Tope Awotona, the 40-year-old founder and CEO of Calendly, a $3 billion meeting scheduling platform, has been covered by Forbes.
Awotona founded Calendly in 2013, investing his life savings of $200,000 in it and eventually abandoning his job selling software for EMC.
Today, the company boasts 10 million users and customers such as Lyft, Ancestry.com, Indiana University, and La-Z-Boy.
Last year’s revenue surpassed $100 million, more than doubling that of the previous year. It’s possible that it’ll double again this year.
Since 2016, the company, which was formed in Atlanta but no longer has any physical offices, has been successful.
In 2021, it raised $350 million in capital from OpenView Venture Partners and Iconiq Capital, valuing the company at $3 billion. That means Awotona’s majority stake is worth at least $1.4 billion after a 10% discount applied by Forbes to all private company shares.
Awotona, along with David Steward, the 70-year-old founder of Missouri-based IT company World Wide Technology, is one of just two Black IT billionaires in the United States.
“Tope has the potential to be the most successful African-American software entrepreneur of his generation,” says David Cummings, founder of Atlanta Ventures, which led a $550,000 seed investment in Calendly seven years ago.
Calendly does not have a monopoly on scheduling. Square, Microsoft, and Zurich-based Doodle all provide competitive services. Calendly, also has gained popularity thanks to its slick, consumer-friendly design and its freemium strategy, which allows it to recruit paying users with no marketing.
“I’ve benefited in my life from not accepting conventional knowledge,” Awotona says. “It’s helped me personally, and I believe it’s helped the business.”
Awotona was born into a middle-class household in Lagos, Nigeria. His father was a microbiologist and entrepreneur, while his mother worked at the Central Bank of Lagos, a 15-million-person city. Awotona was 12 years old when he witnessed his father get shot and killed during a carjacking.
“From a very young age, there was a part of me that wanted to redeem him,” he once stated.
He relocated to Atlanta with his family when he was 15 years old, in 1996. At the University of Georgia, he majored in computer science before transferring to business and management information.