This Chattanooga startup is overhauling an outdated industry
Since its humble beginning on Auburn University’s campus in 2011, the Chattanooga-based startup Bellhops has moved nearly 200,000 households and expanded to 65 cities across the country. It’s the fastest-growing company in the moving industry, and there’s no sign of slowing down.
“We’ve started taking on this huge, antiquated space that everyone knows kinda sucks: the moving space,” explained founder and chairman Cam Doody. “We’ve brought an entirely new logistics and workforce management model … an asset-light, super-efficient, tech-enabled model that is allowing us to win in quality and price.”
In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, Doody breaks down how 21st-century innovations helped Bellhops take on an industry stuck in the past. He believes that persistence and an underdog’s drive set his company apart — and make Southeastern startups a force to be reckoned with.
Slow and steady wins the race
Though Bellhops has enjoyed meteoric growth — “still more than doubling every year,” said Doody — its rise to success has been fueled by patience and persistence.
“When I look back on Bellhops,” Doody said, “this has not been a business where we’ve had two or three windfall breakthroughs. It’s just been about laying bricks every day and building a company that people love. And that’s happened through 10 million little mini-wins.”
Slow and steady wins the race, according to Doody, so entrepreneurs may not want to stake too much on a single successful round of fundraising. “Your natural milestones are gonna be your fund-raises, although those really aren’t necessarily wins,” he explained. “More than anything, that’s like relief that you’ve just bought yourself more runway.”
“Really, the wins happen in between your rounds of funding where you’re actually putting the capital to work.”
An underdog spirit
As a speaker at the 2019 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival, Doody was adamant that “you don’t have to leave the South to raise big.” His own startup moved to Tennessee because Chattanooga venture capital firm Lamp Post Group, now known as Dynamo, saw Bellhops’ potential and became its first investor.
“In the beginning of the company, investors in Silicon Valley were just laughing at us and saying ‘Chattanooga? I’ve never even heard of that place. How are you gonna build a company there?’” he said. “It might’ve created a chip on our shoulder, but we’re glad that we did it the way we did it.”
Doody believes that chip can actually be a secret weapon for Southeastern entrepreneurs.
“Because we’re kind of the underdog, we just want it more,” he said. “I think that is the №1 factor determining someone’s success.”
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