When Tope Awotona founded Atlanta-based online scheduling startup Calendly in 2013, he ran into a common problem for black founders: securing VC funds. The experience taught him to stretch every dollar so that he’d never have to rely on outside funding. He credits his family in Nigeria for showing him the way. –As told to Cameron Albert-Deitch

In Lagos, there’s huge wealth disparity. You see people who are incredibly wealthy–who ship their cars to Paris to get them serviced. You see people who maybe get one meal every two days. And for the most part, they live side by side.

It’s a city of amazing contrast. It’s crazy cramped. It once took me two hours to drive a mile. But people love that chaos.

My family lived in the suburbs. My maternal grandma built an import-export textile business that became very successful–she owned many homes and sent all her kids to college, despite not having a degree herself. My mom co-owned a small pharmacy with my aunt, in addition to holding down a day job at the central bank of Nigeria. My dad was a microbiologist who, one day, up and left his job at Unilever to forge his own path. He started many businesses–at one point, he was a distributor of industrial chemicals. My parents were my role models.

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