Country of origin: Nigeria
Year came to U.S.: 2005
Education: University of Georgia
Headquarters: Atlanta, GA
2021 revenue: $100+ million
U.S. employment: 500+
Awotona is one of two Black tech billionaires in the United States.
Awotona and Calendly have donated more than $100,000 to organizations including Black Girls Code and My Brother’s Keeper.
Tope Awotona overcame challenging beginnings to create one of the hottest U.S. startups outside of Silicon Valley. As a child in Nigeria, Awotona witnessed the tragic death of his father in a carjacking. Awotona describes this as a major motivation in his life, saying, “I felt like he didn’t get a chance to complete his work. There was a part of me, from a very early age, that wanted to redeem him.”
Awotona has clearly succeeded in this. After coming to the U.S. with his family, he tried to start several businesses that didn’t take off. He achieved success when he developed a product to address a problem that personally affected him, the time and effort wasted in scheduling meetings. Calendly, a software tool that enables people to quickly and easily pick a time for meetings, rapidly gained popularity. It has particularly taken off in Silicon Valley, where it has managed to compete with products from companies like Microsoft and Google.
Less than two percent of venture capital funding goes to Black founders, so it’s not surprising that Awotona launched Calendly using his own life savings. The company’s success has attracted plenty of investor interest, and it has reportedly been valued at more than $1 billion. According to Forbes, that makes Awotona one of only three Black founders of a “unicorn” (startups valued at $1 billion or more) in the U.S. After Calendly doubled its revenue in 2021 to exceed $100 million, Awotona appeared on the cover of Forbes’ 2022 “Billionaires Issue.”
He has used his newfound wealth and influence to give back. Awotona and Calendly have donated more than $100,000 to organizations including Black Girls Code and My Brother’s Keeper. The company also helped evacuate their Ukraine-based employees during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
To learn more about extraordinary foreign-born Black Americans, explore our blog post Black History Month: 10 Famous Black Immigrants.
Updated July 2022