Marek Zmysłowski is a Polish-born entrepreneur and investor who left Poland for Nigeria in 2013 to co-found and be Managing Director for Rocket Internet's Jovago (now Jumia Travel). In his new tell-all book, Chasing Black Unicorns, he talks about his life in Poland as well as some of his lessons learned and adventures of building online travel startups for the African market.

Zmyslowski is recently better known for having founded HotelOnline (HotelOga).

“It’s a story of a young, inexperienced entrepreneur that slowly matures with every new punch in the face life serves him. I wanted to share my insights from running tech businesses in young African and Eastern European markets, as this knowledge was scarce back when I was starting. I’ve put those insights between my life stories, usually funny, but sometimes very scary. I hope it gave the book an edge and made the business aspect of it more entertaining to read," said Zmysłowski.


Marek Zmyslowski on The Tefo Mohapi Show talks about doing business in Nigeria and being chased by Interpol.

Online entrepreneur

Zmyslowski's business career started back in his homeland of Poland after he left his job at a financial services company in Poland. Following that, he founded several Internet startups in the Central European country including the country's first ever online network of funeral services.

He then met with the Samwer brothers, founders of the famous Rocket Internet, who thought he would be great as a co-founder for an online travel startup they were looking to start for the African market starting in Nigeria. Thus, in 2013 he arrived in Nigeria as the co-founder and Managing Director of Jovago (later renamed to Jumia Travel, part of the New York Stock Exchange listed Jumia Technologies).

What started at first as a great adventure in running, growing and investing in African tech startups, soon would turn red.

Trouble follows

After leaving Jumia Travel due to disagreement regarding strategy and how the company would be consolidated into one company along with other Jumia subsidiaries, Zmyslowski would soon go on to found another online travel startup in Nigeria named HotelOga. Although HotelOga was slightly different from Jumia Travel in that it targeted the hotels as customers and not consumers.

Being the majority shareholder in HotelOga (HotelOnline) he would enlist some of his close friends and associates as co-founders to invest in and grow the business. What soon followed is one of the most fascinating tales as told in the book.

Zmyslowski would end up finding himself with an Interpol Red Notice on his passport and spending some time in a Polish prison as a result.

Chasing Black Unicorns was initially published in Poland during February 2019 and it earned a bestseller status and became one of the most popular biographies in the country. Zmysłowski has said that he will be committing all the book's profits to the MaYa Foundation that he founded together with his life partner Yaritza Reyes,  an actress, TV host, and model most known for her title as Miss World 1st Runner-Up in 2016.

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