In a bid to inspire Akwa Ibom youths who are currently undergoing an internship program organized by hotels.ng in partnership with the Akwa Ibom State government, Mark Essien, the CEO of Hotels.ng told his inspirational story of his humble beginning in the IT Sector. He picked the event as the appropriate venue to tell the story because young people from Akwa Ibom extract who gathered at the Ibom e-libray needed such inspiration while engaging in their stage 1 of the internship program.
Mark told the astonished listening youths how he was born and raised in Ikot Ekpene to Anthony Paul Essien and Monika Essien. He schooled first in his mother’s school, Monika Kindergarten, then continued at 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 left Ikot Ekpene without a single knowledge of what a computer was and what it looked like.
In Germany where he worked while schooling, Mark made a decision that changed his entire future. “I was born in a small community in Ikot Ekpene and I did my primary and secondary school in Ikot Ekpene. While in Ikot Ekpene, I never knew anything about computers until I left for Germany where I had my university education.” Mark revealed how he worked through night and day to build codes that today has transformed the online hotels booking in Nigeria. This he did it himself. “I was taking care of people that were paralyzed. At times I have to code all through the night and I later built a file sharing software called Gnumm which was acquired by Snoopstar.com, followed by a language learning startup called Ingolingo before building hotels.ng with my knowledge in PHP.”
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. He then 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. 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.
Most important in Mark’s story was the fact that he learned programming on his own. He stressed that learning computer programming is like learning a foreign language and you need to do it gradually learning the robes, making mistakes and correcting it on your own. Recently on his personal website – markessien.com, he marked out ways the Nigeria Government can stop oil pipeline bombing. We belief therefore his story during the official launch of his internship program in Uyo was to inspire young people to get engaged in the tech industry which he believes will greatly reduce restiveness in the region.
Today in his enterprise, you can book hotels anywhere in Africa. This has not only helped tourist and CEOs find secure and reliable accommodation while away from home but has created employment opportunity for hundreds of youths in Africa.