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MAREK ZMYSLOWSKI ON BUSINESS UNVEILED

How to Stand Your Ground Against Adversity

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How to Stand Your Ground Against Adversity

MAREK ZMYSLOWSKI ON BUSINESS UNVEILED

How to Stand Your Ground Against Adversity

When building your business it is important to surround yourself with good people who will help guide you and be by your side during the process, especially in an environment you are unfamiliar with. However, you can never be too careful when it comes to business relationships. Today I am chatting with Entrepreneur and Author of Chasing Black Unicorns, Marek Zmyslowski all about How to Stand Your Ground Against Adversity.

MAIN TOPICS
  • The importance of business relationships
  • The Book: Chasing Black Unicorns
  • International Business
KEY TAKEAWAYS

Find a “why” and set your eyes on that

Never give up, you are stronger than you think

Only YOU are in charge of your future

MORE ABOUT OUR GUEST

Marek Zmysłowski is a Polish-born entrepreneur and executive, focused on Online Business and Renewable Energy, passionate about Frontier and Emerging Markets. He co-founded Sunroof.se – a 2-in-1 Solar Roofs producer, HotelOnline.co – a Travel Technology Company, and Jumia Travel – Africa’s Biggest Hotel Booking Portal listed on NYSE as part of Jumia Group. 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. Marek is a bestselling author of “Chasing Black Unicorns”, a former snowboard instructor, and a bartender, but his real life goal is simply to leave this World in slightly better shape than what it was when he arrived.

EPISODE TRANSCRIBED

Hi, y'all. It's Angela, I'm back for another episode of business unveiled. And you are in for a treat today. So I know on a lot of our podcasts, we always focus on being a better business owner and an entrepreneur and share your experiences and the experience that my guest is going to share today is so interesting. And when I was reading about the guest, and when I was watching his TEDx talk and listening to the story, I'm like, this is like shit that how I grew up when I was a child. Like stuff that my dad and my family was like, running around with like, crazy stuff that it's like you don't know you're you're running around the wrong people until like something jarring, like, sneaks up behind you, behind you. And that's kind of what we're talking about today. And so I'm excited because Okay, let me just back up. So think about Silicon Valley. In Indiana Jones, which y'all know, I don't watch all TV, but I do know who Indiana Jones is. I've never seen any of the movie so but our guest has a new book. Continue Reading

