076: Tech Startups And Corruption In Africa – Marek Zmyslowski

Marek Zmyslowski interviewed by Mikkel Thorup on The Expat Money Show

Marek Zmyslowski is a Polish-born entrepreneur and executive, focused on online businesses in Frontier and Emerging Markets. He co-founded HotelOnline.co – a Hospitality Technology Company, and Jumia Travel – Africa’s Biggest Hotel Booking Portal, with backing from Rocket Internet and Goldman Sachs. In 2014, he was chosen as one of the Ten Most Important People in Tech by IT News Africa Magazine. He is a Lead Mentor at Google’s Launchpad and World Bank’s XL Africa Program.


Starting a Business in Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, sprawls inland from the Gulf of Guinea across Lagos Lagoon. Victoria Island, the financial center of the metropolis, is known for its beach resorts, boutiques, and nightlife. To the north, Lagos Island is home to the National Museum Lagos, displaying cultural artifacts and craftworks. Nearby is Freedom Park, once a colonial-era prison and now a major venue for concerts and public events. With a population of 21,000,000, Lagos is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.


Imagine leaving your home country of Poland to start a business in one of the largest cities in the world population wise. That’s what Marek Zmyslowski did in 2013. His story is incredible!


Corruption is rampant! The police, the government, the people. How do you create something new and profitable? Will the people accept you? Listen in to this episode with Marek Zmyslowski to hear his stories. These stories led him to write ‘Chasing Black Unicorns’.


Chasing Black Unicorns

Wolf of Wall Street meets Indiana Jones. “Chasing Black Unicorns” is a memoir of one of the most recognized Polish internet entrepreneurs, Marek Zmysłowski. Witty and humorous, although it describes real, often dangerous events. Before moving to Nigeria to build the Amazon of Africa, Zmysłowski was an early employee of one of the biggest Polish financial services company and the founder of many online ventures in Eastern Europe.


While building the first nationwide network of funeral services, he had to face the Polish mafia. His businesses in Nigeria made him some powerful enemies, who corrupted the police and government officials against him. Overnight Marek Zmyslowski became an international fugitive on the run and was put on the most wanted list by Interpol, an organization with a history of abuse by corrupt regimes. Marek Zmysłowski describes this and many other events and puts them in the context of African history and cultures, a continent he fell in love with.


Marek Zmyslowski’s book, Chasing Black Unicorns has been published in his home country of Poland. The book is being translated into English and will be available in September 2019. If you go to his website you can pre-order a copy of the book, which I encourage all of you to do. It sounds like it’s going to be filled with some pretty amazing stories!


100% of his income from the book sales will go to giving laptops and coding lessons to the smartest pupils from the poorest families in Nigeria.


Intrigue and adventure. If you love listening to others talk about a life that sounds like it came out of a spy novel or movie, then our guest John Perkins will delight you!


How to Reach Marek Zmyslowski




What a life Marek Zmyslowski has led at such a young age. What he has been able to accomplish and still does even against all of the corruption in Nigeria.  I can’t wait to read his book, Chasing Black Unicorns coming out in English in September 2019.


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About The Host, Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup; the host of The Expat Money Show, has 20+ years in continual travel around the world, visiting more than 100 countries including Colombia, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Iran.

His goal now is to help Expats just like you to generate additional streams of income, eliminate your tax bill, and take advantage of offshore structures so you can travel the world freely and never have to worry about money again.

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