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Tope Awotona    

Founder & CEO of Calendly; Advocate for Black Business Leaders

Babatope (Tope) Awotona is the Founder of Calendly, a beautiful, simple scheduling tool that in less than 5 years served close to 30 million people worldwide and grew 100% year over year. His success to date has exceeded most entrepreneurs’ dreams.

Tope’s Founder story begins in Lagos, Nigeria. Tope’s father tragically passed when he was only 12 years old (shot in front of Tope) which solidified Tope’s desire to fulfill his Dad’s dreams of being a successful entrepreneur. After graduation, Tope worked a couple of 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. So he joined a scaling startup in Kansas City, Perceptive Software, as an account executive selling to 50+ colleges and universities across all departments. Tope claims that Calendly would have never happened without his experience at Perceptive Software. He always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, but was waiting for the perfect path to get there. Tope realized that successful companies do not always take a straight path forward. The Perceptive startup story had many twists and turns, but they learned from their mistakes, kept persisting, and it still led to great success.

In early 2013, Tope started building Calendly. He says, ‘I went for broke and put every single dollar I had ever made into it. I didn’t quantify how big it could be, but I knew it was such a great opportunity that I literally put everything on the line. If it hadn’t taken off, it would have set me back many, many years.”

As for being Nigerian American? Tope says that for him, it has been helpful. In his words, “Your background is what you make of it. It can be an asset or an excuse. 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.”

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