It's called chasing black unicorns, which I love unicorn. So why would I not listen to it or read it right. And so our guest today he is one of Poland's most respected internet entrepreneurs. And I know that he is because when you read into the story, it's like he went from that to ending up on like the most wanted list and Interpol, which I think that's how you say it. And he's just been all around the world. So Mark zimsec loski. I don't even know if I butchered your last name or not. But Welcome to the show.
Just so much great, great background you have given me although I must say that I'm probably not the most respectable just because something is most known for sure. But yeah, thanks so much for being here. And hi to everyone listening in.
Yeah, so
We have to back up because we were chatting before we started recording. And so I asked mark, I'm like, so where do you live now? And he's like, well, when, you know, the year 2020 was a very unexpected year for all of us. And you have you really been and lives in a lot of different places. So before you even get there, like, take us back, like to your journey. I know that I think you said you grew up in Poland, but like, What led you to working with some of these financial services companies, which we'll get into your story? But how did you even get there? Like, what was your journey
to get into that industry? Yeah, so I'm gonna try to give you like the 90 seconds version of my life.
Born and raised in Poland, in the I was born in late 80s. So that was the end of capitalism, sorry, the end of communism. Now. Now, it's the end of capitalism, nothing. It was the end of communism in Poland, and the beginning of crazy capitalism.
So I was raised by a very classic, traditional family, my father was a soldier, my mom was a teacher, they were both making money from the government salary. But we were one of the first you know, families to have satellite TV. So I could watch MTV and CNN and I was kind of raised by looking at the West and dreaming about being able to become an entrepreneur, make business and be able to travel the world and not be stuck to the city I was born in because I was living in this very, very small city of 100,000 people somewhere in the Eastern Europe.
So that that motivation to just make it and be able to travel and move to a warmer country, and and be able to buy whatever I want very much realistic in the early years of my life was super strong for me. So I went the, the tough, like every online entrepreneur wanted to because I was young. So I guess I'm gonna be somehow involved in online business. I want it to be the second Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, meaning I dropped out of university during first year. And I wanted to be the second Apple on second Facebook. Clearly, that didn't work out. Because only after some time, it will, you'll realize that guys like Zuckerberg jobs, OR gates that are dropping out of university to become successful are kind of exception of the rule, not the rule itself. But long story short, I ended up first in financial services company, because that's where the money was, that was the year 2006. Seven. That was before the Lehman Brothers. And before the crisis, everything was growing like crazy in Poland, I would join the company as employee number five. And when I was leaving, after three years, there was like 3000, or 4000, almost of us were selling insurance, investment mortgages, everything you could sell, it was just so easy to sell because the markets were markets were going up. But then obviously, Lehman Brothers came 2008. And we've lost all our money, the money of our clients, there was no money there.
The company went bankrupt. Oh, me personally, I also went bankrupt. Because all the money I was making, I was either investing in the stocks that then totally disappeared.
Or I was basically spending on lavish lifestyle, I was this 19 year old kid, thinking he's on top of the world. So I ended up being a bartender had to run away from my debtors. Just by pure coincidence, I was hired as an intern at my friend's online startup, he told me, I'm not going to pay you too much. This is your basic salary. But if if I'm if I'm able to make it so called, you're gonna get some shows in the business. And I was just the luckiest guy in the world because he was able to sell this business. And I just got the shirts just because just because I was again, an early employee. And, and by making money on the shirts, I was able to pay my debt from the financial crash. And that's how I was like, Okay, this is a defining moment of my life startups have just saved my life, because I could have ended up well at the street.
And that's where I decided to focus my career on online startups. And just to finish the first chapter of my life.
I did some small and bigger businesses in Poland, we've we've around a couple of businesses, some of them went down, but some of them we were able to sell. But at some point, I felt like I again, I want to realize the dream that I was watching when I was a teenager in MTV and CNN and I was like, I want to find a way to have an international adventure because all those businesses I was doing, they were in Poland. And I felt like I'm missing this international adventure. And I found an investment fund, who at that time, was planning to invest large sums of money into sub Saharan African continent. That was year 2012. And basically, this investment fund wanted to build second, Amazon, you know, the Amazon of Africa, and they were looking for, for experienced entrepreneurs from Europe.
That were crazy enough to, to, you know, join the team of, again, early employees that will work for them for not a lot of money, but for shares as well. Because again, if the company becomes a success, you will earn a lot of money just by having those shares. And I knew how that feels, because that was my first adventure with startups. So long story short, 2012, I moved to Nigeria without knowing much about the country without knowing much about the continent. Probably, this is why I moved. Because if I want more, maybe I wouldn't go.
But long story short, after six years, excuse me, after eight years, because that was last year, the business we launched, ended up on Europe of exchange. So that was one of the extremely positive Adventures of my life.
But in the process, I've also invested in other companies in Nigeria in the last couple years, including one of them, where I got myself into trouble with the powerful Nigerian businessman, I just put it this way, who at some point, tried to blackmail me to give back the company. And in order to do that they've they've corrupt the state nigerian police to put me today. Long story short, so that was the extremely negative adventure. And, and that's, that's basically what I spent last three years of my life, because there was a lot of legal issues involved. I also wrote a book about it. And that's where I am today. That wasn't 90 seconds. It was like 900 seconds. Sorry for that. No, but it's like, I just have so many questions. So like, how? Because like, if anybody listening, if you haven't listened to the TEDx talk, you you're gonna have no clue what I'm talking about. But I want you to tell people, you literally had no clue. It seems like that you were like, you really had to overcome challenges, like from all these criminal gangs that were running the market? And then you really had no clue until I think you were at that airport. And then you were like, on the most wanted, list it like, were you completely blindsided and caught off guard? Or did you have some type of like inkling like, okay, I kind of know that this is like, not right, but it's not about me. So like, I'm just gonna keep doing it. Like, tell us how that all happened and unfolded because it's just crazy. It's crazy to me.
