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My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything - Business (7) - 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 markessien: 6:48pm On May 28, 2015
Henry120:


Hello mark Essien, any ideas you can give on staying profitable, and what marketing strategy did you employ in starting and growing the business?

To be profitable, you have to understand operational expense from investment expense and understand when your money in bank will finish long before it does, so you can know how to run things.

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Jarus(m): 7:05pm On May 28, 2015
Hi Mark,

Do you mind sharing your turnover figure (or rough approximation) in the last 3 years?

Have you broken even?

Do you have some entrepreneurship and startup websites/blogs that you can recommend? Currently, I read Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:10pm On May 28, 2015
SamjohnnyB:



Great job
My question is
How do u feel when u make ur first one million naira ?

I made this long before hotels.ng, it felt like the money will never finish. Even called my friends that I want to invest in their businesses

11 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:11pm On May 28, 2015
dokunbam:


What technology did you use for the application?

PHP

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:11pm On May 28, 2015
lordhugo:
MarkEssien, congrats first of all!

1. Do you have an online travel aggregator system that queries the realtime hotel system if specific customer needs are available?

2. If the answer to 1 above is yes, do you understand the challenges posed as most hotels in Nigeria do not have a seamless internet structure that adapts to your OTA.

3. Customer acquisition and customer loyalty plays a big part in this niche. Hope you got them covered?

4. Online portal travel agencies do face the challenges of 'DROPPED BOOKINGS and BAD ROOMS' especially when they aren't properly synchronized with the hotel, they may book customers rooms that aren’t available. Arriving with luggage in hand only to find out the rooms are booked is definitely an unexpected inconvenience. (I would suggest having 'field officers' to handle different predetermined delineated geographical areas).

Mention me when replying.

Cheers.

Great ideas! You should come work with us!

3 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:14pm On May 28, 2015
Eltneg:
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.

It's not easy to source money from local investors. Particularly for things they don't understand well.

5 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:15pm On May 28, 2015
einsteine:
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.

It happens a few times, we work hard to make sure it does not happen. Never happens if you pre-pay. No, I don't have commercial co-founder. Jason acts as an advisor to the business!

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:16pm On May 28, 2015
growrich:
are you gonna be paying the investors dividned annually? Or it is free fund?

Nothing is free in this world, my brother....

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:16pm On May 28, 2015
krestup:
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

Read Traction by Gabriel Weinberg

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by AZeD1(m): 7:18pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


-PHP/MySQL
-Several times per day
- Instantly
- Sphinx
Thanks.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by markessien: 7:21pm On May 28, 2015
Manuelcrc:
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?

1. My education

2. Read more

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

4. Rad more

5. I've always wanted to build

6. When people started hailing me on nairaland

7. I bought an Igwe generator

8. Bouncing back is about waking up and thinking - this is gonna be a good day

9. The time I used to watch TV a lot and go to party and surf news sites all day

10. In 1 year, making hotels.ng bigger. In 5 years, the same. In 10 years, maybe I am chairman of the board

11. My in-built gift of being creative, my travel experience that taught me to be rugged

12. I look for raw intelligence and motivation

13. That I like carpentry a lot

14. Hacker News

15. Wake up, put computer on lap. Continue that. Take computer off lap and sleep

16. Reddit, Hacker News

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 7:22pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


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

Do you mean I, in abuja, can't meet investors? And if I'm looking for investors for my start-up, I should move to lagos? How do I find the investors? What sort of places should I go, meet people/the investors and tell them about my start-up?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Manuelcrc(m): 7:25pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


1. My education

2. Read more

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

4. Rad more

5. I've always wanted to build

6. When people started hailing me on nairaland

7. I bought an Igwe generator

8. Bouncing back is about waking up and thinking - this is gonna be a good day

9. The time I used to watch TV a lot and go to party and surf news sites all day

10. In 1 year, making hotels.ng bigger. In 5 years, the same. In 10 years, maybe I am chairman of the board

11. My in-built gift of being creative, my travel experience that taught me to be rugged

12. I look for raw intelligence and motivation

13. That I like carpentry a lot

14. Hacker News

15. Wake up, put computer on lap. Continue that. Take computer off lap and sleep

16. Reddit, Hacker News

Wow...thanks.

Do I have the permission to post it on my blog?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 7:28pm On May 28, 2015
AfricanGod2:
"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?


I'm rephrasing this in case you thought I was joking around.

1) How have you responded to difficult situations in the past?

2) What are your passions; have you needed to forgo them or have they helped propel you to success?

...what is the goal that keeps you ticking?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by SamjohnnyB(m): 7:35pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


I made this long before hotels.ng, it felt like the money will never finish. Even called my friends that I want to invest in their businesses
Cah u pls mentor me to make my own first
million too?

I will do,anything u teach me

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by RedCapChief(m): 7:35pm On May 28, 2015
@Seun. . .Thanks for getting Mark Essien here to do this AMA and share with us. I've been hopeful that NL would absorb some of the positives of Reddit. Can we have more like this (i.e more NL generated unique content, more AMAs and all) and can they be aggregated on a sub? I know a few successful entrepreneurs who would love an organized forum to share their stories.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 7:47pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


Can you reveal some confidential details here?
social network for professional storytellers, am Tim Chukwunwogor, ur friend on facebook that messaged you hours ago, can we continue from there please?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by saasala(m): 7:49pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


I made this long before hotels.ng, it felt like the money will never finish. Even called my friends that I want to invest in their businesses

What was it you did to make your first million before hotels.ng

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Setaje(f): 8:15pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


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


OK. grin I'd do that.
Thankyou
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by CashdownNG: 8:34pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


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.

