit of luck, we crossed that bridge.

What would you do differently if you were starting over today?
Differently - I would have avoided doing things that are side-experiments and been more focused on the main thing.

How many percent of your company did you have to give up for $1.2million. Do you own controlling shares?
Right now, I own more of the company than if I had no investment, but I had a co-founder.

Who are your senior management team? In every conversation about Hotels I only hear about you the founder, never about the team.
So far we have operated without a 'senior' management team. But that is about changing. Expect some news here.

Did you choose your investors or did they choose you? I am personally working on a service and trying to decide who my investors should be.
We chose each other, just like a marriage

Tell us three business development hacks you used to stay afloat while you raised money..?
1. staying very focused on what would contribute to bottom line and what would not

2. Implementing performance based compensation across board

3. 3. Deferring expenses that were not critical.

What is it about hotels culture that has made you successful and how will you keep it consistent as you scale.
Hotels Culture is one of everyone-do-your-best and always keep thinking. The overall philosophy is that people should not need to be controlled to do their best. The Netflix presentation on this is one of the best I have read, and I hope we one day achieve this.

Do you consider yourself a technology company or a hotel booking service?
We are 100% a technology company.

What inspired you to start Hotels.ng?
I was inspired by wanting to do something in tech in Nigeria, and seeing a big open market

Here's my question before you received funding from spark how many employees did you have?
First of all, it was just me coding the site, then after that I hired a friend called Charles Bassey - and we were working together getting our inventory in calabar. That was before I moved to Lagos.

---
If you have any questions, feel free to ask, I will answer them all!

Me and the team
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Amazo: 12:48pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:
Hello Guys,

I am Mark Essien, the founder of Hotels.ng and Hotels.ng just raised $1.2m in funding from international investors. I started this business on my own two years ago in Calabar, and now we have become a big business. Hopefully, some people will read this and know that it's possible to be innovative, creative and build something from nothing in a few years.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/mfonobongnsehe/2015/05/26/nigerias-hotels-ng-raises-1-2-million/

Questions that people have asked me and answers. If you have any other questions, ask below and I will reply.

What's your view on competition? How closely do you follow what Wakanow, Travelstart, etc., are doing relative to hotels.ng?

Competition is necessary for you to have a baseline on which you want to improve from. Otherwise you can have a really crappy product, and you don't know because there is nothing to compare it with.

At the end of 2014, you made the following statement: "We recorded almost no customer complaints in last two months, while booking tens of thousands of people.” So...what's your approach towards customer service? And how has your team (apparently) been able to proactively address issues?

Customer service in my opinion, is about empowering customer service to do the best they can to help people, no matter what it costs.

As an entrepreneur, getting the right staff is usually a challenge. How do you get talented people? What is your recruiting trick for finding great staff?

I do things like this - https://medium.com/mark-essien/hotels-ng-interview-questions-to-screen-for-a-genius-49bb6cb9946a - to find people.

What was your biggest fear on the journey to this point, and how long did you anticipate it will take you to cross this threshold?
My biggest fear was that we would not make enough money in time to be able to survive, in case we did not raise money in time. Luckily, with focus and a bit of luck, we crossed that bridge.

What would you do differently if you were starting over today?
Differently - I would have avoided doing things that are side-experiments and been more focused on the main thing.

How many percent of your company did you have to give up for $1.2million. Do you own controlling shares?
Right now, I own more of the company than if I had no investment, but I had a co-founder.

Who are your senior management team? In every conversation about Hotels I only hear about you the founder, never about the team.
So far we have operated without a 'senior' management team. But that is about changing. Expect some news here.

Did you choose your investors or did they choose you? I am personally working on a service and trying to decide who my investors should be.
We chose each other, just like a marriage

Tell us three business development hacks you used to stay afloat while you raised money..?
1. staying very focused on what would contribute to bottom line and what would not

2. Implementing performance based compensation across board

3. 3. Deferring expenses that were not critical.