Yeah, it does sound like like an action movie. But
I guess it's even better than an actual movie, because the best scenarios are being written by life itself. So
long story short, we had this big software company in Western Africa, that was building software for hospitality sector for big hotels on the west coast of Africa. And my local business partner at that time, at some point decided he doesn't need this Polish intrapreneur anymore in the company, he figured it around this company on its own. Unfortunately, this is a typical scenario. In exotic countries, when there was a foreign investor, someone from a different region comes to this country needs help of someone local, and then that local person decides, okay, I don't need this foreign guy anymore. He already broke the company he helped build, I'm gonna run this on my own. And they're usually taking over this company and kicking out to the foreigner from the from the country. That's not that easy to perform such a such a trick with software companies, because I might be kicked out of the country. But I still have control over software, right? We all live in digital world, you probably know a lot about that. So at some point, he basically tried to take over the company by going behind my back to all other
board members and telling them, I will pay you out. Just let me give me the control over a company. If you help me kick out this Polish guy out of the park, I'll give you some more shares beyond my sight. His plan didn't work. They all came back to me when I realized what has happened. I was able to kick him out from the board this time, the legal way. Because his actions were involved in
were designed into attack the company in a way. And that's where he's ego was hurt, because he was this powerful guy in Nigeria. And I remember my last conversation with him, which was face to face when he said, You still don't know what I can do in order to get what I want. And obviously I fought he's just, he's just threatening me like, like, I've been threatened many times in my life. And six months have passed and it was super, super quiet. I was remember I remember I went to Dominican Republic before Christmas to meet my girlfriend family. Then we came home to Christmas to the second part of Christmas and New Year's Eve to Europe. My girlfriend met my parents for the first time my mother and then after New Year's Eve. I think I was flying to London and at the airport.
I was stopped at the airport. I was kept for a couple minutes.
At the immigration office, and I'm used to it, because
when you travel in Africa, you have to change your passport pretty often because every country you enter, they use this huge stamps, you know, every, every time you enter at European, the size of the stamp is like the size of your passport page. Yeah, so you have, you have to replace your passport every year and, and I would have my passport replaced by Polish embassy in Nigeria. And again, they do doesn't have the best PR in the world. Unfortunately, you are at the airport. And you know, the immigration officer says this passport of a Polish guy, which is distributed and printed in Nigeria, not printed, but you know, a stamp in Nigeria. It they usually like to check me twice. I was like, okay, check me fine, that's fine. And a couple of minutes have passed. I'm not even understanding what's happening around me. And suddenly those two big dudes come after me, come behind me. And they tell me, okay, you're going with us now. And then they told me that I was taking to this room with no windows and so on classical classical case, I can do one last call to my lawyer, like you see in the movies. And then he tells me that apparently, I'm wanted in Nigeria, for a so called High School financial, high school financial fraud. And the arrest warrant says that I'm supposed to go to jail for apparently 21 years. And obviously,
yeah, it's a funny thing about Nigerian law that if you for a certain amount, you go to jail for five years, four or five years. But if you
if you allegedly steal more than certain amount of money, which I think it's a very curious amount of money, which is like 210, or $215,000, it's a very precise amount, then the penalty goes from five to 21 years. And obviously, in the arrest warrant, I allegedly stole precisely that amount of money. So I go not for five years, but for 21 years. But that's another story. And yeah,
and, and obviously, it takes me couple of minutes to digest everything. And then I realized what happened. Obviously, my Nigerian business partner ex business partner, has has bribed nigerian police in order to put this arrest warrant to bring me back to Nigeria, they would most likely keep me in jail for a couple of way, days, weeks, or months, depending how tough I am. And trust me in a Nigerian jail, no one is stuff, they would probably give me papers to sign, I would probably sign everything they would give me which basically meant giving control and shares of the company.
Um, and that's basically the scheme. And here I have to give you a caveat. Because Interpol is also involved, Interpol imagine is working like Facebook. This is one huge platform for all the police organizations in the world. That has a very noble, noble goal, right? If there's an international criminal, you want the police to cooperate to bring him down. Because otherwise he would be taking advantage of the fact that we live in a global village and he can never be chased. And that's a beautiful and noble goal for this Interpol organization to perform. Just like Facebook has a noble goal to connect people. But as we know, we're Facebook also. It doesn't always work out the most beautiful way. And what happens with Interpol is that in a country like Nigeria, unfortunately, Nigeria is a very corrupt organization. Nigeria as a country is very corrupt, unfortunately, and nigerian police is one of the most corrupt organization inside Nigeria. Essentially, you can get a you can get an arrest warrant on anyone if you if you know who to pay and how much to pay. And because Nigeria is a is a member of Interpol. All you need to do is to go to any police station in Nigeria, as long as they have access to the Interpol system, they have internet, find the police guy that will write down an arrest warrant, stamp it, sign it and then go to any judge. It can be the most local judge, not any federal judge, the most local judge also in the city, he signs it for you. And then you go back to the police station, they put it into the system and immediately in 165 because I believe this is how many member countries there are in Interpol.
all the countries are now know that you are wanted for anything that they put onto the arrest warrant and you will be extradited to Nigeria after some procedures.
No one checks this really, unless you are very high profile like a president of obviously when Iran issued a written notice because essentially, they did a read notice on me, which is the
most
the most serious notice that you can issue after anyone. And remember recently, this case was pretty loud in the States when Iran has issued a red notice to extradite Donald Trump to Iran because they broke the law by killing their military officer
