Music Business

Traveling to Nigeria Anytime Soon? Looking for a Hotel? Learn How Mark Essien Built, West Africa’s Leading Hotel Booking Service

Are you traveling to Nigeria any time soon? Have you decided what hotel you will be staying? Did you use to book your hotel reservation? If yes or no, do read the article below to learn how one of Nigeria’s tech entrepreneurs, Mark Essien, the founder of, is changing the face of hotel reservations in West Africa, starting with Nigeria.

Two Years in the Trenches, Building by Mark Essien

“ is about two years old now. In the first year, it was just a website – no business built around it. It started off by me purchasing lists of hotels. The entirety of hotels that were available in any known dataset that was available in public or in any government archive was about 1500 in Nigeria. I listed them all on the site and put the site up. Only 100 of those hotels had pictures. The pictures were scraped from the hotel websites.

In October 2012 I moved to Nigeria to try to build a business out of this hotel booking website. I landed, rented a flat in calabar and convinced a friend of mine, Charles, to join the project. I and Charles hit the streets of Calabar and started snapping photos of the hotels in Calabar. Soon we had the largest online list of hotels in Calabar. But none were yet bookable.

We coded a booking form one day and bought a company phone. We turned on the booking form and put the phone number on the site. We received 20 bookings for hotels in various parts of Nigeria that day, and had 100 missed calls on the phone. We could not book the hotels yet and we barely had time to address all the queries we received, so we took the number back off. We kept the booking form, but nothing would happen when people booked.

Some time later, Jason Njoku wrote me a message on Facebook that he was starting an investment company called Spark and that he wanted to invest in I went to Lagos, we had a 30 minute meeting on a hot balcony together with Bastian, then I returned to Calabar. The next day, they made an offer. A bit of negotiation and in January 2013 received funds from Spark.

In the last 1 year, I used the investment money to build into a company. We have 15 full-time staff, 5 contract staff and more than 70 ad-hoc staff. Those 70 people went everywhere in Nigeria and got hotels on our site. We now have 5080 hotels on the site. We have full pictures for 4000+ of all those hotels. We have addresses and driving instructions for all these hotels – we have massively accelerated the move of an African industry online.

The total value of the bookings that we have done for hotels in Nigeria on our website alone is currently 2.3 million USD. That value was generated without spending any money marketing the site. By its very existence, it is useful and people patronize it without us needing to tell them to use it.

By the end of the year 2013 we hit $40k in monthly revenue. I will follow up this post with other posts detailing how the process has been.”

Read Part 2 and 3 for the complete story.


NOTE: My favorite paragraph is found in part 3, “How do we beat Rocket Internet? They had everything. Over the following week, I kept thinking about that. But then I noticed something – they kept studying us, trying to find out how we did it. They were trying to beat US. That’s when I realised that somehow or the other, barely knowing it, we had become the largest hotel booking website in West Africa. So I didn’t have to beat Rocket Internet, they had to beat me.”


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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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