The recent spat between Marek Zmyslowski and some Nigerian technology entrepreneurs and investors, including Edmund Olotu, brings to mind a lot of questions about us, Nigerians, as a people. The first question is about how gullible we are, especially when it comes to foreigners.
We are probably too quick to give them the benefit of the doubt that we don’t often give ourselves or other Nigerians.
Marek Zmyslowski calls himself a serial entrepreneur and startup advisor "who builds companies outside the first world so they become first" yet he has never built a successful company of his own, not here and not in the first world. Still, we give him acclaim and he soaks it all in and spits it right back at us.
Back in 2013, Marek was employed by Jovago (now Jumia Travel) to be a CEO and co-founder of their new tech enabled travel startup in Nigeria.
Isnit it just odd how all the controversy that surrounds Marek always starts with Marek himself?
Barely four months later after his much publicized Jovago exit, he launched HotelOga - a startup which was supposed to help hotels in Nigeria get online presence for free. Also, it is important to note that HotelOga was in direct competition with his former employers.
He talked openly about this, driving the news and notoriety further. Notwithstanding all the publicity, HotelOga barely lasted for two years before it shut down, again due to a falling out between Marek and the people who employed him. In this case, his investors.
With a failed track record of this sort, it’s a true wonder why top publications like Techpoint or even VentureBurn will run stories with Marek’s tweets and fanciful Medium stories as their source. Everything this man says should be fact-checked thoroughly.
We must do better. Our journalists must do better; we made this man an icon without looking underneath the hood to see what drives him.
Earlier on Thursday 21 February 2019, Edmund Olotu published a Medium article with documents and evidence calling out Marek for being a fraud and thief who had fled Nigeria after transferring his assets in the Nigerian company and almost running it into bankruptcy, to a Polish company which he also owns called HotelOnline.
This Polish entity, according to Marek, owned the technology of by HotelOga which meant that HotelOga, the startup Marek proudly brandishes as one of his successes was nothing but a shell company with no technology.
In this screenshot Edmund Olotu shared below, we see that Marek tried to sell the shell company to NightsBridge, a travel company, before leaving Nigeria for Poland. The team at NightsBridge did their due diligence only to find out that HotelOga did not own any technology, owed money to hotels they had signed up, and also did not have the authorization of the board of directors or investors to be sold.
Notwithstanding all these happenings behind the scenes, Marek Zmyslowski went on to publish this blog post calling out his investors and Nigeria as a whole, corrupt. This is from someone who has spoken as a Nigerian on TED stages and grown his entire career in this ecosystem.
The question now is why did Marek publish that blog post, knowing fully well that he was wrong? Publicity for his new book? Notoriety and fame? Simple sociopathic behavior?
His responses to the events on Twitter have been shameful. Instead of refuting the claims against him with intelligent answers and evidence to exonerate himself, he seems to be soaking in the attention.
Who is Marek Zmyslowski?
Is he a driven entrepreneur who has been unfortunate with his startups and partners? Because even with funding and the backing of giants like AIG, he seems to always be on the cusp of winning or succeeding but not quite.
Is he a man obsessed with hearing his own name on people’s lips at whatever cost? Because he courts publicity at any cost.
I guess we’ll find out as things continue to unfold in this case. For now, we’ll be watching, and our eyes are on Marek. The other party, entrepreneurs and investors, have provided evidence and we still have nothing but the fancy story from publicity lover, Mr. Marek Zmyslowski.