by Stanley Azuakola
Obinna Ekezie is a former NBA player turned technology entrepreneur.
At the age of 18, Ekezie left Nigeria for the United States where he spent the next decades. He earned a full athletic scholarship to attend university at the University of Maryland from 1995 – 1999. He played for five teams in the NBA and also represented Nigeria at the World Championships of Basketball in Athens Greece in 1998.
When he got injured in 2005, he started thinking seriously about life after basketball. It was then that he ventured into the online travel sphere through a friend who introduced him to the space.
According to a profile on CP-Africa.com:
In 2008, he founded Wakanow.com as Nigeria’s first online travel company after he saw the gap and inefficiencies in Nigeria’s online travel space. Though it launched in 2008, the site took off around the period of the last World Cup in South Africa, giving it much needed early momentum.
With over 45,000 hotel partners around the world, the site has continued to grow, gaining strong brand recognition among Nigeria’s internet users and setting the pace in online travel in Africa. The company has pushed its mobile strategy aggressively, launching apps to suit Nigerians’ smartphone and feature phone choices and has heavily advertised its mobile site. To adjust to the Nigerian environment, the company has adopted an interesting offline/online strategy setting up offline service points in airports and various locations around the country and even sending its sales reps to market at embassies. At the same time, it is solidly marking out its online dominance, powering online ticketing sales for airlines and hotels across the country.
But the journey so far hasn’t been easy. In fact, according to him, during his first foray into the online travel space, he lost a lot of money but chose to persevere and give the idea another try.
So far, the venture has been self funded and according to him also got additional investment funding in 2010. Ekezie is in the game for the long term haven assessed the vast opportunities in the continent’s online travel space.
For more on Obinna Ekezie’s inspiring journey with his company, Wakanow.com, check out his recent Ndani TV interview below.