Norwegian Håvar Bauck behind Cloud9xp merger in Kenya

Norwegian entrepreneur Håvar Bauck — who earlier this year hit the news over his dealings with controversial Polish tech entrepreneur Marek Zmyslowski — is behind a merger deal between two small travel startups in Kenya.

The merger — which was announced yesterday (12 June) in a statement by online travel booking service Cloud9xp — will see Cloud9xp join forces with travel company HeartBeat Adventures.

Bauck (pictured above, left) has taken the role of chairman of the merged entity, while Heartbeat Adventures founder Winnie Kimathi (pictured above, right) has been appointed as the company’s new managing director.

The statement said the merger follows a recent round of undisclosed investment that Cloud9xp received and the launch of their new mobile applications earlier in the year.

Bauck hit the news in February when a controversial Polish tech entrepreneur tried to conclude a deal to merge his startup with Bauck’s

Bauck, who is also the chairman of HotelOnline, hit the news in Ventureburn in February when the controversial Zmyslowski in 2017 tried to conclude a deal to merge his startup with Bauck’s (see this story, this one and this one).

The Norwegian’s company, Savanna Sunrise did in the end merge with a Polish entity, Hotel Online sp. z.o.o, in the same year and formed a new entity, HotelOnline.

Deal was ‘less than $10-million’

Bauck told Ventureburn in an email yesterday that he has been advising CloudXP for a while.

“They have gained significant traction in the local market as an online marketplace for travel experiences (everything from ziplines and bungee jumping, to 3-week luxury safari tours).

“We have now concluded a merger between Cloud9XP and Heartbeat Adventures, a more traditional tour operator, to launch an aggressively fast-growing, tech-enabled tours and travel operator with potential to disrupt the East African travel market.

He said the idea is that the new Cloud9XP will become an “online one-stop-shop” for leisure travel experiences in East Africa, with an eventual pan-African strategy.

Bauck — who says he has lived and worked in Norway, Belgium, Kenya and Nigeria — declined to reveal the size of the deal, but when pressed on whether it was less than $10-million, confirmed that it indeed is.

Cloud9XP was founded in 2017 by Tesh Mbaabu and Collins Mesongo. Bauck is also a shareholder, however he would not reveal the size of his stake in the business. Heartbeat Adventures was founded by Winnie Kimathi in 2017.

“I met with both the Cloud9XP founders in 2018, as we were discussing a strategic partnership between Cloud9XP and HotelOnline. I also joined them as an advisor last year,” he added.

No new entity to be formed

Cloud9XP’s Mbaabu confirmed that the deal was indeed a merger, but stressed that no new entity will be formed in this case and that the share structure would change “slightly” but that operations under the Cloud9xp brand would continue as before.

Mbaabu confirmed the shareholders at present in Cloud9XP as himself, Kimathi, Mesongo Sibuti, as well as “a few angel investors with a minority stake” (he did not mention whether Bauck is one of these angels).

“I met Håvar last year in discussions about strategic partnership opportunities with HotelOnline. We are now collaborating and testing out some exciting stuff,” he said.

Mbaabu added that he will remain at the company as its chief experience officer, handing over majority of the day-to-day operations work to the new managing director, Kimathi.

Featured image (from left to right): Cloud9xp chairman Håvar Bauck and the company’s managing director Winnie Kimathi (Supplied)

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