Chasing Black Unicorns is an autobiography about internet entrepreneur Marek Zmysłowski.
After growing up in Poland and finding success as a salesman, he learnt how to create start-up businesses. He went on to create his own online funeral services company, which provided him with a very steep learning curve because of the way that funerals had traditionally been run. His drive to succeed in commerce then led him to a large international company and the opportunity to head their start-up online travel booking service which would be based in Africa.
What I liked:
-The writing style made this non-fiction book relatively easy to read.
-Zmysłowski’s life story was more than just a tale of achievement; it was full of failures and everyday problems that needed to be overcome. It made him a likeable character and one that I was invested in reading about.
-Africa; I was fascinated by how different life in Africa was from Europe and how hard Zmysłowski toiled to make the culture and its conditions work for him and his team.
-Some of my favourite tales involved the many lessons on how to negotiate the airport in Nigeria.
-I learnt a lot about subjects that I’ve never considered before: the history of the country, mobile phones in Nigeria and why most people own several, why driving in Lagos should be left to the locals, other countries in Africa and how and why they are different to Nigeria, citizenship, the corruption of Interpol, start-up businesses, and post communism Poland.
What I didn’t like:
-Some parts were more interesting than others, which isn’t unusual in non-fiction, and I got a little lost with everything needed to finance a start-up, even though the author tried to use simple explanations.
-The copy that I read was translated and although I had no problem with the English, I found the large amount of very obvious proofreading errors annoying.
Overall, an interesting life-story and a fascinating insight into business in Africa and how differently business models needed to be to adapt to local conditions.
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Silicon Valley meets Indiana Jones – Chasing Black Unicorns is an autobiography written by Marek Zmysłowski, one of Poland’s most respected internet entrepreneurs. Witty and humorous, the book covers many dramatic and often dangerous events. Before moving to Nigeria to set up the ‘Amazon of Africa’, Zmysłowski worked for one of Poland’s biggest financial services companies, and is the founder of many online ventures in Central Europe. While establishing the first, online network of funeral services in Poland, he had to overcome challenges from criminal gangs running the market sector. His businesses in Nigeria have also made him enemies, powerful individuals who have corrupted police and government officials to stand against him. Overnight, Marek became an international fugitive and was put on the most wanted list by Interpol, an organization with a history of being manipulated by corrupt regimes. Zmysłowski describes this and many other events, putting them in the context of African history and cultures, a continent he is now deeply in love with.
All of the author’s book profits support impactful charity initiatives in Africa.
Marek Zmysłowski is a Polish-born entrepreneur and executive, focused on online businesses in Frontier and Emerging Markets. 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.