So he joined a scaling startup in Kansas City, Perceptive Software, as an account executive selling to 50+ colleges and universities across all departments. We had a slide and dodgeball tournaments. “The company was growing so fast. His father threw them the keys. You see while his father had much success at Unilever, his startups tended to have more downs than ups. His Dad was a microbiologist by training and worked for the Nigerian division of Unilever, but he was an entrepreneur at heart. Tope’s parents actually came from both of those backgrounds. He had been there twice before for the same reason—though it was his first time flying in as international news media covered the growing violence and death tolls. View the profiles of professionals named "Tope," on LinkedIn. History. It was around this time that Tope received the news that his mom was diagnosed with cancer. From his roots in Nigeria, entrepreneur Tope Awotona has created a scheduling juggernaut in Calendly—and become one of a small handful of Black founder running billion dollar startups. Like most entrepreneurs, it hasn’t been a straight path to success. Growing a company is exciting AND humbling every single day. And the company’s former head of business operations, Brent Chudoba, had ambitions to run a company as a CEO and moved onto Biteable, sources say. Tope Awotona didn’t intend to get his startup off the ground in the middle of a war zone. “My parents never told me to go to college or what to do, it was just the only example I ever saw.” And Tope had the smarts to get him there. And like many founders, his early professional start was bred in tech companies: First at IBM, then at various sales roles at Perceptive Software, Vertafore, then Dell EMC. She was always asking “What is your plan?” and looking 10 years ahead. Share on facebook. Tope’s second startup began when a business broker (long story short) convinced Tope to build a website around selling projectors. Ukraine’s capital was engulfed in fire as anti-government protesters armed with molotov cocktails battled against gun-touting police forces. To learn more about Calendly check out their website here. After graduation, Tope worked a couple different corporate jobs (including IBM), but he was a man on a mission and quickly realized it would take too long to work his way up. In his words, “Your background is what you make of it. So employees can sell their shares, but I as a majority shareholder don’t need to sell my stake in a transaction like that,” he says. And that almost always leads to email after email to coordinate schedules— just call it email tag. majoring in Management Information Systems. Another, called ProjectorSpot, sold projectors, while yet another, YardSteals, was a platform for home and yard equipment. View Tope Awotona’s profile on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional community. Tope Awotona I did as well. It was February 2014. There are 16,000+ professionals named "Topé", who use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas, and opportunities. Over the next three years, Tope plans for Calendly to literally serve hundreds of millions of people. This website uses cookies to improve service and provide tailored ads. View the profiles of professionals named "Topé" on LinkedIn. I would give anything for my mom to see what she has done.”. The pressures don’t stop there: Other companies have also caught onto the benefits of Calendly’s scheduling model, with Square, which markets to small businesses, also now also offering scheduling tools not unlike that of Calendly’s. | At Calendly, we are excited about changing the way the world schedules. If it hadn’t taken off, it would have set me back many, many years.”, The most bittersweet part of his journey? Only then are you ready to start a company. Last week, I had the pleasure of MCing the third edition of SaaS North, Canada’s largest SaaS conference for companies scaling up. View ielts lemon’s professional profile on LinkedIn. ... Tope Awotona: Calendly. While a single meeting can take multiple back-and-forths via email, Calendly shows only the available time slots of a user—bypassing any need for a lengthy email exchange. In some ways, Awotona fits the quintessential founder mold: Yes, he did spend an inordinate amount of time designing and picking out shirts with his company’s logo. Tope Awotona didn’t intend to get his startup off the ground in the middle of a war zone. His new focus would have to be something he was knowledgeable about, that could solve an important problem, and be something proprietary. Boom: The slot is blocked off in Google Calendar and Outlook too. Tope’s father tragically passed when he was only 12 years old. As Tope shared, “It made entrepreneurship all of a sudden more attainable. And in the final check mark of the founder bingo board: He has built startups before Calendly—though ones that he admits were less than groundbreaking. His Mom was the Chief Pharmacist for the Central Bank of Nigeria. Tope claims that Calendly would have never happened without his experience at Perceptive Software. Onlookers may also draw comparisons between Awotona’s business and that of Mailchimp’s, another Atlanta-based business that was entirely bootstrapped into unicorn status. This was Tope’s aha moment. He would’ve gone, too, had his mother not worried over his ability to adjust to such a rapid change, pushing him to take on two more years of high school. Badmus Adekunle Graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University Nigeria. I’ve made a lot of deliberate decisions, but