on Nigeria issue the red notice for me another high profile man that Interpol will check it is this arrest warrant even legit. They just allow it to be
The system, just like Facebook or YouTube, right? almost anyone can put anything on the platform, even if they have no right to. But if someone has put something that belongs to you, good luck. Good luck. You're talking to Facebook and asking Facebook to take it down. Right? You know how right.
And that's, and that's unfortunately that the second part of this whole blackmail, that people in business that know who to pay How to Get Away us, because that that notice is designed at putting me in one country because at that point I was I couldn't leave Poland, my passport was taken, I was still lucky that I wasn't put to jail until I was actually Nigeria, I was able to be let go, as long as I stay in Poland because my passport was taken and somehow defend myself. But because I can travel and last 10 years of my life, I really spent traveling and running most of my businesses in Africa. Obviously, it is designed that me losing money.
They will either bring me to Nigeria, so I sign all the papers, or they will make me slowly bleed out of all my savings by trying to fight this case, because there are 10s of 1000s of problems like that, in Interpol, you could write a separate book just about how dictators and corrupt businesses are abusing the fallacies of the Interpol system. I was, I guess I was one of the luckiest. And also, how do you call it stubborn, stubborn guys, that instead of agreeing on what they essentially wanted me to do, which is giving the shares of the company and resigning from the board, I decided to fight the case legally.
Because Because I had the resources. And I was stubborn enough. It took me two years, I've had to take nigerian police to court. In Nigeria, I have to take nigerian police to court in France, because France is the headquarters of Interpol. And I had to defend defend my extradition request request in front of the Polish court. And after two years, and a lot of gray hair. And a lot of tough moments, I was able to win all those three cases, and write a book about it in the meantime,
because the book was for me, kind of like a psychotherapy, because I was able to be graphically and literally live all those emotions on a piece of paper.
So, so how, um, so you were stuck in Poland? So you had to stay there and fight this for two years? And did you just have like really damn good attorneys?
I think that's a, I think that's it. That's the quote in my book. I love that quote that when problems happen, you can only count on your family and lawyers, but you have to be able to afford the second the lawyer, right.
I think I was very lucky with the lawyers. Yes. Because I essentially I had three lawyers, and they were freaking expensive, but good. The first lawyer was my lawyer in Nigeria. And that was the lawyer that I used to work with for a couple years already because I was running businesses in Nigeria.
This was a lawyer that wasn't specialized in cases like this. He was a civil civil law lawyer, right, a lawyer that helps me with setting up a company. But yeah, there were not too many people I could trust. So although he wasn't the best lawyer, I needed someone I could trust in Nigeria. So that was my lawyer, then I had to have a lawyer in Poland that would represent me in front of the Polish court. And because there was this official request to send me to Nigeria.
And that was a very good lawyer. And then most importantly, I had a lawyer funny enough from Miami from Florida,
which is a lawyer that is specialized in Interpol abuse cases, like the one that happens to me.
There's there's not enough lawyers who who have such a narrow speciality.
And and this lawyer really helped us navigate the very bureaucratic system of Interpol because that's exactly the problem the bureaucracy of Interpol which makes you lose time. I know people that have been fighting this for five years and they see no end.
I was lucky enough to solve this all in into two years. And Interpol essentially admitted Okay, we're sorry, this inter this arrest warrant, official line of defense of Interpol was that we're sorry, there's so many cases, we're not able to analyze them all at once we have limited resources. You have send the appeal to us. We've analyzed it, by the way from them, you know, almost two years to analyze it. And they admitted that this was an arrest warrant and Interpol should have never been involved with this. But again, it's all designed I may at making me lose time and money by by being stuck into one country. And again, I was extremely lucky that the Polish public prosecutor
decided to release me
just as long as I stay in the country, so my passport was taken. If it wasn't for the public prosecutor, if it wasn't for my case, some people are stopped in another country, and the prosecutor of that country, they might say, Okay, I don't know if I'm going to extradite you. But until I decide you're staying in jail. And if I was, if I was stopped and kept in jail, my
possibility to defend myself would be, would be limited by an order of magnitude. Yeah, so I was extremely, extremely lucky.
But I guess that's the whole point. If If you run businesses in First of all, in my case, that was Eastern Europe. And then in Africa, because in the process, I realized that I really love the the risk reward factor, when you're building businesses in in these countries were obviously corrupt in these regions, when corruption is higher, but also opportunities is bigger. And there's more fun, because I'm allergic to excel, you know, when you run a business in Germany or Switzerland, it just sounds boring, right?
It turns out, I live in Germany, but here, it's much, much more fun. And I think that's the whole point, if you have to be extremely lucky, sometimes in life to be able to tell the story. Because if you're on business, sometimes in those countries, those regions and you're not lucky, maybe you won't, you won't be able to share the story of
So, so clearly, though, going into this journey, you didn't know that this business partner? And did, did you have any idea how corrupt the system was? Or you didn't even fathom that until you started to get into the system when they took you to jail? Yeah. So before I answer that question, I want to like put things into perspective. After more than eight years of running businesses in Nigeria, in particular, I still consider this this country as one of the most interesting markets to invest in and do business, you just have to be aware of the risk and reward factor. And although I had to deal with the the worst version of the corruption in the system, because I had to deal directly with the corruption in the, in the with the police at the highest ranks, I still consider Nigeria as an interesting market. And if it wasn't for the Nigerian justice system, so the courts, because in the end, I took the nigerian police to Federal Court, which is the highest incidence in Nigeria. And I won in that court
that shows that the thing that that bet I was just extremely unlucky in that particular situation.
So it's in my book is not about telling you how big how bad Nigeria is, and why you should stay out, I think is the opposite. What happened to me, gives me the legitimacy to to be reliable, you know, and in what I'm telling you about, because I believe
