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My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything - Business (6) - Nairaland

Nairaland Forum / Nairaland / General / Business / My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything (38045 Views)

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 Santi222(m): 5:05pm On May 28, 2015
Inspiring.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:05pm On May 28, 2015
WebSnaz:
Hi Mark,

Nice One! You just gave me an extra-motivation.

Please kindly respond to the question earlier raised by: "TheRealSage" as I am also interested to know.
"Well done sir, you are a role model to aspiring technopreneurs. I'd like to know what languages you guys code in if the coding is not outsourced that is. Thanks."

Thanks.

PHP with MySQL and Sphinx!

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:05pm On May 28, 2015
CVWizards:
@ markessien: I'm happy for you. Pls I'll like to know what medium(s) you use in creating awareness for your business.

I use Nairaland Ask-Me-Anything!

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:07pm On May 28, 2015
Saifullah01:
Question loading
I have a few questions.

1) what would u advice someone venturing into online business for the first time (no background in IT, but knows basic computer utilization and use of Internet)

2) how do you get traffic to your site (that is given online advert rates are high and could affect profitability of the start up)

3) generally how would you rate the cost of running online business viz a viz the turnover,

4) finally, any general advice for someone interested in online business like me with no background in IT (majority of Internet start ups i see are owned by IT gurus)

1 - my advice would be - learn to code. Makes things easier and cheaper

2 - Learn to code. Once you understand technology, there are tricks

3 - For one full year we paid 26 staff from profits of the company

4 - try and teach yourself IT. It's like someone opening a farm but refusing to learn how to farm

5 Likes 1 Share

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:09pm On May 28, 2015
Comsol:
First I'd say a massive congratulations to you on this great achievement.

I have been a great admirer of you and what you do. I was just discussing this your giant stride with a group of colleagues yesterday that are very ambitious in what they do also.

My questions are as follow,

1. Do you think that the success of a product can be highly dependent on its design at the first stages of a startup? This is because I have seen some horrible designs that have enjoy great success in recent times.

2. You said you code all day on a typical day, what if as an entrepreneur you're not so savvy in coding, will it be a good idea in finding a technical talent? If yes, how do you go about it?

3. What 3 best advice can you give young entrepreneurs that are true to what they do

Thank you.

cc Seun, we also discussed about you that there's need to step up your game, nairaland has huge huge potentials, case in point things like this AMA. We believe you'll get there someday.

This thread has made my day, a topic for discuss with my colleagues today. Kudos

- Design is not as important as market or network effects

- Learn to code so you understand a bit about the person you are hiring

- There are no shortcuts. Study and practise and keep doing it over and over again and you will keep getting better. Also, build on the same platform - don't jump from agriculture to selling inverter to blogging. Stick with one general area so your learnings grow

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:10pm On May 28, 2015
Edwardhead:
I will share my testimony one day

That's what I said too some years ago!

8 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:10pm On May 28, 2015
anonimi:
Great news, OP.

I am really happy and hope you will promote LOCAL tourism in Nigeria.

More vaseline to your elbows and more $$$$$$ and plus N=N=N=N= to your bank accounts as well grin grin

Thank you oh, send me the vaseline

6 Likes 1 Share

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:12pm On May 28, 2015
bigheart2013:
Sir, how does someone with $1.2mil have time for Nairaland? I really envy you. I wish I could have such a biz where you make such a money and still have this type of time.

There is nobody in the world that can say they spend 100% of their time working. If you do so, you will surely die in some months. Nairaland is as enjoyable as watching game of thrones, so why not do this?

4 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:14pm 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.

Thanks a lot, you can email me with my first name on my company domain!
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:15pm On May 28, 2015
oladimejiX:
its true that when you code yourself you take away a lot of start up cost and its great to know you are a coder.
what platform is the site developed on? and how long did it take you to complete a working version? i.e hotels.ng ver1.0

Plain PHP, first version was done in two weeks, and we have spent the last 3 years improving it!

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:15pm On May 28, 2015
Zeezy99:
How do you make ur money? Do the hotels pay you commission for each customer booked?

Yes

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:16pm On May 28, 2015
FBS:
Nice site...kudos.



7004 hotels? How accurate is this?

Plus, honestly, how do you compete with jovago?

Very accurate number! It will be 10,000 before long!
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:17pm On May 28, 2015
Anazoric:
Hello Mr Essien?

1. Do you plan to get listed as a public company soon?
2. Can you give us an insight into how much time and financial instruments you expended during the research and development phase?
3. I have used booking.com in the past and one of the features I enjoyed was the no deposit and cancellable, refundable booking feature. How much of this kind of flexibility should we expect from hotels.ng?
4. How much of the volatile North East areas did you include in your clientele data base and what challenges with regards to this did you encounter? In general, what "Nigerian factors" did you wish you could have easily avoided?