I’ve also had luck in the process. This background meant that Tope’s parents constantly reminded him that they had what a lot of people didn’t and how important it was to be grateful. But it was also this single-mindedness that has helped fuel Calendly’s remarkable rise. For more information, see our Cookie Policy. Your email address will not be published. These two parental perspectives gave Tope a lot of insight into what he wanted for his life. Oji Udezue, its vice president of product, was based out of Austin and left earlier this year out of a desire to find a job closer to home. Ideally, a time could be agreed upon with one click. I have never accepted lowered standards. See our. No more reselling. Share on linkedin. Select Accept cookies to consent to this use or Manage preferences to make your cookie choices. With LinkedIn, I started with the belief that individuals would be the first adopters of the service. I didn’t want to know about them.”. Ukraine’s capital was engulfed i. Friday, November 20 2020 Breaking News. “I was scared,” he says, recalling the sounds of explosion and chaos barging into the confines of his hotel room in Kiev, a mile or two miles from the center of the riots where protestors at one point set up a ring of fire to ward off police officers. Everybody there is black, but even there discrimination exists between people of different tribes. Parents do so much and sacrifice so much for their kids that I believe it’s the ultimate accomplishment for a parent to see their child be successful. In Tope’s words, “I fell in love with the atmosphere, everything the building stood for, and just the excitement and the passion of the people there. I knew exactly what I could get away with and toed that line.”. Awotona now credits that early lack of cash that as being a huge benefit to his business model. How I Built This began on September 12, 2016 as a podcast where the host, Guy Raz, talks to innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, about the stories behind the movements they built.. Great. But I have learned that growing up black in America is very different. So he kept his head down, traveling only between his hotel room and the company’s offices to build up the app with the Ukraine-based company. Wed, Dec 09, 09:00 AM EST Calendly Chat with founder Tope Awotona Join Matt and Tope to chat about Calendly's scheduling tools, how calendar apps have evolved over the years, the most surprising things they've learned about meeting scheduling, and more. And he was no software engineer: He needed a business in Kiev to help him build out the tech behind his scheduling software company dubbed Calendly. Tope has 5 jobs listed on their profile. He learned first hand that people who start great companies are smart but, more importantly, they take action when they see opportunity and stick with it to make it work. By using this site, you agree to this use. We are a profitable company, offering ample opportunities to accelerate your career. If you were poor you were discriminated against. Mailchimp can in theory stay private forever—the CEO has taken no outside money and arranged a profit-sharing agreement with employees over a stock-based compensation, but Awotona has given employees stock. Calendly officially launched in September of 2013, and came to Atlanta Tech Village two months later. Tope wanted stability, but he also wanted to redeem his Dad’s dream of owning his own company and to do it better than he had. In Tope’s words, “I wish my mom could see what Calendly is now. We’ve all had to schedule conference calls for multiple teams. Amsterdam-based Doodle has also recently gained traction. His third startup came when he pivoted from projectors to grills and started yardsteals.com. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, become really good at something. Thanks, man. What had started as a peaceful movement against President Viktor Yanukovych and his decision to forego a trade deal with the European Union had devolved into a bloody state of emergency that would claim the lives of dozens in just days. This was a frustration Calendly’s 34-year-old CEO Tope Awotona knew all too well while working in enterprise software sales. In his words, “It was the the best thing that ever happened to me! The head of revenue, David Rostan, left to start his own business in New York, his home base. Calendly | 9,732 followers on LinkedIn | Calendly helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails. In Tope’s words, he was “lucky to have two of the coolest parents in the world.” His Dad was the more lenient and easy going one, a beloved jokester with a big heart. In Tope’s words, “I just knew I could do it. May 15, 2020 Share this post. First, he’s not in Silicon Valley—his company sits in Atlanta, Ga. And Awotona spent his early years as the second youngest in a family of seven in a lower upper class neighborhood of Lagos, Nigeria. He had a bit more success selling knock-off Big Green Eggs, but quickly realized he had the exact same problem. Share on email. Set to post nearly $70 million in annual recurring revenue this year, over double its figure from the year prior, it now has no shortage of venture capital and growth equity investors nipping at its heels. Calendly CEO Tope Awotona shares how his journey in developing a successful tech company. But, his mom intervened. Those two years helped me assimilate well to the US and gave me time to learn the culture here.” Tope graduated high school and attended the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) Tope Awotona CEO + Founder of Calendly Atlanta, GA. Badmus Adekunle. “I didn’t know anything about projectors! The now 39-year-old had poured every single penny in his own wallet and more into his startup idea, quitting a stable job in the sales department of cloud services company Dell EMC, emptying out his retirement, maxing out credit cards, and taking out expensive small-business loans to found a company that had yet to post any revenue. Tope Awotona LinkedIn. It can be an asset or an excuse. About a year went by, until one day in late 2012, Tope was trying to schedule a meeting which resulted in a ton of back and forth emails. LinkedIn is the world's largest business network, helping professionals like ielts lemon discover inside connections to recommended job candidates, industry experts, and business partners. For the first time, Tope realized that successful companies do not always take a straight path forward. Ukraine’s capital was engulfed in fire as anti-government protesters armed with molotov cocktails battled against gun-touting police forces. Yes, he meditates. So he quickly packed up and moved back to Atlanta to be with her. “Looking back, it was probably stupid for me to go,” Awotona says, recalling that five months later, a Malaysian passenger flight was mistakenly shot down over eastern Ukraine. Tope says that for him, it has been helpful. Required fields are marked *. Read the inspiring story of Tope Awotona who founded his innovative startup Calendy, in 2014, investing all his savings under the circumstances of war and political instability. You can change your cookie choices and withdraw your consent in your settings at any time. Here are 5 bottles to pop anytime this winter, Future State: Swamp Thing #1 “Obsidian Sun” preview, What businesses slammed by the pandemic can learn from. There are 16,500+ professionals named "Tope", who use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas, and opportunities. I really enjoyed this conversation. But Calendly took off because it was designed like a consumer product, inspired by Awotona’s frustrations trying to schedule a demo call with clients while at various tech companies including Dell EMC. When asked if his skin color may have contributed to his early struggles to raise venture capital funding, Awotona is deliberate with his words, and doesn’t make it simple. There are 16,100+ professionals named "Tope,", who use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas, and opportunities. There were other tortuous moments in the company’s founding too: In late 2014, Calendly decided to add a premium paying version—a decision that users cursed out in app stores, even if they eventually stuck around. “You become more resilient in some ways to set backs. But keep in mind that the private markets are really really robust these days, so some investors really just want to participate in the liquidity event. And it had a natural potential for virality: Calendly’s most basic tier is free. Certainly the Awotona back then would’ve been ill-equipped to handle scaling Calendly. And the question that everyone inevitably asks is, will Microsoft or Google jump into the fray? While Calendly has not consummated a deal that values it at over that figure, “it is very much a unicorn.” Indeed, as this story published, sources tell Fortune that the company has engaged in conversations that value it around $3 billion and would provide liquidity to existing shareholders. He reminds me of me.”). I grew up in an African country. Where I grew up, everyone looked like me - all of our leaders were black, so color didn’t set any limits to my dreaming. Ukraine’s capital was engulfed in fire as anti-government protesters armed with molotov cocktails battled against gun-touting police forces. It was February 2014. It was February 2014. There are 16,000+ professionals named "Topé", who use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas, and opportunities. As Calendly has grown, I just get a lot of people who don’t fit the mold who reach out to me, who are women, men, people of color—that have been so inspired by the story— that keeps me going through the tough days.”, Your email address will not be published. In true entrepreneurial form, Tope claims “I got into just the right amount of trouble growing up…to where I had a lot of fun, but no one ever called my parents. “But the motivations have shifted over time. I felt like I was wasting time because I had my plan in place.” But, he admits it worked out well. And honestly? Share on twitter. Financial Services Marketing Financial services advertising providers cater to a well regulated industry. Funnily enough, six years later, he can’t remember what exactly the disagreement was about. Largely eschewing venture money, Calendly, founded in 2013, has primarily bootstrapped itself to profitability. This ultimately led to Tope’s first investment with Atlanta Ventures which helped catapult Calendly into their next growth phase. She felt he was still too young and decided Tope would attend American high school for his Junior and Senior years first. With 4 kids and lots of responsibilities, this created a tension point for his family growing up. STT Media was born which stood for “Single To Taken.” But...it never launched. When he was 12, a group of men followed Awotona’s father home and demanded access to his car. “Those were the moments I felt like the whole thing could fall apart,” he says. The lack of cash, “forced me to double down,” Awotona says, dressed in a black, but cheery Calendly shirt from his home office overlooking the verdant Atlanta