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Alumni Portrait: Abiodun Johnson '07

Feb 27, 2023   |   by Betsy Vereckey

A frequent traveler and entrepreneur, the CEO of GeoCloud wants to help people connect and feel at home wherever they are, and also help give other Black entrepreneurs a fair shot.

Co-founder and CEO of GeoCloud, Abiodun Johnson '07

Abiodun Johnson '07 always dreamed of running his own business. As a child, he got his feet wet with small side gigs—selling candy in school, mowing lawns, selling burned CDs. He also spent time with his stepfather tinkering on projects, such as building miniature derby cars.

"My stepdad would mostly do the woodcutting and the trimming, but I helped him along the way, putting the wheels on, painting the car and putting it together and then ultimately racing it," Johnson said. While he didn't know it at the time, these experiences "lit the fire" for a career combining his two loves: entrepreneurship and engineering.

"I love problem-solving, and there's a lot of parallels between engineering and entrepreneurship in terms of looking at problems holistically and creating solutions," he said. "I always loved leveraging my hands and building things. Engineering was an appealing career path in terms of my interests and having a desire to think outside the box."

Today, as both co-founder and CEO of GeoCloud, Johnson helped build the community tech and local search platform that helps consumers, businesses, and government organizations to reach and engage with the people near their location. Their aim is to nurture local relationships and build stronger communities. "When you think about Google and other search platforms, they're great when you want to do a global search, but when it comes to finding things around you, it's a bit convoluted, right? You may have to jump from Google maps or Yelp to another app to find something as simple as a great spot to go to."

That problem is what GeoCloud hopes to solve with its geo-social map uGeo, which aggregates and optimizes location data to help users find everything around them with one tool—events, people, and places. Users can also stream content, tag and share their locations, drop and share pins, and search for friends.

"Let's say you're from the Philippines, and you just moved to Dartmouth for undergrad—we can help you find the people and things that make you feel at home."

Abiodun Johnson Th'07

The idea for GeoCloud was prompted by Johnson's own experiences as a child on the move, trying to integrate into new communities. Johnson was born in Memphis but soon moved to Lagos, Nigeria, where he lived for six years. He then moved back to Memphis to attend elementary school, then to Baton Rouge for middle school, and finally back to Memphis for high school. "Those different locations shaped the person that I would grow up to be," said Johnson, who also lived in New York City for a decade and now resides in Puerto Rico.

Paying it Forward

Johnson is also co-founder of Black Men Talk Tech, an organization started in 2019 to support emerging and established black tech entrepreneurs. (His wife runs the "sister" organization, Black Women Talk Tech.) "We want to see more successful black entrepreneurs in the world—once you see yourself in the field, you become more confident about achieving your goals," Johnson said. "I'm African Nigerian, and we have a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, I think communities can provide support and cultivate connections to the right people that can open doors."

Black Men Talk Tech provides education and training to newbies as well as access to capital via an annual pitch competition that has awarded $150,000 since its inception. "It's a drop in the bucket, but we're continuously looking to raise more money through sponsorship."

Johnson noted some grim statistics in venture capital—namely that black founders often receive less than 1% of total available funding. "You pick who the winners are when you pick who gets to access the resources," he said. "There seems to be a bias when it comes to black founders. But across the board, when you have minority founders—whether it's women-run companies or black-run companies—they typically outperform the standard VC-backed company."

Beyond funding, Black Men Talk Tech wants to help startup founders create a strong pipeline of business. That's the idea behind an annual conference in Miami, where founders can get their foot in the door and network, not only with other black founders, but also with allies, technologists, and potential partners. 

"We feel ambitious about not just supporting startups but also creating generational wealth for black people," Johnson said. "In order to create an equitable society, everybody has to have access to participate in wealth creation."

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