Nine years ago, Tope Awotona launched Calendly, a scheduling app from Atlanta Tech Village, and today, Forbes recognizes him as ‘One of America’s Wealthiest Immigrants .’Tope Awotona was born into a middle-class family in Lagos, Nigeria. His father was a microbiologist and an entrepreneur, while his mother worked in the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN). In 1996, Tope and his family moved to Atlanta, three years after he witnessed the traumatic death of his father from a gunshot wound at the young age of 12.
He gained admission into the University of Georgia, where he studied computer science and later switched to business and management information. After graduating from the University of Georgia, he became a sales rep at IBM. He also sold software like Perceptive Software, EMC, and Vertafore for several tech companies and founded a dating website, a company that sold gardening tools, as well as another which sold projectors. However, Tope realized that he was just focused on making money, and he wasn’t going to succeed until he focused on a problem that he was passionate about solving.
In 2013, Tope made a decision that ultimately changed his life. The scheduling app was built out of his own frustration as a salesman who understood how difficult and time-delaying setting up meetings could be. To achieve this aim, he took a huge risk or perhaps, a leap of faith by pouring his life savings of $200,000. He also had to quit his job selling software for EMC.
Today, Calendly is worth over $3 billion and has about 10 million users, including Lyft, Ancestry.com, Indiana University, and-Z-Boy. It has also caused quite a number of heated Twitter spat among Silicon Valley Elite. While some may feel the purpose of Calendly is unnecessary, Tope Awotona sees it as a key to making connections to everything that happens within an organization.
The company was established in Atlanta, but it no longer has physical offices. As of last year, its revenue exceeded $100 million, double what it booked the previous year. At $3 billion, a price which values the business, it raised funds of about $350 million from OpenView Venture Partners and Iconiq Capital.
Calendly offers a sleek, consumer-friendly design; It lets its users set schedules for all types of events and also gives them the ability to allocate available times, add buffer times, blackout dates, and so much more. Also, the user-friendly interface of Calendly can integrate standard tools like Outlook for organizational optimization. With its premium model, it requires no marketing to attract paying customers. Several other apps like Square, Microsoft, and Zurich-based Doodle offer competing scheduling products. However, Calendly has gained quite a number of users with its amazing features.
Tope Awotona speculates that about $20 billion will be earned from the global market Calendly is selling into. His majority stake is worth at least $1.4 billion after the 10% discount applied by Forbes to shares of all private companies. Along with David Steward, the founder of Missouri-based IT provider World Wide Technology, Tope Awotona is one of the two black tech billionaires in the United States of America and according to David Cummings, founder of Atlanta ventures which led a seed investment worth $550,000 in Calendly about seven years ago, “Tope could be the most successful African-American tech entrepreneur of his generation.”
Apart from scheduling meetings, Tope Awotona is creating more tools that help salespeople, recruiters and other white-collar workers manage meetings before and after they occur. This includes integrating with productivity tools such as Salesforce, which tracks results, routing meetings to the right person at a large company, and adding useful documents, such as agendas and budgets, that are needed to make the meeting run more effectively in the invitation itself.
Tope Awotona is making Africa proud with his success and we are proud to call him one of our own.