so so. So that's, that's the context. And to answer your question, obviously, yes, I was aware. And the irony of this is the biggest irony of I guess my adventure in that country is that I kind of believed to the stereotype. My friends told me or not really friends only that was the stereotype. You're this foreigner in this exotic country, you want to have a strong local partner that will protect you in case some bad people, from police or from government or from whoever from mafia will go after you want to have a strong local partner that knows the local market. And that's why I found this, this very powerful local businessman. Cool. Another funny story had also Indian passport, not only Nigeria, and because he he has been a third generation, Indian living in Nigeria.
educated in Harvard, now, excuse me, you can reach. So I was like, I have this amazing partner because he's been educated in the West. He's been running international business for a while he knows exactly how to run business because he's been running this huge conglomerate that was opened and announced by his father, he is a perfect partner for me, he will protect me. And the irony of the of the story is that he became the better guy, the guy that was
and,
and the people that helped me it was the Nigerian justice system, mine, my Nigerian lawyer, my Nigerian friends, that's, you know, provided me with any support I wanted to so. So my story also is a cautionary tale about just not believing the stereotypes.
Yeah. So for people who want to go who want to do business in Africa, or invest like flipping neighbor,
which like before, 2020 and COVID, like, I was never really home, but like, our dogs like barked at each other, and like his dog ran into my yard and sort of playing with my dogs, and we start talking. And
he's like, do you like it over here? I'm like, Yeah, like, and I'm not here a lot. And he's like, yeah, I'm not either I work in Africa. I'm like, Oh,
really, and you live, like, but you live in Nashville, Tennessee, but he had kids here. And so you know, his ex wife loved it. I like got his life story in my yard while our dogs played. And he owned a communication company in Africa. That was huge. But like, no one in the United States, much less Nashville, Tennessee, like, knew what he did or anything. I mean, it really didn't matter. But he was in Africa, eight months out of the year. And he was like, I'm going back to Africa tomorrow to hire some more people like for my communications company. And he's like, the way that the internet works here and the way it so he starts, like explaining it to me, which is like so over my head. And I mean, the closest thing I know about Africa is I was supposed to go to a conference in Cape Town, which I don't even know if that's where that is in relation to where you are in Africa. But we are supposed to go to a global leadership conference. But then COVID happened, I got cancelled. Yes. I don't know anything about the Africa, culture or anything, but I was excited to learn. And so for somebody who, well, first, they should just read your book to learn more. Um, but what are some takeaways? If people are thinking about working in Africa, setting up business or investments in Africa? Like what are the top three things that you would tell them?
Ah, first of all, it's a very versatile and a huge continent. First, let's start with the size. I think there was this interactive map, if you google the true size of Africa, the image will pop up. I think you can fit the United States in Russia, hollow Europe into Africa, and you still have a lot of space left. Wow, okay. I didn't realize that. Yeah, I'm flying from West Coast to East Coast, like six hours.
More or less depends on the on the on the on the aircraft, of course, it's a huge continent, then you have a billion billion of people, 54 countries, the countries is really a fake concept, artificial concept, because they were created 100 years ago, by colonizers, but the ethnic groups that have the real 1000s years of history, there's more than hundreds of them, many 1000s local languages and tribes
in Africa is I mean, the nature is so different, you're on the you're on the east, or on the south, it feels like it feels like middle, like Europe, or you're on the north, obviously, it feels like Middle East, then in the middle of the desert, then you have also high mountains and on the East where sometimes it's even snowing, extremely versatile, also in terms of nature, just vast, vast, vast continent that has a lot of challenges. It's really hard to scale a business fast, because there are infrastructure challenges. There's a big disproportion between the rich and the poor.
You can just look at the data and thinking oh my god, it's a continent with billion of people. I can sell anything there. Because it's a big problem in terms of how much money that people have, how educated there are, so a lot a lot of challenges. But to sum up for me, this is how I always look at it. And and sometimes people who are oversensitive, they will accuse me of being a white Savior. There's this thing called White savior complex, also google it if you want, but I I never heard of it.
It's very, it's very funny. I mean, you know, if you don't like someone, you will see that person walking on the water, you will say that she doesn't know how to swim. Yeah, you can always
fax around. For me, it was always this in Germany, or in Poland right now. If I want to make business in my area, I don't know online applications, FinTech solutions, and so on, I'm just most likely going to come up with another way for people to live their life even more comfortably. to charge the credit card on a regular basis whether this is going to be an app or a faster car, or another type of movie or game or whatever.
In when I arrived in, in Nigeria, I see that I can solve much more basic challenges of life. Like for example, we've built the first website that allows you to book a hotel online or first
ecommerce shop that allowed you to buy something online, that was like a real life need that changed your life quality by a significant portion, right, because you don't have to spend now four hours by going to the shopping mall, which is on the other side of the city. And so
and, and then, and in the second wave, I've noticed that all the people that we have hired, because we opened call center, we hire drivers, we hired marketing people, many times very young people stretch out, fresh out of university. But the the quality of the education in Nigeria wasn't the best. So we were giving them a lot of knowledge. Obviously, many of those people at some point left, maybe to another company, but maybe to open their own businesses. And it's extremely gratifying for me to now catch up with my first time employees from eight years ago, and many of them have
built their career in the companies with, some of them have left, they went to work for banks, some of them they open their own businesses, and, and they say that the, the experience that I am able to put into their CV, of working with this international company is that at some point, I write to them, help them either get a better job, raise money from the investors learn something. So we somehow transfer the knowledge into them. And now that they're going, they're well off, well, we're better off because
Because otherwise, it would be hard for them to break through.
