The story was everywhere all over the internet – Jovago was going to sue Marek Zmyslowski because he was ‘building their competition’ – so the story went. Was he really? We caught up with Marek in Lagos and he spoke about this issue, and his new startup and so many other things in this Video.
HotelOga. That’s what Marek Zmyslowski, former head of Jovago.com is calling his new startup. Jovago, being an online travel agent and hotel booking service in the country, did fantastic under Marek’s leadership, and things were looking good between team members and investors. Or so it would seem.
Things got a bit awry between Marek and Jovago’s owners (Africa Internet Group) though, and he left under sour (and very publicly reported)circumstances. Well now, only 5 months after Marek left, he’s back with his own company, and whether they say it or not, it’s easy to picture Jovago shifting uncomfortably in its chair. The question naturally arises: was Marek building HotelOga secretly while still working at Jovago, in classic Zuckerberg style, or did it take him just 5 months to set up a newcomer that has the old players feeling some type of way?
Dust began to rise over the relationship between Marek and his former bosses when he tweeted about leaving in a way that showed it was not all smiles. Techcabal picked it up and noised it on the Nigeria tech scene. Unceremoniously the collaboration ended. It was October 30, 2015.
In February, 2016, Marek launches HotelOga. HotelOga is a well built, complex web app that offers an efficient offline hotel management system, free hosting, domain and responsive design to client hotels, management of invoices and access to a worldwide network of travel agencies and agents. Essentially, if this startup scales, it dilutes out the collaborations that Jovago and Hotels.ng have spenty years painstakingly working on. It gives the hotels another option- a more attractive one.
Did it really take Mr. Zmyslowski about 5 months to set all this up and have it open for business already?
There’s no easy way to answer this and really, the answer is not in plain view. What has happened to Marek though, is one interesting episode. In an interview with Uche Aniche of Biztorials.com and founder of the latest entrant to online venue booking platform –venuehero.co, Marek completely denies this.
It is easy to imagine that having the kind of exposure and access to coveted information about the industry, he chose to look at things from a higher perspective, and latch on to the coming trend about to hit the online hospitality industry. Nigeria is a potentially big market for hospitality and tourism companies, a lot of which are yet to launch here. Marek has set up in HotelOga, a system that not only invites hospitality startups outside Nigeria to grab a share of the potentially huge industry, but also quickens their arrival. So it is not exactly a competition to the existing houses, but the aggrieved soldier that beckons on larger armies to come and seize a share of the cake.
Whatever happens in the future with the Nigerian hospitality industry, I have a nagging feeling that HotelOga will ride the waves expertly, reaping from its own game changing insight. As for whether Marek was building this company under the noses of its would be competitors, right now there’s no way to know, and in the future, no one will care.