It appears Marek Zmyslowski’s departure from Jovago back in October 2015, might have gone less amicably than we thought. He recently tweeted that Jovago wants to sue him. There are still some unanswered questions, but these are the facts, as we know them.

True to their modus operandi – take e-commerce business models from the developed world, and port them to emerging markets – Rocket Internet launched hotel booking site, in August 2013. Nigeria was its first market and headquarters, and Marek Zmyslowski, the founding global CEO.

The hotel booking problem is an arduous one to solve. Made worse by a lack of a lot of basic infrastructure, on which internet businesses in the developed world can build their product. On running an online business in Nigeria, “You may think it’s an online company, but it’s actually also an offline company”. Marek said, in an interview on the R2TV breakfast show, referring to the large number of potential customers who still had to (or wanted to) make bookings over the phone.

But under Marek, Jovago started to grow, initiate key partnerships, and collect all sorts of awards, inevitably striking a (sometimes whimsical) rivalry with local incumbent,, and its well-liked CEO, Mark Essien.

Tectonic shifts

As time went on, something changed in Jovago’s executive structure. A change so significant as to leave us wondering how they could have gone unnoticed. In April 2014, Marek launched Jovago Sudan. The Ventures Africa report of the launch put Marek squarely in the driver’s seat as the one running things. A month later, Jovago launched in Pakistan. Only this time, the expansion was attributed to one Paul Midy, a French man.

Paul Midy appears to have been deployed by Africa Internet Holdings (a subsidiary of Rocket Internet, that oversees, well, their African internet holdings), to drive a massive growth surge. This is underscored by their foray into East Africa, via Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. However, putting Paul Midy at Jovago’s global helm effectively relegated its founding CEO, Marek to one corner of the continent, as Nigeria MD. All of this happened rather quietly. But the subtle shifts, we believe, must have been at least a remote cause of Marek’s eventual departure from Jovago and Rocket Internet in October 2015.

Marek’s exit from Rocket Internet wasn’t exactly earth shattering news. Largely, because he won’t be the first to “go native”. Rocket Internet in Nigeria has had quite the revolving door of top executives, a good number of them expats who would go on to start local businesses in Nigeria. And indeed, Marek had no intention of going anywhere. The serial entrepreneur has over time displayed quite a few non-Jovago proclivities in the time he has spent in Nigeria — angel investing, public speaking, and believe it or not, modelling (just look at his instagram). If anything, the biggest public takeaway from Marek’s Jovago exodus was that his famous rivalry with Mark Essien had come to an end.

But somehow, it would seem that there is still unfinished business. Marek recently tweeted vaguely, that an ex-Rocket Internet CEO tell-all might be in the offing. We can’t imagine what Marek might be planning to say. But not quite one week after the oblique tweet, there is talk of a brewing lawsuit. Things might be about to get interesting.

We still don’t have the full picture, and TechCabal is still waiting on official responses to inquiry from Marek Zmyslowski as well as Jovago’s management.

Osarumen Osamuyi Author

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