Because the opportunities were just not evenly distributed, and still are not. So that's what's really gratifying for me that I don't know how naive that is, but you're making money. But also you kind of see a positive result by building this real capitalism, you know, not the capitalism that destroys the environment, not the ones that just you know, moves all the profits into a tax havens, but the capitalism that changes people's lives on a daily basis. When I another example, when I hired my first driver, because in Nigeria, the traffic jam is so crazy, I would spend four hours just by, you know, behind the wheel, so you have to have a driver everywhere.
And I remember, we bought the car, and then he was paying for this car from his monthly salary. And the car became he's, and then he bought another car. And I recently spoke to him. And now he has four cars and three employees, he's still driving this car.
But when I met him, you know, I had no car, I bought the car. And then he was able to buy this car from me by paying me part of the salary back that I was paying for here. And that's just so cool. Look, you know, when I was a kid, I was living in Poland, my, although my father was a soldier, my mom was a teacher, every holiday, they would have every vacation, they would spend to go to Germany, because Germany was back then such a rich country in comparison to Poland. And my father would work for just one month a year as a gardener. And my mom would work as a waiter in a restaurant in Germany, although she was a teacher in Poland, just because the month of salary in Germany was more than six months of their salary in Poland. And that's how they've made more money. And they kind of progressed and we became, we've built wealth, what a month over time, over time, over time, because somehow the wealth of one country was transformed to the wealth of the other country, if you know what I mean.
And all those all those things received by being living in Poland as a poorer country, thanks to the connection to German businesses. I now kind of see how I am now transforming and giving back to, to the businesses and the people I work with in Kenya or in Nigeria. I don't know how naive that is. I don't know how white savior does this. But for me, it's for me, it's very real. And, and that's what I do.
That's amazing. So
you did so I'm this true colors certified facilitator and So Amanda sent you like a little word cluster game. And you and you filled it out. And thank you. And so your story, though, is very much in line like with your numbers. And so I know that you probably don't know what any of this means, because you haven't done True Colors before. But just like all the others, like any agreement, Myers Briggs, and you know, all of that stuff,
which I want to tell you what this stuff means. And then I want you to tell us like about more, I have some more questions about your book, but like just your story, and like how you have like you said, You're lucky and you're stubborn, like when people tell me they're like, Oh my God, you're so lucky. I'm like, Oh my god, no, I'm hard headed. I'm stubborn. I'm going to make sure that I see this through because there's justice and there is a right way and there is a wrong way sometimes and so to me, it's just the determination of winning when you know that you didn't do anything wrong. And so, you know, then yes
Like God's gonna place certain people in your life that they're going, you're going to surround yourself with the right people to help you get there. So like in your colors, you were 18, orange, 15, gold, eight blue, and 19 green. So what these different colors mean, which I know you guys are listening, so you can't see this. But Mark looked at the pictures and then rated the pictures by what he seen. And so your highest color is green, meaning you are, you love numbers, you love data, you're good at numbers, you're good at finance, you're good at research. And you you're smart. And it's all driven by data and facts. And so you would be able to figure your way out of pretty much anything, especially if you know you didn't do it. Because you're your lowest, which we call us, we call it your palest color is blue, which is neat. And so it which that's the emotional part of business, and you don't let the emotions drive the outcome you are based on data. So when I was reading your story, and you it was like talking about like finance and your investments, that will make total sense for the green, then your second color, which you're only one point off to orange, so your 19 Green 18 orange, which is very close, which the orange is your risk taker, you are not bound by rules, or deadlines, or a map that anybody gives you and says you have to do it this way, you have an open mind about things and the fact like when we were first talking, you're like, I've lived here, and I've been here in here, and now we're here and then we're gonna move and you know, it's like, that's the orange side of you, where you get bored easily, you're not going to sit still in any country, and let some silly business deal because one idiot, like turned you in or something and try to put everything off on you. It's like, No, you have the data, you have the facts you surrounded yourself with the attorneys, you've got yourself out of the shitty ass mess that you got put in. But then you were still like optimistic about it. And then you're like, I'm gonna share this with people to educate them. So because otherwise, like, why would you just keep this story to yourself. And so then your next number is 15, meaning like high gold like Amanda, she's very high gold. So it and that's very purposeful, because like she is a GSD Queen, meaning like she gets shit done. These are the people that like are loyal. And there are systems and there are boundaries, and there's a right or wrong, you were like a super hot gold person, you would have probably had a tougher time adjusting and adapting to like what the hell just happened to you.
So it's all based on like, your personality, I can tell. I'm like this, like, crazy story, which I see is like a business opportunity because you came out way stronger. And look at how many people you're helping and look at how many people that you're teaching them to be an entrepreneur, you're giving them the tools. And at the end of the day like that does feel good to be able to give back. And so going into the book, though, I want to know like, how did you pick the title? Like Where did chasing black unicorns come from? Like, did you come up with that? Or like, Did somebody else come up with that? Yeah, by the way, when you were, you know, trying to analyze my personality, you could you can see this, but I was nodding all the time. It doesn't make sense now.
This is the book titled chasing black unicorns.
For me, it's very symbolic because unicorn in in my sector in online business unicorn is this
basically a private company launch by private capital that was able to achieve a valuation of minimum $1 billion, which is like this unicorn that everyone talks about, but no one knows if it exists, everyone tries to find it like a Yeti. You know, a unicorn is cuter. I guess this is why we call it unicorn another yet.
And then chasing because everyone's really trying to build this unicorn change this unicorn, there's this, there's this goal of building such a big company. And also that goal itself is not the healthiest one. Sometimes it's much better for the world to build a smaller company, but maybe healthier, and so on and so on. And obviously, again, one in a million person that tries to achieve this, and does that, which is why I'm talking about chasing and I think I already mentioned this, everyone tries to be like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or jobs without realizing that maybe they've they've done what they've done instead of the characteristics not only because of and that's the correlation and causality differences, and then Black because obviously it has happened
