Marek Zmyslowski, a former Rocket Internet’s Jovago MD was never part fo the founding team of HotelOnline and Savanna Sunrise Ltd (Premium) according to the firm’s founder and Chairman Håvar Bauck .
Speaking to TechMoran, Bauck reaffirmed that Savanna Sunrise Ltd. was founded in 2014 by himself and Endre Opdal and they later acquired HotelOnline which they run till today. HotelOga was outsourcing HotelOnline’s tech but was struggling to survive, so it started hunting for investors and partners across Africa and globally. Some of whom claim Marek defrauded them. And it’s alleged that’s how he ended up on the Interpol most wanted list.
In January 2017, struggling HotelOga founder Zmyslowski contacted Savanna Sunrise proposing a merger with HotelOga. The parties initiated merger talks but a due diligence conducted by Savanna Sunrise found that a merger was not viable.
To Marek, Savanna Sunrise Ltd was HotelOga’s “biggest competitor in East Africa” but in reality HotelOga was running on third-party technology owned by a Polish firm, HotelOnline.
Zmyslowski then stated in a mail on April 5th, 2017, that he would take HotelOga (incorporated in Nigeria as Hospitality Technology Solutions Ltd.) with him into a different arrangement with a third party.
“The technology used by HotelOga was owned by a separate Polish company, where Zmyslowski was one of the shareholder. Shortly after April 5th, Zmyslowski transferred his shares in that company to his Polish co-founders, and resigned from all his roles,” Havar told TechMoran.
Savanna Sunrise later entered into a significantly smaller transaction with the Polish technology company, injecting fresh capital to ensure its survival. At that time, Zmyslowski owned no shares, and had no active or passive roles in either company.
Savanna Sunrise Ltd. currently trades as HotelOnline. Marek Zmyslowski has not, and has never had any role in the company after the transaction. HotelOnline is not associated with Zmyslowski or the now defunct Hospitality Technology Solutions Ltd. (t/a “HotelOga”) in any way.
“HotelOga started about a year after us, inspired by our business model. They knew very well who we were, and we were very much aware of them. They saw what we had done, and wanted to refine the same concept with a state-of-the-art technology core,” Bauck told TechMoran. “They did that very well, at least as far as the technology was concerned. They were backed by investors, which we weren’t. Hence, they had the resources to built an excellent technology. Unfortunately, that was all they did. So in 2017, they had the technology, and no money. We had a profitable business model, and no technology of our own. A perfect match, right? Or so we thought, when they approached us, proposing a merger.
After due diligence, Havar discovered that HotelOga had no business model, had massive debts and had simply taken too many shortcuts, without thinking of the consequences. Luckily, one such shortcut, was that they hadn’t consolidated the ownership structure: HotelOga and their technology unit were two separate companies.
“HotelOga collapsed almost immediately after we pulled out of the merger,” he said. “We were still talking to the Polish technology company, though. With the toxic entity in Nigeria out of the way, the rest of the process was straight forward. The Polish company was called Hotel Online. Although we, as Savanna Sunrise were the acquiring party and the “big brother” of the merger, we adopted the HotelOnline brand and identity, as it was a better brand for the new company and concept we were building.”
HotelOga had an excellent technology, but no viable business model. HotelOnline now has the software as part of a bigger solution, and a profitable business model. Technology in itself does not help hotels increase their business. Technology applied as part of a well-planned solution, can. This is another part of the reason why the adoption of technologies for hotel management and distribution is so low, not just in Africa, but in emerging market in general. If hoteliers don’t see any immediate, guaranteed gains from investing in new technology, they will stick to what they know instead.
In this case, technology should be seen as a tool to streamline reservation management and distribution. When used right, they can provide significant gains. It is just like a hammer: You can use it to put a nail in the wall, and hang a beautiful picture there. Or you can accidentally crush your fingers with it!
“This is why we don’t just sell technology. We offer a whole solution with potential to change the way hotels operate,” he told TechMoran. HotelOnline is working to steadily improve the quality of its services, and a continuous streamlining of its operations. The firm is not planning any major announcements, sensational mergers or acquisitions, or bold expansions into new markets anytime soon.”