Thank you.

I have considered an IPO, maybe it will happen, who knows. I r&d phase I spent a couple of months and about $10k. We refund you if you don't stay, every time. Even after checkout. One of your rugged guys, Dominic went through the entire north and did all our inventory! The guy is fearless.

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:19pm On May 28, 2015
nairaman66:
What are you long term goals in Nigeria and Africa at large?

I could liken your success to that of jobber man, do you see any similarities?

Are you venturing into the hotel business or just want to remain significant in the booking line?

Thanks a million!!

Long term is to be the biggest hotel booking site in Africa. Jobberman are an inspiration for me! Very great similarities. We will never go into hotels - booking is asset light and you can be agile. Hotels are expensive and need a lot of maintainance.

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:20pm 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

Seun has been encouraging me since 2008. Back before I did anything of significance!

8 Likes 1 Share

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:27pm On May 28, 2015
gmart:
This is very unusual and I want to commend Mark Essen for availing us the opportunity to learn from his experience.

I have a few questions to ask as I'm currently working on a young startup that was launched this January:

What works as regards marketing and publicity? We have invested quite a lot on social media marketing but it seems it is not as effective as we had anticipated. Do you prefer adwords to facebook ads?

How long did it take you to reach your first 20,000 monthly unique visitors after launch?

Did you experience declining traffic at any point or was the growth always progressive? If you did, what measures did you take to remedy it?

When was the 'Ah ha' moment for you? That point you realised this has definitely got to be big now.

N.B: I have included the URL of the startup, not for publicity but just so you can better understand what we are doing and be able to advise more appropriately. ( http://www.unisells.com )

Anticipating your response.

Thanks.

You are on a process of market discovery. You are trying to find a good market for you to operate in. If market is not moving, move on. Traffic goes up, traffic goes down. What matters is that you understand why. My aha moment was the day I put a phone number on the site and my phone was buzzing off the hook.

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:30pm On May 28, 2015
Setaje:
Hello Mark. I have done an interview with you before. In your office around alagomeji if am not mistaken. It was one of my worst interviews ever. I was nervous for reasons best known to me. That was early last year. Heard about the interview from a friend who was working at iroko tv. I didn't even no the post I was applying for but I just sent in my application. I new I won't be called back. I would like to have another chance to prove myself haven gotten a bit of experience.


I hope you post vacancies here on nairaland. Thankyou.

We now do phone screening, so just call into office and ask to speak to HR that you want to schedule a phone interview with me

3 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:30pm On May 28, 2015
MaziOmenuko:
How do I invest in your business? Is there opportunities for someone (like me) to partner with your dream?

If you have more than $1.2m to invest, let's do this!

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:31pm On May 28, 2015
Howmon:
So excited today than any other day. God bless you Essien. Back to the matter!!! I tried checking ur site from BlackBerry Q10 kindly help fix this popup make I "gboriwole"

On it!

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:32pm On May 28, 2015
theSpark:
Hi Markessien.

You mentioned you started in calabar but from the writeup I understand your startup is now Lagos based.

How much has moving to Lagos been of benefit to you and your company? Can it be said that Lagos is the land of promise for startups?

You won't meet investors if you are not in Lagos. You won't meet smart guys to guide you also.

5 Likes 1 Share

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:35pm On May 28, 2015
Jarus:
Good to see you here, Mark.

I have read about you and your startup in the last two years and I'm impressed.

I also recently floated a startup, JarusHub, a career consulting startup.

I got three partners, and I the lead partner.

We have put close to N2m ($10k) to it to date (we rented and furnished our office for close to N1m).

We prefer to grow organically, but we don't mind external funding as our expansion drive is limited by finances now.


What is your experience sourcing fund?

What is your revenue model?

If half your money went to rent office, I would not invest more money in this...

3 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:35pm On May 28, 2015
crowns2:
I used your portal to look for hotels months ago when i had to travel to Lagos. Its well put together but i would suggest that phone numbers to each hotels be included. I wanted to call the reception of any of the hotels i saw so i could confirm if there was still bed space available as we were to arrive at night. There was no phone number listed in any of these hotels so i couldn't call any to confirm. I just used the address i saw and traced them. Some of them lie about their distance from the airport and services they provide. The one i stayed claimed that they are 7 minutes from the airport whereas it took us atleast 30 minutes to get there without traffic on the way. The hotel i ended up in had some issues i tried to raise in its review but most of the words i wrote were hidden.
Those are my points. Thank you.

Thanks for feedback, will work on these
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:36pm On May 28, 2015
400billionman:


Use it and buy Rolls Royce phantom..

I like the way you think bro, we should partner

6 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:36pm On May 28, 2015
sharpman1:
Hello Mark. Great Job! You are a motivation.