In Africa, which, where does a lot of black people living? And this white dude chasing unicorns? So that's that's how I kind of added the African aspect to it. And we have chasing black unicorns, which I find the very cool title.
Yeah, well, it's really fun. And it I think it goes along with your personality just by, like profiling your personality with the true colors, methodology. And so what really so I know like all of your profits, like from this book goes back into Africa, right to at one of the charities in Africa. Yes, actually, I've This is a title, which I have opened with my with my girlfriend. And that's another story.
When I was living for all these years in Africa, my first Nigeria, then then then South Africa, you kinda learn, and you deal with those local charity organizations, those huge ones, and the small ones and the big ones. And then you realize how ineffective they are, in the best case scenario, and how how destructive they are to the continent. In a worst case scenario, I do believe that we've done to Africa way more harm than good by giving them so much aid, which was distributed in a very wrong way. But that's another story. Long story short, is that we decided that instead of giving money to some charities that we know, that are promoting themselves on TV, and forcing the negative stereotype about Africa by showing kids with big bellies.
Instead of showing the cities which are growing and middle class, which is getting stronger, and so on, and so on, we've decided we are there anyway, I have people I know and I know how to distribute my own money in a better way. So and I also wanted to help a group of people, which is, forgive me my curse here. But if you fuck if you're if you're screwed, by the way you are, what by the location of where you are born. Who are those people most screwed by life that even if they there's a second Einstein being born, she or he will never become a second Einstein. And I didn't get to look far. There's this state in Nigeria called the board. Now, there's the city called Maiduguri, where Boko Haram which is the West African arm of connected to ISIS is very active. You can Google it, they constantly kidnapping girls turning them into slaves, they're killing the villagers, horrible stuff. Even four weeks ago, in that city, they've they've killed four aid workers working for United Nations, and so on. And there's the school for orphans. So if you're an orphan, living in this region, with with a very radical Islam, and we're targeting orphan feed girls, a girl doesn't have the strongest position in the society in radical Islam, unfortunately. So like, and in this poor region without electricity with Boko Haram, like you're screwed. So you want to help those girls. So there's the school and long story short, because I'm talking too much all the profits.
Thanks, all the profits from the book sales, as well as, you know, any speaking engagement that I have regarding the book, as well, as I also, you know, put some some personnel salary part into this foundation kind of goes into the charity, which is called Maya foundation.
And if you go to the book site, placing black unicorns just click the foundation in the menu, and you will also see all the details about what's what's been done there.
It's so it Yeah, I mean, it's just, it's so amazing. How long did it take you to write the book? Or did you just have someone like, interview you? And then they wrote it? So you could, like, get it out quicker? Yeah, no, so I tried this, but it wasn't really faster for me, because I've tried it, I've done the huge interview, and then the person wrote it as a sample. And I was like, we're gonna spend more time by me improving you, then I prefer to write this on my own. Yeah. And, and writing the process is a is a great process to learn how to put your foot into paper.
It teaches your discipline, which is your clarity, you send better emails of work, extremely valuable skill to have. And also, I was writing about shifts that happened to me, you know, a couple months ago, very powerful stuff emotionally for me, and then a couple years ago, so if you write about something which is so close to you, and you're so emotionally attached, you have a flow naturally, so I was writing like crazy for a couple hours per day. So I wrote the whole book in three months. Okay, and then I gave it to the publisher. And that's where the most painful process started, because the publisher gives it to editor and then the editor, which is an expert about how to write a book that people want to read.
But he messes with your kid, you know, the book is your child Nah, yo. And when he gave me the book with his corrections, there was more red font than my own font.
And that was the most painful part, like adjusting the book and changing the content and the form. The way she suggested, there was actually a woman, a great editor, she, and that part took six months, that was the most painful part. And then, and then it's just details, you know, choose the cover, you know, choose the subtitle, and all that stuff. So all in all, it took us from writing the first letter to seen my book in the bookstore, which is called healing by the way. Yeah, it took 12 months, 12 months. But I think that's pretty good. I mean, a lot of people, so yeah, yeah, they go through there. Like it's about a year. Um, so I mean, I think that that's really good. And by the way, for y'all that are listening, you have to go to a website, which we'll put all this in the show notes, click on the foundation link, because these children, that you and your girlfriend, I mean, these precious precious little kids, like what are they like, three or four years old? Like in these pictures, there's so little, these all these guys.
I think the main photo was me and Rita, we actually took that in Bhutan.
We went at the orphanage there. So we have that orphanage once when we are in Bhutan. That's what the picture is probably looking at. But then you scroll down. That's the photos from the school imagery out of your house. Yeah, yeah, but kids here and there doesn't matter, they all call and
we actually trying to help especially those kids with, which shows some talent in mathematics. And you know, in science, in heart, heart sight, hearts topics. Because if you have someone that is good at maths, then once you push him into the right direction during his primary school, high school, he or she can become an accountant or a web developer, it's much easier to predict whether you're going to be successful in life, if you're going to so called naked, you're going to be financially
stable when you go when you point your career into that direction, because accountants engineers, and web developers will be needed for sure in the next in the next years to come. Which is not that obvious, the probability is lower when you go into, you know, philosophy or soft, soft kind of skills. But when I have someone in the foundation that is good at maths, I know that I will be able to help them have an internship over the university, because in the end, that is my sector. So I'm kind of, I'm targeting the health towards people, kids in that case where I know my probability of success. And by success, I mean them becoming financially independent
