Early Childhood and Family Life
Mark Anthony Essien (born 18th December 1980 in Ikot Ekpene) was raised by his parents Anthony Paul Essien and Monika Essien. His father, a prominent political figure in Akwa Ibom State, served as a Special Adviser to the state's governor on Economic Affairs, during Nigeria's Third Republic. His mother, who emigrated from Germany to Nigeria in 1978, is a childhood education expert and owns a children's school in Ikot Ekpene.
Mark's childhood education began at his mother's school, Monika Kindergarten, followed by a secondary education at Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene. Mark spent the first 19 years of his life in Ikot Ekpene, before his tertiary education for which he moved to Germany, where he studied and obtained a Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) degree in Computer Engineering at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science at the Free University of Berlin.
While studying for his mandatory German Language Program and A-Level examinations, he took up coding and also worked part time job as a cinema attendant.
While in Germany, Mark created a file-sharing software, Gnumm, which was later acquired by Snoopstar, a German company. He worked at Snoopstar for a while, and went on to work on his own as a freelance Software Developer. Mark also created a DirectShow based software-only Mpeg encoder, Standard MPEG, which had clients such as the Walt Disney Company and The United States Armed forces.
After his Bachelor’s program in Germany, Mark became interested in building a technology company that could work in Nigeria. He realised then that the online travel space in Africa could use some innovation. 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.Having proven the potential viability of what he had built, Mark founded Hotels.ng in 2013 to provide the most convenient solution to an industry that was rife with the traditional method and difficulty of booking hotels - the walk-in culture.
Hotels.ng soon caught the attention of Jason Njoku, founder of Iroko TV, whose Spark.ng made an initial investment of $75,000 in Hotels.ng. Shortly after, upon seeing significant promise and progress in Hotels.ng and its model, Spark.ng made another investment of $150,000.
In 2015, the company secured an addition funding of $1.2m from international investors EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund.
The company has since grown exponentially, and has extended its efforts out of Nigeria. In January 2018, Hotels.ng announced its international hotel booking site, Hotel.africa. Hotels.ng also launched Fly.africa, its flight booking site, to provide cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
Hotels.ng and its founder, Mark Essien have been featured in various global publications for the good work being accomplished in the Nigerian tech ecosystem.
Mark lives in Lagos, and is quite the traveler himself. When he isn’t working, he’s tweeting up a brilliant idea storm on Twitter.
Awards and Recognition
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.