Meet the unicorn founder that braved war zones and missed meetings to make his mark on the startup world

Nov 20, 2020 - Fortune

Tope Awotona didn’t intend to get his startup off the ground in the middle of a war zone.

It was February 2014. Ukraine’s capital was engulfed in fire as anti-government protesters armed with molotov cocktails battled against gun-touting police forces. 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.

Most were packing their bags and flying out of the city. But Awotona’s thoughts veered back and forth from determined—to desperate. He had done something perilous and uncommon even in the world of venture capital. 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. 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 Ca...