Cameron Doody, who built the moving company Bellhops into one of Chattanooga's most successful startup businesses over the past nine years, told employees Thursday he is stepping down as company president next week "to focus on family and friends and to devote a bit more energy to giving back to Chattanooga."
Doody, the 33-year-old co-founder of Bellhops, will remain the company's largest shareholder and a member of the board. But after raising more than $56 million in equity capital and building Bellhops into a 240-employee company — with a platform of more than 3,000 Bellhops in 27 states — Doody said he wants to devote more time to his family and ultimately to work on helping other startups match his own success.
"There no great time for a move like this one," Doody said in an email to employees. "It comes down to the combination of extreme confidence and burnout."
Doody and Stephen Vlahos began Bellhops in the summer of 2011 at Auburn University in Alabama simply as a way to provide college students an easy way to move into and out of their dorms. The founders' initial goal was to schedule 30 to 40 moves during freshman orientation weekend, but they ultimately completed 325 and decided to turn their idea into a bigger business.
With backing by the Chattanooga-based venture capital firm the Lamp Post Group, Doody and Vlahos brought their startup firm to Chattanooga seven years ago and have since expanded its service to 65 cities and added its own trucks.
Vlahos gave up his management role more than two years ago when Bellhops hired Luke Marklin, a former regional general manager for Uber in Atlanta, to take the reins of Bellhops.
Doody said he has worked for more than two years with Marklin as CEO and is confident the management team at Bellhops is poised to continue its hyper growth and expand its on-demand moving service across the entire country and eventually the world. Although Doody said there were offers to sell their company, the founders attracted investors in their venture instead and hope to eventually build the business in an industry leader and perhaps take the company public in an intial public offering in the future.
"The next few years will be unlike anything we've experienced so far," Doody said, voicing confidence in the business model he says is helping revolutionize the $18 billion-a-year moving industry. "We will raise what might be our final rounds of private funding, our digital product will write the new narrative that moving can and should be fun, we will achieve fully national coverage faster than any moving company in history, and begin taking significant market share from incumbents as Bellhops becomes a household name."
Doody said after working long hours to build the company, he wants to spend more time with his wife, Hannon, and his two preschool daughters and to give back to the city he says has been so helpful in growing Bellhops.
"When you go through an experience like this, you forget that it's not just the people across the desk that are making a huge investment, it's also the partners and spouses, families and friends at home also making sacrifices," Doody said. "I would never have been able to make this journey without my wife Hannon there to listen and advise. The ride hasn't always been easy but nevertheless, she's been there with me to laugh, to cry, to plan, and to celebrate."
Doody said he has always tried to celebrate Bellhops success and make the company a fun and worthwhile place to work, which he says has been key to its success.
"I knew getting big wouldn't be cool unless we were also GREAT— with a backbone of unwavering values that made our hops and customers love us," he said.
Bellhops currently operates its headquarters in Warehouse Row in downtown Chattanooga and has another office in Atlanta. The company has made nearly 200,000 moves since its start and during its busy season this summer Bellhops had a 194% increase in the number of people working on the company app compared with a year ago.
Doody said he hopes to follow some of the example of the principals in the Lamp Post Group, who originally built Access America into a major freight broker company that later merged with Coyote and sold the United Parcel Service for $1.8 billion. The Access America founders from another Alabama college — Samford University graduates Ted Alling, Barry Large and Allan Davis — created the Dynamo Fund to help other logistics startups. Alling also helped create the Chattanooga Preparatory School in Highland Park and Alling, Large and Davis have all worked to build Chattanooga's entrepreneurial culture.
"I don't think we would have been near as successful as we became without coming to Chattanooga when we did and getting the support of Lamp Post and other people," Doody said. "I'm really excited to double down on the continued growth and prosperity of Chattanooga and to step up in any way that I can to help make this the best mid-sized city in the country."
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.