In this episode, we learn about how the founder of Jovago.com (An Africa Internet Holdings company backed by Rocket Internet and other blue-chip investors), Marek, goes from a bartender to ecommerce entrepreneur. Listen to his start-up story and be inspired. From failing at his first start-up, an online dating website, Marek resorts to bar-tending at a hotel to make ends meet. He eventually summons up the courage to try again and launches 2 successful companies, Mementis (an online network of funeral services and funeral homes), and Motoraporter (an online network of vehicle verification and inspection services), in his native Poland. After running them successfully for two years, he sells both companies for a healthy profit in order to pursue his dream of living and working in the USA. But, his thirst for adventure leads him down a different path, and he sets his sights on Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy with the intent of building a formidable Pan-African online travel agency/hotel booking platform. His entrepreneurial drive pushes him to single-handedly sign up 400 hotels on his platform in order to prove the concept and market viability. Now, with a team of over 30 associates Marek oversees an ecommerce enterprise at the forefront of Africa’s current technology boom. Marek who recently celebrated his 29th birthday is currently working on partnerships with several international and regional entities to help showcase Africa’s significantly untapped tourism potential, thus, promoting and increasing investments in the sector. His goal is that as the entire market increases, his share of the pie also increases, along with those of his competitors, and everyone wins.
What you will learn
The Big Idea – Look for a market that is huge offline, but has not really figured out the way to use the internet and new technologies to grow
- How he founded his first few companies based on his personal needs, and the needs of his community
- Failures and lessons learnt along the way with his initial start-up businesses
- The common theme he looks for when choosing a business he wants to be involved in
- How he went from building companies in Poland to starting Jovago.com in Nigeria
- The attractiveness of Africa and Nigeria for business opportunities in the tech start-up industry and beyond
- Challenges and obstacles faced in establishing a new business
- How competition plays a role in the online travel agency industry in Nigeria
- The growth and success of Jovago.com
- Avenues used to market the company and build brand awareness
- The interaction with the operators and hotel owners
- His proudest moments
- Advice to 21 year old Marek:
- Hide your ego and hire an accountant to check your spending.
- Appreciate your partner.
- Advice he would give to foreign entrepreneurs looking to come to Africa to start a business:
- Believe in Sherpa power: If you climb in the Himalayas, you won’t be able to do it without the Sherpas. Find your local partner that will help you understand the market, and help prevent you from making mistakes.
- Be prepared that you are going to spend more money than you expect
- Be prepared to spend a lot of time on groundwork even though you think you are investing in new technologies.
- The potential is there, but the market is not there yet. You have to create the market for yourself out of the potential.
Words of wisdom
Whoever is hungry to do something should come to Nigeria. Now is the time that we can really make a difference and not only make money, but also contribute to the society.
Books and resources
- Biographies of successful people : Richard Branson, Steve Jobs
- Tony Robbins (motivational speaker/coach/ psychologist): CDs , books