Tech billionaire Tope Awotona, founder of the scheduling software company Calendly, is preparing to settle into Buckhead with a new West Paces Ferry Road home under construction. The home is so large that two lots were purchased to accommodate it.
Awotona made Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires at age 40 this year, with Calendly’s estimated value at $3 billion less than a decade after he launched it with the help of Buckhead’s Atlanta Tech Village. When Calendly had reached a viable product, Buckhead investor David Cummings stepped in with a $550,000 seed round that later took off.
He was born in Lagos, Nigeria to an entrepreneurial family, according to an Inc.com profile: his grandmother had a textile business, his mother and aunt co-owned a pharmacy, and his father left a corporate job to start several businesses. When he was 12, his father was shot to death in a carjacking, in front of him. “There was a part of me, from a very early age, that wanted to redeem him,” he once said told Forbes. The family left Nigeria for Marietta Georgia in 1996, when was 15.
Awotona was precocious, graduating high school two years earlier and accepted into college at age 15, though his mother would not allow him to attend at that time. He went on to graduate from the University of Georgia and went into software sales.
But the startup urge had a hold on him, and he launched a string of unsuccessful businesses: a dating site and ecommerce sites for projectors and yard equipment.
In 2012, while attempting to schedule a meeting, Awotona realized there was not a good product for doing so smoothly and quickly. That gave him the brainstorm for Calendly, which he launched in September 2013 and soon brought to Atlanta Tech Village, a startup incubator on Piedmont Road in Buckhead, which helped him to secure funding.
Today, the business remains based in Atlanta, though it has no physical office, with everyone working remotely as of last year. Forbes estimates it has 10 million users in a rapidly growing base. Awotona remains the majority owner and works as CEO.
The spectacular success of Calendly has made Awotona wealthy – but one of only two Black tech billionaires in the U.S., by Forbes’ count.
“Your background is what you make of it. It can be an asset or an excuse,” he told Tech Village in a 2018 interview. “I have never accepted lowered standards. Where I grew up, everyone looked like me – all of our leaders were Black, so color didn’t set any limits to my dreaming. But I have learned that growing up Black in America is very different. There are not nearly enough examples of people who look like us in positions of power or who have a lot of success in the tech field. Unfortunately, that limits people and can hinder the idea that they can do whatever they want.” Now, Tope Awotona is a role model to others that shows what is possible, regardless of race.
According to Calendly and various media profiles, Awotona also maintains a residence in New York City and enjoys standup comedy, CrossFit exercise and meditation.