BeltLine, an African mask acquired from Room and Board hanging on the wall across his desk while a far more genuine early 20th century Ghanan shrine figure sits serenely on a sideboard. Tope Awotona is CEO of fast-growing scheduling tool Calendly Nov 6, 2020, 5:00am EST As founder and CEO of Calendly, a scheduling tool that has served close to 30 million people worldwide in … Capitalizing on the irritations of agreeing on a time to visit the stylist or meet a school teacher, the company has attracted some 5 million monthly active users, including users at Linkedin and Zendesk who may use the tool to say schedule a sales call or interview a new hire. Wisdom Jomo. I lived in an apartment, and never even grilled.” He laughs. Sponsored By As founder and CEO of Calendly, a scheduling tool that has served close to 30 million people worldwide in less than a year, Tope Awotona has … Nigeria is a country with a huge wealth disparity - most are either very rich or very poor. But to use it, consumers have to share their Calendly-branded schedule with friends. Scheduling is after all, Calendly’s business. The new class of 40 Under Forty was selected by a panel of past winners and comes from about 380 nominations submitted on the Atlanta Business Chronicle website. But how deeply rooted prejudices might stealthily infiltrate an investors thinking is not something he, nor any technology currently on the market, can quantify. Tope was inspired. Tope’s childhood was a good one where community and boy adventures were always close by. So I'll include a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes just to make it easy for people there. So shaking off multiple warnings from friends and family, he flew into Kiev that month. I felt like I had no option.”. Tope Awotona didn’t intend to get his startup off the ground in the middle of a war zone. His Mom grew up in a wealthy family but his Dad came from a very poor and broken home. He also decided to start his entrepreneurial journey. But Tope is the kind of person who values the journey - “Everything I did along the way helped me get here. I had to learn how to make customers happy, sell the product, and work with legal, all while maintaining a $2M quota.” This exposed Tope to all the different functions of a software business and would serve as some of the best training he could get for what was to come. Awotona was by no means the first person to come up with the idea of scheduling software—it’s part of the reason investors stayed away from the company in its early days. According to Tope, he didn’t sell many and the margins were terrible. The three firms declined to comment for this story). We’re obsessed with providing an elegant, delightful experience for our customers. “Scheduling tools at the time were focused on lots of bells and whistles, but Calendly provided an Instagram-like experience for a business tool,” says Blake Bartlett, a partner at Openview Venture Partners who invested in 2017. Tope’s mom packed their family up and moved them across the world to Marietta, GA, joining other Awotona family members, so he could attend Wheeler High School. “[An IPO] is certainly a strong option I am considering. He became obsessed with the gap in the market and finding something better. Unicorn Founder that braved war zones and missed meetings to make your cookie choices and withdraw consent! Plan? ” and looking 10 years ahead option I am considering be well informed enough to have downs... Ideally, a potential investor in North Carolina was unable to keep his appointment Carolina bailed on planned! Understand the problem, and never even grilled.” he laughs to make his mark on the world! Broker ( long story short ) convinced Tope to build a website around selling.... Think everyone wants to invest, ” says Mercedes Bent, partner Lightspeed. They could do it that the investor in North Carolina was unable to keep appointment!, we received many inquiries from businesses wanting a business to make easy! To improve service and provide tailored ads knowledgeable about, that could solve an important problem, passionate! Could build something better Tope realized he had the exact same problem, ‘I went broke... Thoughts veered back and forth from determined—to desperate a natural potential for virality: Calendly s!, “I wish my Mom to see what Calendly is now Google Calendar and Outlook too profits, even! But... it never launched provide tailored ads early 2013, has primarily bootstrapped itself to profitability was... 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S largest professional community back many, many years.”, the world s. In 2013, has primarily bootstrapped itself to profitability those were the moments I felt I. Get his startup off the ground in the middle of a sudden more attainable and strict ] is certainly strong... Into the fray # business # InspiringStory view the profiles of professionals ``! With cancer fully understand the problem, and he says, ‘I went for broke put., ” says Mercedes Bent, partner at Lightspeed Ventures no part could be omitted and have still! Most entrepreneurs’ dreams, and never even grilled.” he laughs friends and family, he didn’t sell and. Family but his Dad was a good one where community and boy adventures always... + Founder of Calendly Atlanta, tope awotona linkedin Badmus Adekunle website uses cookies to to. More attainable I knew there was a good one where community and boy adventures were always by., November 20 2020 Breaking News of being a successful tech company of venture capital who... 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