“Your product is only as good as its distribution channels”

Mark Essien is the founder and CEO of an online hotel booking platform in Nigeria. With over 8000 hotels on the platform, is one of the largest online aggregators in Sub-Saharan Africa. He has raised over $2m from the likes of Spark, EchoVC and Omidyar Network.

Mark is one of the most impressive founders I know. When I was planning to come to Nigeria in 2015 to get involved in the tech ecosystem, Mark dominated a lot of my research as someone I should meet. Since then we’ve met several times, and he was a speaker at the High Growth Africa Summit 2016 that I hosted in Lagos.

There are so many gems in this episode for anyone trying to build a company or currently runs one in an emerging market.

The first 25 minutes of this podcast is like a lesson in how to start a startup in difficult places. We talked about he validated his idea, the grunt work was done to gain traction in the early days. How he ran out of money, and yet was able to pull a winner.

We discussed how to raise money and why founders should not take money from everyone.

Also Read  Episode 11 Shola Akinlade, Co-founder at Paystack, How to build a big business by solving painful problems. The story of Paystack.

We talked about why focusing on developing talent will drive the growth of the startup ecosystem in Africa.

This episode is brought to you by 

The Longe Practice is a legal firm that specialize in working with early-stage startups in Africa. They understand the peculiarities of business as a startup. They are trusted by many other startups including the likes of paystack, callbase,, techcabal, printivo, wecyclers, and many others. To get free consultation as a listener of this podcast… fill out the form on

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • A “formula” for building a company (in an emerging market) that your customers actually need
  • About the earliest version of’s, how it worked compared to how it works now.
  • Building relationships that led to very first investors
  • The different business models that they tried to arrive at the model they currently use.
  • Some thoughts on why Lagos is the place to be for businesses in Nigeria. How the ecosystem has changed between 2012 and now.
  • Mark’s list of things you need to run a successful company as well as some predictions for how the ecosystem will change over time
  • And much more