How Classmates Started Cheap Accomodation Business In Syokimau Before Spreading Across Africa

Håvar Bauck is the co-founder of HotelOnline, a management company for hotels providing hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals across Africa.

Bauck founded the company in 2013 alongside his business partner Endre Opdal, whom they studied together in college.

They ventured into the business after realizing the unavailability of pocket-friendly accommodation near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Here is Bauck’s story as told by WoK.


Bauck and Opdal who studied together at the BI Norwegian Business School in Norway met in Nairobi a decade after their graduation.

They lived in the same neighborhood in the city and even though Bauck moved to Lagos in 2013, they would still meet whenever he visited Kenya.

Opdal ran a guest house and with Bauck frequently traveling across Africa, they decided to partner in a bid to provide affordable accommodation within JKIA.

The closest place to the airport that offered accommodation was the Panari and Ole Sereni hotels whose services cost an arm and a leg.

In 2013, they hit the ground running and leased five budget friendly apartments in Syokimau, furnished them and launched a vigorous marketing campaign.

“We were fully booked from Day 1, and became the most-booked property on in Nairobi in 2014. This is what people refer to as the AirBnB business today,” Bauck said.

They also started a program where they would advise hotels on how to use online marketing to attract more business.

HotelOnline has worked with more than 6,000 hotels in 27 countries to boost occupancy and increase yield.

“If two amateur hoteliers like us could succeed at the first attempt, we were clearly doing something right!  The answer was online marketing

“The international hospitality market was going online fast, but the trend hadn’t reached Africa yet,” he said in an interview with Nation.

The success of their initial side hustle inspired them to reinvest everything and expand to other African countries.

“In 2016, investors from Norway and Nigeria put in additional money. All these investors wanted us to keep accelerating, so the money always went into growth across Eastern and Western Africa,” Bauck said.

As of 2020, the business was booming but then COVID-19 hit slowing them down, however, with the pandemic long gone, they are now hoping for the best.

“With Covid-19 behind us, and stronger operations than ever, we are on track to profitability in 2023.  We are however considering investing further in accelerated growth and expansion,” Bauck added.