Bellhops names Uber general manager CEO

Bellhops names Uber general manager CEO

July 13th, 2017 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Bellhops is a Chattanooga-based startup that uses a tech-enabled platform and a workforce of college students to sell manpower for small- to medium-sized moves. Nov. 2014

Photo by Contributed by Bellhops

Luke Marlin

Luke Marlin

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Seven years after Stephen Vlahos and Cameron Doody devised their business plan for Bellhops while brainstorming ideas in a hunting camp in Childersburg, Ala, , the founders of the on-demand moving company are hiring a new CEO to take their startup venture to the next phase of its growth.

Luke Marklin, a St. Louis native who earned an MBA from Harvard in 2012 and spent the past three years as a regional general manager for Uber in Atlanta, will take the reins of Bellhops next week.

Vlahos, the 31-year-old CEO of the Chattanooga-based Bellhops, said he plans to work with Marklin during the leadership transition and will remain as a board member and major shareholder of the company after Marklin becomes CEO next Tuesday.

"We realized that to continue to invest in this amazing company that has such potential we needed to jumpstart that growth by bringing in people who have been there and done that and could really capitalize on how fast this could grow," Vlahos said. "Luckily, we were super fortunate to find an awesome candidate a few months into our search and we decided to pounce."

The company began operating in 2011 out of Vlahos' father's house in Birmingham, Ala., as a way to help students move into dorms at Auburn University. The business soon expanded to other campuses, relocated to Chattanooga with the aid of the Lamp Post Group in 2012 and has since expanded to 25 markets across the country, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest.

In June, the company doubled its revenues from a year ago in its top 13 cities and earlier this year Bellhops executed its 100,000th move.

The company employs 80 to 120 workers (depending on the season) in Chattanooga and has thousands of contract workers across the country who are deployed via smartphones to help with local moves.

"The moving industry is really complicated and messy and is ripe for change, and I think Bellhops has a tremendous team and technology to drive a change in this industry," Marklin said of the $18 billion-a-year moving industry that currently has more than 10,000 local operators. "This company has a huge potential and I'm just excited to be joining and writing the next chapter of their story."

Marklin has been one of those managing the rapid growth of Uber, the on-demand transport service started in 2009 that quickly grew to more than $6.5 billion in revenues last year.

"A lot of the same logistical and operational challenges that Uber is tackling within the transportation space are very similar to what Bellhops is tackling within the moving space," he said. "What Bellhops has done over the past five or so years is very similar to what Uber has done in questioning the traditional business model for this industry and created a much more positive customer experience."

Marklin said he was sold on moving to Chattanooga initially because of Bellhops, but "my wife, son and I have quickly also fallen in love with Chattanooga and we think it's going to be a phenomenal town to raise a family and to take advantage of some fun outdoor activities."

With its army of on-demand laborers recruited from college athletes across the country and delivery trucks available in selected markets, Doody said Bellhops is using mobile technologies to book, pay and schedule shipments easier and more efficiently than traditional moving companies.

Bellhops has already recruited more than $28 million of equity investments to build the startup venture and expand it into more than two dozen cities.

Doody, who will remain as company president and chairman, said he hopes that Marklin and other key executives recruited to Bellhops in the past couple of years will position the business for the next phase of growth.

"This has been a rocket ship company that has seen a lot of success and for the past 15 months we've been very focused on the recruitment process to build out our executive C-suite," Doody said. "We think Luke can help to move us out of the startup phase and really move into a more growth phase. The people than get you from point A to point B aren't necessarily the ones who will best lead you from point B to C and beyond."

The executives recruited to Bellhops since 2015, who Doody called "a dream team," include:

  •  Scott Downes, the chief technology officer, has built and led technology teams at mGage, Velti and Air2Web.
  •  Katie West, chief operating officer, was previously employed by Lightbank as the first Entrepreneur in Residence, and went on to help launch and run Groupon Home and Garden and Groupon Getaways.
  •  Dan Piscatelli, chief financial officer:, is a former CFO for ForeverCar, LLC and SwervePay LLC and acted as the vice president of corporate development and director of mergers and acquisitions for Morningstar Inc., working on more than $800 million worth of deals.

"If we do our jobs right, we think Bellhops will be a big public company which we are committed to growing here in Chattanooga," Doody said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

About the company

Name: Bellhops

Headquarters: Started in 2011 in Auburn, Ala. and moved to Chattanooga in 2012

Markets: 25 cities

Staff: 70 full-time employees at Chattanooga headquarters, 30-40 part-time or seasonal workrs and thousands of on-demand Bellhops across the country.

Founders: Stephen Vlahos and Cameron Doody

CEO: Luke Marklin

Equity capital: $28 million in venture funds and debt

Web site: www.getbellhops.com

Source: Bellhops