An unminted Black unicorn

Unlike the founders in Silicon Valley who sought to elevate the world’s consciousness or sell happiness, Tope Awotona’s start in startup land was refreshingly capitalist. Sure, part of building a company was about bettering himself, but much of it was also about making money. “Initially it was for financial reasons—I […]

Unlike the founders in Silicon Valley who sought to elevate the world’s consciousness or sell happiness, Tope Awotona’s start in startup land was refreshingly capitalist.

Sure, part of building a company was about bettering himself, but much of it was also about making money. “Initially it was for financial reasons—I literally needed to pay my bills,” the founder and CEO of scheduling company Calendly told me.

That mindset, combined with a cocktail of desperation and determination (and maybe a dash of stupidity, by his own reckoning, as he flew into the Ukraine during a revolution to build the company), has turned Calendly into something investors like Accel, Iconiq, and Sequoia are now courting, sources told me. The three firms declined to comment.

Awotona’s unusual story is at the center of my new profile for Fortune. Calendly struggled in its early days to raise funding. But when its prominence grew and the company became profitable, Awotona was the one to say no to taking on new investors. The company has raised only $550,000 from investors such as Atlanta Ventures since its founding in 2013. But today, some of Calendly’s would-be suitors have casually valued the company “well north” of $1 billion, said Awotona. 

Indeed, as this story published, sources told me that the company has engaged in conversations that value it around $3 billion and would seek to provide liquidity to existing shareholders. Productivity software companies like Calendly have shot up in value amid the pandemic.

To be clear, the company isn’t a typical unicorn: The company has yet to consummate a deal that would value it at over $1 billion, and whether a conversation turns into a full deal is yet to be seen. Also what makes this company exceedingly rare: Awotona is one of the few Black founders with VC dollars who could breach the unicorn club.

Read the full story here.

MARCH OF THE UNICORNS: No doubt investors will be on overdrive in coming weeks. Following the IPO filings of Airbnb, DoorDash, and Affirm, gaming company Roblox has also submitted its S-1. Gaming has surged amid the pandemic, with revenue surging 68% to $588.7 milli,on in the nine months ending September compared to the same period a year earlier. But during the same period, the company said net losses grew 338% to $203.3 million. Popular among children under 13, the company hopes to also bolster its usage for those between 17 to 24. Roblox is backed by Altos Ventures, Meritech Capital, Index Ventures, and others. Read more.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda
Email: lucinda.shen@fortune.com

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