What is it about hotels culture that has made you successful and how will you keep it consistent as you scale.
Hotels Culture is one of everyone-do-your-best and always keep thinking. The overall philosophy is that people should not need to be controlled to do their best. The Netflix presentation on this is one of the best I have read, and I hope we one day achieve this.

Do you consider yourself a technology company or a hotel booking service?
We are 100% a technology company.

What inspired you to start Hotels.ng?
I was inspired by wanting to do something in tech in Nigeria, and seeing a big open market

Here's my question before you received funding from spark how many employees did you have?
First of all, it was just me coding the site, then after that I hired a friend called Charles Bassey - and we were working together getting our inventory in calabar. That was before I moved to Lagos.

---
If you have any questions, feel free to ask, I will answer them all!

Me and the team


cool
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by denedene(m): 12:51pm On May 28, 2015
op I first came across hotels.ng in 2013 and I must say it has helped me very well. I'm grateful and pray your business does expand. bless
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Azeez532(m): 12:53pm On May 28, 2015
congrats Mr Mark Essien, I'm really happy about this because I see a lot of people getting motivated from your success story. Without forgetting to ask you a question, I would like to know the technologies adopted in developing hotels.ng
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Craigston: 12:58pm On May 28, 2015
I have a few questions to ask, some you may find a little unrelated to the topic but are important to me.

Is hotels.ng a tax-paying organisation? If it is, how would you suggest new startups that aren't financially healthy yet deal with taxes?

I have some ideas that seem to be good and would like to carry them out but for the fact that I'm still a greenhorn. What skills and knowledge sets would you recommend I acquire before considering launching into the deep?

Would you recommend I work in another startup in a similar field to get much experience before building my own boat?

Have you had any difficulty with local laws and cultural differences across the nation? How do you plan to make accommodations for such differences and what would you advise a beginner to take note of concerning this?

How did you overcome, or manage, the challenge of energy/power supply? It's really crippling some aspirants in some parts of this nation.

Aside your business strategies, do you subscribe to any ideology on achieving success, especially financially, by ways believed to be of divine significance? Such theories as giving, paying of religious rites and sacrifices (offerings, tithes, first-fruit offerings, etc) and prayers? Have they helped you in running hotels.ng?

I may ask more questions later. Thanks for this thread: it's a good deed you've done. I admire your work so far and you deserve the credit. I wish you success as much as you can desire.

Cc: markessien
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by 4stylz: 1:27pm On May 28, 2015
philips70:


There are many routes to nation building. Seun is doing his part likewise Dele Momodu in his own way.

Dele momodu is wack, who reads that none sense magazine of his
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 1:31pm On May 28, 2015
"Which of these two is faster — superman or the flash?" grin LOL. Now I wonder if ditching mangas and comics in favour of studying is a good idea.

So I have two questions for you markessien:

1) Given y+2=y, how would you solve for x and y?

2) Who is more powerful— Naruto or Aang?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by millhouse: 1:33pm On May 28, 2015
BIT
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Edigrows: 1:40pm On May 28, 2015
wandyvirus:

I sent you a mail request. Lets talk....don't want to reveal identity here. I am reveling in Mark's success. Great news. if you do have PEs, please lets connect.
Sorry please, What's PEs?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Chuks84(m): 1:42pm On May 28, 2015
Viciyus:


For your information,
This topic is not encouraging our youths to aspiring more but rather an advertisement. If you analyze it the other way, it is a business strategy to bring more awareness about a particular product. I have work with most company and we usually do this kind of thing.


