Since launching nearly a decade ago, Tope Awotona’s Calendly has stood as one of the leading scheduling platforms.
Following years of bootstrapping and tireless dedication, Awotona led the company to become one of the few Black-owned unicorns across the globe — sitting at a valuation of $3 billion — as previously shared by AFROTECH.
While the story of how Calendly was initially funded by $200,000 from Awotona’s life savings has become well-known, during AFROTECH Conference 2023 on Nov. 2, the billionaire founder recounted how for a small fee he was able to make his brand official.
When going through the common trial and error of brainstorming a name for a new company, Awotona eventually was victorious with “Calendly.” And to his luck, he was easily able to lock it in within his tight budget at the time.
“In the early days, it was just me, and so I wanted to come up with a name for the company that would be descriptive, but I wanted it to be relatively short because I wanted to have a shortened link when people would share their scheduling links,” Awotona told Blavity Inc. Co-Founder and COO Jeff Nelson on the Executive Stage during AFROTECH Conference 2023. “And I wanted it to be sort of unique so people wouldn’t confuse it. And the domain also needed to be affordable. And guess what? Nobody else was trying to buy Calendly.com so it was available — $10. I had $10 so I was able to get it.”
Awotona was also transparent that in the beginning stages, he and his team weren’t heavily focused on the company’s brand. However, they were intentional about ensuring that the product brand was top-notch, especially since the product was the type to be instantly introduced to new users when it was being accessed to schedule meetings.
“This goes back to ‘if you get the big things right, it gives you a margin of error on the smaller things,'” Awotona explained at AFROTECH Conference 2023. “We figured that if we really focused on our product brand and we nailed that, that would create a strong bang for the company. And so we ended up coming up with a set of principles around how we build a product.”
Within the principles, he and his team were actively dedicated to solving universal issues related to scheduling meetings rather than deciding to “just paint over a crack.” Getting to the root of the problem they wanted to solve is what Awotona credits for propelling Calendly to its early success.
The opportunity to be in the rooms where stories like Awotona’s are being told is still possible. To purchase a ticket for AFROTECH Conference 2023, click here.