You're gonna dig this little experiment

Hey there,

If you celebrated, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I want to give thanks to all of you who signed up for the Mergerous Growth Academy this week and last!

Speaking of growth, we’re going to try something a little different today. But I suppose you’ve been reading these emails. And in that case, it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you that, as a relatively new business, we’re constantly experimenting to see how we can best serve you and everyone else in our audience.

That being said, if you dig this little experiment, please tell me about it. Respond to this email with your thoughts. It takes 30 seconds to respond and means the world to me and the team. More importantly, it helps us show up as best we can for you!

In today's email:

  • Think with Rob Alhadeff, a British Fintech entrepreneur in Kenya

  • Build with Mihir Pershad, founder & CEO of Umami Bioworks

  • Grow: The continuation of Håvar Bauck’s story — that of a thriving business the Norwegian entrepreneur didn’t plan to start

  • Watchlist: A friendly reminder about what’s on the horizon for the remainder of 2023

Think with Jackfruit Finance’s Rob Alhadeff

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Build with American entrepreneur Mihir Pershad

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Grow with Håvar Bauck from Kenya’s HotelOnline

Picking up where we left off on November 15, the burning question: How did “the first budget airport aparthotel in Nairobi” come to serve as the digital marketing partner to 6,000+ hotels in 30 African markets?

Håvar Bauck says he and his partner at the then Nairobi Airport Hotel were “among the first in Nairobi” to implement a digital marketing strategy to advertise their budget property for travelers to Kenya. The first in Kenya to advertise online for any vacation property or hotel.

“In what became later became known as the ‘Airbnb boom’ in Nairobi, that was only one of the marketing channels we were using.

“We were marketing online in general; we were using — like all the online marketing channels. And we were fully booked from day one,” said Håvar.

“At the time, there were 13 hotels in Nairobi on, and we were ranked on top. We became the most-booked hotel in Nairobi in 2014 on There used to be an Intercontinental [hotel], all those big international chains — and with our budget apartments next to the airport, we had more online bookings than they had.”

This, ultimately, is how Bauck and his partner grew from a single-location business for travelers to a service and technology business for Nairobi Airport Hotel’s competitors.

“That's where we saw the opportunity that, okay, if we could do something like that with no experience — as in very little experience in the hotel industry and just some digital marketing — then imagine the potential to offer to other hotels in replicating our marketing concept, which at the time was just simple digital marketing,” he said.

Reflecting, Bauck told me that when they started in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda, they were “basically offering simple [online] marketing services, like putting up websites, putting up a proper online booking engine, putting [hotels] on — like all these distribution channels and automating this distribution.”

“Basically, at the time, we were just holding their hands because they had no clue how to do this, and we had to do everything for them,” he said.

It’s a classic recipe for rapid growth: solve your own problem first, recognize a gap in the market, and fill it with a basic (MVP) product or service. This is how, in Håvar’s words, HotelOnline became “a pretty big success from day one.”

At this point in the conversation, I had to admit, it seemed the “rapid” part could, at least in part, be attributed to being in the right place at the right time. Still, if you remember from part one of Håvar’s story, he’s confident that strategic preparation played a more significant role in his success than luck. 

Though he was interested in entrepreneurship early on in his career, he decided not to dive in head first: the priority was to get “some experience from more established companies, [to learn] how to build companies.”

And that — working with established companies — turned into nearly a decade’s worth of lessons which, when the time was right, allowed him to grow a company “based on the challenges and the opportunities that you see to solve problems for your clients.”

🔎 Watchlist

In the November 15 issue of Think, Build & Grow, I announced we partnered with the German chapter of Founder Institute. Today, I’m happy to report that our writers are actively collaborating with each of the five folks I mentioned in that newsletter.

As a friendly reminder, here are the people who will share with you their unique experiences as mentors and alums of the Founder Institute Accelerator:

Stay tuned for December’s announcement about our collaboration with the group in LatAm!

Until next time,

Nolan Bulger

Founder, Mergerous Media Co.

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