Thanks mate. however since cashdown Nigeria my startup is still growing can you give me tips on how you got seed investment to become bigger?

1 Like

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by lordhugo(m): 8:39pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


Great ideas! You should come work with us!

I do not code.

I am not an ardent programmer.

But, i can sell sand to a man in the desert.

I would gladly be the conductor of that danfo.

5 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by blueblood1(m): 8:53pm On May 28, 2015
HI Mark. good job.
going thru your site, i cant seem to search for a hotel by location.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by lordhugo(m): 9:11pm 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?

markessien:


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


Mark is correct. Pretty substantial capex and capex growth has exceeded cash flow growth all the while.
Importantly, just as cash flow growth is slowing so too is capex growth (as the rented office isn't generating revenue) and, in the absence of a pick-up in demand, return on investment (ROI) will be hampered.

Invest in the value and content not the facade.
A little longer at your old office or home would not have hurt.
Business development and research is key.

3 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Olucheye(m): 9:34pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


Why specifically female?

Good Evening Mark,

I'm looking to venture into a business that would satisfy women's fashion needs partly. Hence why i'm looking to get someone who understands their instinctive shopping nature and as well, an eye to pick best fit materials for them.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Adesiji77: 9:53pm On May 28, 2015
markessien:


Done!

Great work! Your Twitter handle please...
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Jarus(m): 9:55pm On May 28, 2015
lordhugo:





Mark is correct. Pretty substantial capex and capex growth has exceeded cash flow growth all the while.
Importantly, just as cash flow growth is slowing so too is capex growth (as the rented office isn't generating revenue) and, in the absence of a pick-up in demand, return on investment (ROI) will be hampered.

Invest in the value and content not the facade.
A little longer at your old office or home would not have hurt.
Business development and research is key.

Thanks for your comments. But I do disagree with you both. And I think it's because you don't understand the business we're into.

We never had office until now. We just floated around. Meeting clients in restaurants, etc.

Remember I said it's a career consulting startup.

Most of our flagship services were those that can be done without the clients having to see us physically, e.g CV writing, sale of books, etc.

Now, when we decided to introduce a new set of services, most notably interview preparation and Career Academy, there was no way we could have done that without an office.

For interview prep, it has to be physical. You can't do that by email or over the phone. You need a place to meet your client for that and it doesn't speak well that you meet an interview client in a restaurant.

Our career academy also involves physical presence as it is a classroom situation. There is the option of renting halls of hotels etc, but that's actually more expensive than renting an office.

Plus, we also got an employee to do the running around and he needs an office to report.

Hence, our decision to open an office. And that has cost us close to N1m.

Now, our next focus is publicity, massive online and offline publicity but we are lean on finances now. So we're taking it slowly.

10 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by pomsky: 10:06pm On May 28, 2015
[size=14pt]........Congrats for the new level.
How did you secure the funding and what are the terms?
Rgds[/size]
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Nobody: 10:45pm 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
Nice job bro, but please do something about your customer care services..I wanted to book a hotel room for someone in abuja few days ago from Europe and i was disappointed by the poor customer care services i received when i called..In the end i was unable to make the booking with you guys, eventually i resorted to jovago.com which helped me to make the booking in more professional and timely manner.

3 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by lordhugo(m): 10:54pm On May 28, 2015
Jarus:


Thanks for your comments. But I do disagree with you both. And I think it's because you don't understand the business we're into.

We never had office until now. We just floated around. Meeting clients in restaurants, etc.

Remember I said it's a career consulting startup.

Most of our flagship services were those that can be done without the clients having to see us physically, e.g CV writing, sale of books, etc.

Now, when we decided to introduce a new set of services, most notably interview preparation and Career Academy, there was no way we could have done that without an office.

For interview prep, it has to be physical. You can't do that by email or over the phone. You need a place to meet your client for that and it doesn't speak well that you meet an interview client in a restaurant.

Our career academy also involves physical presence as it is a classroom situation. There is the option of renting halls of hotels etc, but that's actually more expensive than renting an office.

Plus, we also got an employee to do the running around and he needs an office to report.

Hence, our decision to open an office. And that has cost us close to N1m.

Now, our next focus is publicity, massive online and offline publicity but we are lean on finances now. So we're taking it slowly.

Oga Suraj, I now have a clearer picture!
Investing in an office space which doubles/houses classrooms/training spaces was relevant to your line of business and actually a case of "killing two birds with one stone".

However, allocating such a high percentage of outlay to rent and furnishings was probably not the best step sir.
Its percentage ratio should have been smaller, so as to accommodate operating expenses and then grow organically.
"Income is opinion but cash is fact." Operating expenses directly reduce the Operating Cash Flow (OCF) of the company.
You are right. You need more money.

I enjoy your career related pieces by the way.

2 Likes

Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by samuelson06(m): 11:30pm On May 28, 2015
@ markessien
Hello Mark, please tell us, how do you make profit from Hotels . ng?
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Olaone1: 12:18am On May 29, 2015
.
Re: My Startup Hotels.ng Just Raised $1.2m. Ask Me Anything by Clone2020(m): 3:45am On May 29, 2015
@ markessien i'm a venture capitalist in the U.S also known as an angel investor. How can I invest in your startup?

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