Let me tell you a dark secret, after two to three days you will forget his story but his company name will stick to your head (awareness of his product)

No company will encourage our youths, you only encourage yourself or work to be something meaningful to the sociality


To each man his own. You choose to see this post as an advert, i prefer to see it as a means of encouragement

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by wickyyolo: 1:52pm On May 28, 2015
Yes. I want to bring investors to my state. How can I go about it. Where to start ? Because everything is on ground on my side.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by wandyvirus(m): 1:56pm On May 28, 2015
Private Equity.
Edigrows:

Sorry please, What's PEs?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 2:03pm On May 28, 2015
Chuks84:



To each man his own. You choose to see this post as an advert, i prefer to see it as a means of encouragement
OK do have a nice day
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by hadizasaf: 2:30pm On May 28, 2015
Oh akwa abasi ibom adu ye afo
Anem esit eti eti ke owo nyin akpe nam uto mkpo mi
Eyen eka song idem

Mbok anie se mbakara ekod mentoring
Mbok akpe kan amentor ndito ufok nwed ke akwa cross akpa nnem eti eti

Question mmi ado
1. Da nse abu kama uto uwak akok ado anam?
2. Amin ndo private and corporate security consultant ette uto akok ami aya yem VIP protection services oh

Yak emem abasi adu ye afo

Whatsapp mmi 08037600752
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Jarus(m): 2:30pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


1. I would code all day

2. I was designing the product

3. I am talking to people about what they are doing.

Do you think someone that is not an IT geek, or that doesn't know how to code can succeed as internet entrepreneur?

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by tk4rd: 2:49pm On May 28, 2015
I THINK I AM GOING TO SAVE AND BOOKMARK THIS PAGE FOR FUTURE PURPOSES
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by eddychis: 3:06pm On May 28, 2015
NEED INFO TO START AN ONLINE BUSINESS IN NIGERIA

I have been seeing success stories of people who started online business in naija and is doing well, but I have tried so many and couldn't have a breakthrough. I have a good paying job, but still needs something online that will be like a part time for me and could also generate employment for some youths. I need advice on this, but all I have budgeted to start is N50,000 and hope to increase if its works fine.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Manuelcrc(m): 3:17pm On May 28, 2015
This is wonderful news...I have followed your journey for some time and I am thrilled at this news. And since I have been on the lookout for an opportunity like this, I will ask quite a few questions, please bear with me.

1. What would you regard as your best business investment?

2. What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?

3. Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

4. If you were to start all over again, what three things will you do first?

5. People relate with your success but very few people know how it all started. Can you tell us what inspired you to take the entrepreneurship path?

6. When did you know that you were up to something big? How did you know that Hotels.ng was making impact?

7. What other milestones have you achieved you reached (with Hotels.ng or on a personal note)?

8. What are the greatest challenges or failures you have faced and how did you bounce back from them?

9. You have had many opportunities, some of which you failed to take. Which one(s) do you do you regret most?

10. Where do you see yourself in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

11. What three things (or which three people) have been most essential to your success story?

12. What do you look out for in people before hiring them? Who is your model employee?

13. You are different things to different people, but what is that thing about you that people don’t know about?

14. What is your favourite business website (apart from hotels.ng obviously)?

15. What does a typical day in your life look like?

16. You have written posts on TechCabal, Forbes, Medium and co, and you also tweet regularky, but where else do you hang out online?


Finally, am I permitted to post your replies on my blog?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by MRBrownJ: 4:10pm On May 28, 2015
iebanehita:


Top position?
I would have to disagree with you on this.

I have worked with hotels.ng as a freelancer and with Jovago.com and I can categorically say that Jovago.com is way popular and has claimed several awards, including No.1 hotel booking site in Nigeria and has already expanded to Ghana, Kenya and other African Countries, despite hotels.ng starting before her.

Congratulations also, on your recent breakthrough.

cc: MRBrownJ

well said, that was also what i was thinking.... thats why i asked which criterias they used in "believing" that hotels.ng was #1 in Nigeria.

also, i am still waiting to the answer to my question:

- you claim to be the largest booking site in Nigeria, have you (or your team) personally stayed in the Nigerian hotels you advertise on your site.... or is it just about numbers at hotel.ng?! i mean how do you make sure that all the hotels you advertise are tourist/client friendly?

1 Like

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