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Chasing Black Unicorns - Doing Business in Africa

Stories of Success Podcast

Release Date: 05/21/2020

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On this episode I welcome Marek Zmysłowski. Marek is a Polish-born entrepreneur and executive, focused on online businesses in Frontier and Emerging Markets. 
 
At time of recording we are both in lockdown due to Covid-19. He is in Barcelona and I am in the UK. We discuss the impact Covid-19 might have on Africa as well.
 
Marek is the author of a bestselling book called “Chasing Black Unicorns. How building the Amazon of Africa put me on Interpol Most Wanted list.” A story we will be diving into.
 
He co-founded Jumia Travel – Africa’s Biggest Hotel Booking Portal listed on NYSE as part of Jumia Group and HotelOnline.co – a Travel Technology Company. 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.
 
His story is fascinating, and Marek explains how he made a lot of money and how he also lost a lot of money during the financial crisis. As a true millennial we are discussing some of the ‘prejudices’ society has with the younger generation. We drift towards a discussion on how we communicate, and what the best way is to do business moving forward. He even has clients he never met, yet spends money with them. 
 
We also talk about the perception some have about doing business in Africa. Whilst Marek confirmed some, we also talk about his positive experience in Africa, and how little the majority of people know about this amazing continent. Personally, I learned a lot about Africa just by listening to him.
 
During the podcast, Marek and I discuss technology and his latest involvement in an AI (Artificial Intelligence) company, and we discover our joint passion for renewable energy; it turns out he invested in a company bringing solar tiles to Europe, drifting into a discussion about technology.
 
Whilst success for him is not all about money, his drive for success is coming from his childhood. He was bullied in school, and wants to show the world what he is able to be successful; through the help of coaches, he funnels his energy into business, where he enjoys the challenges of big problems.
 
He explains how to launch an e-commerce business in a cash society, and how online market places work in Africa. Advertising on the other hand was predominately locally, and offline.  
 
His best advice is to not take too much advice :-) ‘Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions’, is one his favourite quotes. Similar to myself, he is interested in understanding and hacking is body and ultimate health. We only manage to touch on this briefly unfortunately, but his advice is sound; he now only eats once a day and swears on it. 
 
For more information on his experience and companies, please see the following links:
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Volker coaches transformations (career, life & business), and helps individuals and companies through change. He is also a mindfulness trainer and productivity expert. In his podcast Stories of Success he interviews successful people and wrote a book on the back of it.
 
His latest project is a personal development course and listeners from the podcast can sign up and receive a free book with code "Book2020": http://bebetter.ballueder.com