NIGERIANS DOING EXPLOITS AROUND THE WORLD (31) – MARK ESSIEN
Mark Essien (born December 18, 1980 in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State) is a Nigerian entrepreneur, software developer and startup investor.
He is the founder and CEO of Hotels.ng, one of the first and most successful online hotel booking websites in Nigeria. Before founding Hotels.ng, Mark Essien had previously built a file sharing software called Gnumm (acquired by Snoopstar.com), followed by a language learning startup called Ingolingo.
Mark was born and raised in Ikot Ekpene to Anthony Paul Essien and Monika Essien. His father is a prominent political figure in Akwa Ibom who served as Special Advisor on Economic Affairs to the state’s governor during the Nigerian Third Republic. His mother who emigrated from Germany to Nigeria in 1978 is the owner of a children’s school in Ikot Ekpene.
Mark schooled first in his mother’s school, Monika Kindergarten, followed by Federal Government College in Ikot Ekpene before he moved to Germany for his University education where he studied Computer Engineering (B.Eng) at the Beuth Hochschule and Computer Science at the Freie Universitat Berlin (M.Sc).
He spent the first 19 years of his life in Ikot Ekpene.
In the 18 months that it took him to complete his mandatory German language program and A-Levels, he took up a job as a cinema attendant. He taught himself how to code during this time.
Before Hotels.ng, he created a file sharing software, Gnumm, which was acquired by Snoopstar. He then worked at Snoopstar for some time, before he began to build his own products and work freelance as a software developer. He created one of the first DirectShow based software-only Mpeg Encoders – Standard MPEG – which had clients such as Disney and the American Military.
After his Bachelor’s program in Germany, he became interested in building a technology company that could work in Nigeria. He realised then that the online travel space in Africa was ripe for disruption. After getting his bachelor’s degree, he created the first version of Hotels.ng which was a list of hotels at the time.
Following his business philosophy, “build a product for an existing market and not a market for your product”, he created a dummy hotel booking website, left it for a few months and noted the traffic that it generated.
In 2013, he founded Hotels.ng. He soon caught the attention of Jason Njoku, Iroko TV’s founder whose Spark.ng made an initial investment of $75,000 in Hotels.ng. Momentum picked up significantly and shortly after Spark.ng made another investment of $150,000.
In 2015, the company secured additional investment funding of $1.2m from international investors EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund, a seed-stage technology fund, and Omidyar Network, the investment vehicle of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Mark is married to Jennifer Essien, a software developer. They married on the 6th of January 2017 in Oxford, United Kingdom in a celebration where friends and family were present. He can speak at least 3 languages, namely Efik, German and English.
In 2015 Mark made the Forbes list of 30 youngest entrepreneurs in Africa. He has also been nominated for the Nigeria Future awards amongst others.
In 2016, Hotels.ng co-invested with Jason Njoku and Spark in OgaVenue, an events booking platform. Mark Essien serves as a director on the board of OgaVenue.
Mark is a frequent TedX speaker. He has delivered talks on Leveraging networks to build a business, and how Africa can lead in the global technology space at TedXEuston and TedXGbagada respectively.
Source: Wikipedia, Google and Personal Research.