While the African startup ecosystem has achieved several milestones this year some founders have become billionaires themselves. This year the only African tech founder that became a billionaire was Calendly founder, Tope Awotona.
The 40-year-old Nigerian-born tech founder and CEO of Calendly became the latest African to join the elite list of businessmen worth more than $1 billion this year.
Tope Awotona is the founder of Calendly, a scheduling software company that develops a business communication platform used by teams to schedule, prepare for, and follow up on external meetings.
The Atlanta-based African founder has gone through some rough patches before amounting as a billionaire, first being born in a middle-class family in Lagos, Nigeria, Tope Awotona also witnessed the death of his father in a carjacking.
Moving to the United States with his family, Awotona tried to start a few other businesses that failed before finding success with his current venture, which makes him one of the most successful African-American tech entrepreneurs of his generation.
How African founder Tope Awotona built Calendly and became a billionaire
Tope Awotona invested his entire life savings of $200,000 into the business idea that became Calendly while also founding a dating website, a company that sold projectors, and a company that sold garden tools, all of which failed.
This is a success story of self-belief, resilience, and a desire to solve problems in a fast-changing corporate world.
After years of bootstrapping, Calendly received $350 million in funding from OpenView Venture Partners and Iconiq Capital in 2021, valuing the software company at $3 billion.
The business, which has no physical address, has reportedly been profitable since 2016 according to Awotona.
By utilising its 10 million users to generate value, its income topped $100 million in 2021. Calendly is free for individual users, however businesses normally pay $25 per user per month.
Awotona’s controlling ownership in Calendly is valued at at least $1.4 billion after Forbes deducts a 10% discount from the price of all private company shares.
Together with David Steward, the 70-year-old founder of Worldwide Technology, one of the largest African-American-owned companies, he is one of only two Black tech billionaires in the United States thanks to his $1.4 billion stake in the Atlanta-based tech company. He is the eighteenth Black billionaire.
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