Just one question,

What is the advantage of booking the hotels through your site as against calling them myself and making my reservations over the phone? Is it cheaper to book through your site...........

It's cheaper, and you can find other better alternatives
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:37pm On May 28, 2015
CashdownNG:


Saw your comment and wondered is it only obviously successful companies that VCs invest in? or do they take a chance on other ideas or more importantly budding businesses to get a sizable stake at lesser cost?

your reply would be welcome

VCs are not for people just starting - what you want are angel investors or seed stage investors. Most VCs are there to provide capital to companies that are a bit bigger.

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:42pm On May 28, 2015
ghettodreamz:


I love this, kudos to you and your team. The next few lines are questions I would like you do justice to;


#1. Were you self-taught developer or did you learn coding within the four walls of a school?

#2. Is Hotels.ng your first shot at startup? Any other failed attempt(s) to share?

#3. What's starting out like for you? I mean, from infancy as a coder to the birthing of hotels.ng.

#4. How long does it take before you signed on your first client?

#5. After landing your first client, in terms of financing, how much did you start out with?

#6. How long does it take and what does it take getting your first seed capital?

#7. What are the 'top three pieces of advice' you would give to other upcoming startup visionaries?

#8. Has the thought of 'throw in the towel' ever crossed through your mind at some points when things weren't going as you'd planned for?

#9. If so, what has been your utmost source of motivation(s) (be it self-motivation, et al) or driving force?

#10. On the scale of 1-10, how would you rate the status quo of IT as an industry in Nigeria? And what's the way forward in pushing it to a standard where it could rub shoulders with those from other developing/developed nations?


Wishing you all the very best in your future pursuits.

- I'm a self taught developer, but I still did Comp Sci afterwards.

- Many failed attempts

- Starting out was okay, I believed in the idea and I was more mature to not take too much risk

- I saved some millions of naira

- It takes the telling of a good story

- Focus on finding the right market, then finding a product that works for that market

- Every now and then, but then I think of what else I had to do, which was pretty much nothing. It's a job I enjoy, an industry I enjoy, I should throw in the towel to rear cattle or what? Nah, I like tech.

- I am motivated because what I do is not a secret.

- We are at 3, but rapidly rising

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:43pm On May 28, 2015
ddeston:
@marKessien I love what you are doing.
I have a question for you.

I have this not so unique idea that I want to kick off the ground. But initial funds is the problem how do I get a coder to partner with me as am more of a marketer than a coder?

Use your marketing ability to make money so you can pay the coder...

4 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:44pm 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 specifically female?

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:45pm On May 28, 2015
Dreambeat:
Great one from you Mark Essien.As a novice who would like to start up an online business,what basic IT knowledge must the person have apart from the ability to surf the web?

Know how to use 2go or badoo app

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:45pm On May 28, 2015
AZeD1:
markessien / Seun
1) What's your technology stack?
2) How many times do you deploy(day/week/month)?
3) How are bugs (non critical) handled fix immediately or wait the next deployment window?
4) On technology side of things, what has been your 'aha' moment?

-PHP/MySQL
-Several times per day
- Instantly
- Sphinx

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:46pm On May 28, 2015
Bossforeva:
Hello Markessien pls can you invest on my startup? Tis a digital storytelling startup i may not be able to reveal confidential details here.

Can you reveal some confidential details here?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 6:47pm On May 28, 2015
olatricia:
Good to hear your story Mr. M.E.! I actually got an invite for an interview from your company, I never really had a double mind about attending the interview or perhaps working with you (I once worked with an entrepreneur, the experience was tasking, thrilling and fulfilling. Infact, that singular experience brought me thus far in my field of career). But I may never attend the interview. Now that you are here, I guess it's better for me to say this. The best hands you require as employee to fill some roles in your organization (especially finance roles) are mostly likely engaged (because they are better than many). Hence, finding them means that you might have to bend some recruitment fallacies. For instance, conducting an interview on a working weekday, during a peak working time has the following implications:
1. the attendees are either entry level who are not very engaged at the moment. They have all the time to be present and are most likely desperate for/to get the job. Note that they are crude, fresh and may require extra training to fit in.
2. the attendees, if employed would have to tell a lie at their present work place, to carve out time to attend the interview. Hence, they are under duress and undue pressure which will significantly impair on their performance.
3. the invitees who are capable and sound for the role may not even bother to attend (despite their interest in the job) because they are at their respective duty post doing what they do best. Hence, you the interviewer miss out on this few ones.
In my own opinion, which strictly is mine. I'll propose you conduct your interviews on weekends (Saturdays). This would allow an ample pool of candidates to be present from various cadre of competence and you the employer would have a well represented cluster to pick from.
My submission. Thank you!

This is an awesome idea! Why not email me, let's meet on saturday?

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