term in 10 years from now or even more, that's my success. So was my house sustainable, because you know, sending laptops is cool, but what then, you know, buying a meal for 1000 Kids once in a village is cool, but what afterwards so I prefer to help. I prefer is the right word. These are tough choices to make. But with the limited resources that you have, you want to focus on a group where that help will become sustainable. And those people will stop needing your help at some point. And they can even then help someone else. So you have the triple effect. Absolutely. So you're in Dominican Republic now. And so what's next, like do you know like, what's next? Oh, it's so hard to plan now right with with the whole situation happening in the world. I am, I am. I am extremely lucky to be to be where I am with life considering everything that happened to me. Because, you know, staying in a beach house in Dominican Republic and trying to wait until the COVID madness is over is one of the coolest places to be in. Like we discussed earlier. I was stuck in Barcelona when the first place
we were living in Barcelona and first three months we could only leave the house free time. Three times to the shopping was crazy. That's crazy. Yeah, that's an hour this we have a we have a garden.
Me personally, I'm still involved very much in in the online business in Sub Saharan African regional, we have a we have a big digital marketing agency where a lot of big African brands work with us.
But also my personally involved myself into in the solar energy business.
I've invested in a company called sunroof from Sweden, which is going to be the European Tesla killer. Because you know,
it's
just amazing and the besides the cars they also do roofs.
And this Swedish company is essentially their competitor in Europe. And like I told you earlier, I like Africa because I feel like I'm making money but also doing something good. And I also see that it doesn't matter how naive that is, for me, it's true that by investing in solar energy, investing in renewable energy sources, you're kind of trying to tackle that the current issues we're facing in the world, including climate climate change, to say the least. So that's my kind of like a second big bet. In my professional career, besides, besides, let's just say, our online businesses in Sub Saharan African region, which is a very strange niche, and I know that and my second bet, just to be a slightly more diversified is solar energy,
actually, which is now our main market is Western Europe, but then hopefully, you will also expand to Africa. But this is how I'm kind of keeping
my ex not not in the same basket, which is, I think, very important for us now, when we are dealing with all those uncertain times, yes. But no matter what is going on with the economy, the solar energy and like how that is growing, is I feel like it can't go backwards. Like it can just go forward to help things. And I used to do do some luxury weddings on some private islands. And so I got to know some of these owners, which I didn't know that existed, you know, until I started to go go do these weddings for clients. And
one of the islands that we were, I was a consultant on, they wanted it to be the two owners wanted it to be fully
powered by the sun. Yeah, yeah. And it was so cool. Like some of the technology and like the things that they were talking about, but there were a lot they were also getting grants and funded, because they were building this energy efficient. I like it's just to think back that I mean, that was a couple of years ago. It's just, it's crazy. Because like the average consumer, you know, the average American unless you're like, pulled into some of these projects, like you have no idea what like how big of an impact some of these things can make like not just in the US but like in the whole world. And so that that's like a whole different podcast about storing energy. I'm like a geek when it comes to all that but I'm like fascinated by it because I think that Yeah, like it can only get better like it can't go backwards. So this is totally random as we wrap up. Has anyone told you look like Bradley Cooper an American actor?
Yes, I get that a lot especially when I mean especially when I mean Africa because you know that's the funny thing that when you white there's this joke that all the Asian people for you look the same right?
When you're when you're in Africa for for like looking for Nigerians almost have the white goods look the same. So they usually tell me that either Sergio Ramos, which is like a football player in Real Madrid, or Brahma which, which I think it's a very flattering, but I don't thank you so much.
But I always blame it on that. Yeah.
Like I was, I was like looking at your headshot stuff that my team member sent me to, like, post some stuff on our stories, and I'm like, Damn, he's cutie. Like Bradley Cooper. And then your girlfriend looks like the girl that is on which I don't watch a lot of movies or TV. But she looks like this girl that isn't um, like a CIA agent on some show with Jessica all but like who's another actress. She's
like her CIA partner.
I'll tell her that she's.
I don't know the girl's name. But if you go on Jessica Alba's Tech Talk, they always do these funny dances together. They're best friends. It's really cute. But anyway, that's totally off topic. I'm good at like going down this route. But anyway, everybody this listening, go to the website chasing black unicorn calm again, we'll put it all in the show notes. Go get the books. And you can also get the book on Audible. And listen to the story and learn about these different cultures especially if you're going to be dealing with clients
that are in different types of cultures. That's the biggest thing for me in my past career doing weddings of all different ethnicities and understanding the cultures and traveling the world and you know, me working in Dubai and you know, people saying like they're saying to you, they're like you're a little white girl with blonde hair, like you will never do luxury weddings in Dubai because they don't. They don't assess all problems. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So it's just an it's like, well, no, actually, I did. I think
I can do it.
Fuck you like the pain just because you know, you're not their color that you can't work with them. And so it's just been a crazy journey to learn about it. And so yeah, I was super interested in your story, but I love to talk with you today, I could talk to you all day.
directionally so and I know you're very busy. But I thank you for your time and everyone that's listening. Again, we'll put it in the show notes, go get the book, check out the story. And if people want to contact you, is there a way for them to contact you on social media? Or they should just go to your website? Yeah, I'm on all those main social medias, but you just Google my name,
or LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, but my name is very hard to pronounce. So I want to spare you this. If you go to the book site, you'll have all the links to contact me. They're chasing black unicorns.com thanks so much for allowing me to share my story. It was really a blast and oh my god, for more than an hour already.
I know. So everybody that's listening. Thank you again, so much for your time. I hope you guys have a wonderful day and be sure to tune in next week for another episode of business unveiled. Bye.

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