GoFor founder Rollo steps down as CEO of delivery firm to focus on cancer battle

52-year-old will become chief strategy officer as California-based Ian Gardner takes top job in company's C-suite

Brad Rollo
Brad Rollo

The founder of a rapidly growing Ottawa firm that’s become a leader in the last-mile delivery space has stepped aside as chief executive after battling cancer for the past year.

GoFor, which topped OBJ’s 2021 list of the city’s fastest-growing companies, announced this week that Brad Rollo is no longer heading the firm and has moved into the role of chief strategy officer. 

He was replaced on June 10 by Ian Gardner, a California-based tech executive who’s been working with GoFor for the past 18 months to electrify the firm’s fleet of delivery vans. Rollo will remain executive chairman of GoFor’s board of directors.

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The 52-year-old Rollo was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer last July and has been undergoing treatment since then. He said he felt he needed to take on a job with less responsibility as he continues his fight against the disease.

“I’m still pretty confident that I’ll get rid of (the cancer),” Rollo told OBJ on Thursday night from B.C.’s Hornby Island, where he is vacationing with his family.

With GoFor accelerating its growth into new markets, the former CEO said “it was just time for me to step aside and let somebody who’s got that experience do it and let me focus on my health.”

$30M in venture capital

It’s a dramatic turn of events for a company that’s been on a steady ascent since it was launched in 2016.

GoFor ​– which provides just-in-time delivery services for the likes of home reno giant Home Depot and paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams and also makes software that helps customers fill last-minute orders ​– has grown its revenues by more than 5,300 per cent over the past three years.

Now operating in 86 cities in Canada and the U.S., the company has tripled its headcount in the past 12 months to more than 125 full-time employees. It’s also raised nearly $30 million in venture capital, and Rollo told OBJ earlier this year he believes GoFor has the potential to be a “many-billion-dollar company.”

In Gardner, the firm has tapped a leader with years of experience in fleet management. 

The graduate of North Carolina’s Davidson College spent three years as president of Chanje, a southern California startup that makes electric delivery vans. After leaving Chanje in 2019, Gardner launched Royale EV, a supplier of electric fleet vehicles that is partnering with GoFor in a bid to convert half of the Ottawa firm’s vans to electric power by 2025.

Ian Gardner headshot

Calling last-mile delivery shipping’s “final frontier,” he said GoFor has positioned itself as a dominant player in what could soon be a trillion-dollar industry thanks to its lean operating model, which relies on freelance drivers the same way Uber employs independent contractors in the ride-hailing space.

“They aren’t too big to be unwieldy but far enough along that they’ve figured enough stuff out to make it ready for scaling,” Gardner said. 

“What the company really needs at this point is a management team that understands how to grow and scale businesses internationally and a big slug of capital to fuel that growth.”

Gardner said the firm has a “plan to access the capital markets in the coming months,” adding it needs to act quickly to fully capitalize on its first-mover advantage.

“He who has the biggest wallet is he who makes the rules,” he told OBJ this week. “Uber had the biggest warchest and they won. Lyft had the second-biggest and they’re No. 2.”

“He who has the biggest wallet is he who makes the rules.”

Saying he expects GoFor to land a “significant capital round to fuel global growth before the end of the year,” Gardner also hinted at a potential IPO in the company’s future.

“We think the public markets are very favourable for a company like GoFor right now,” he said when asked whether management is looking at that route.

While the majority of GoFor’s current customers are in the construction and retail verticals, Gardner said he hopes to penetrate further into the grocery delivery space in the coming year. Expanding the company’s geographical footprint is also high on his list of priorities, he added.

“I think you can expect to see us in Europe and Latin America by the end of next year,” Gardner said.

Besides providing a fleet-as-a-service platform, Gardner’s former firm also develops robot delivery systems. He sees plenty of opportunities for GoFor in that field as well, including technology that could use GPS tracking to “tag” packages bound for a particular address and direct robots to hand them to delivery staff, saving drivers from having to manually sort through items themselves.

Hiring spree

“There’s a lot of ways that we can help lower the delivery costs for our customers and make our drivers more efficient,” Gardner explained. 

He’s forecasting plenty of hiring ahead as he tackles his ambitious agenda, predicting GoFor will crack the 200-employee mark by the end of this year before doubling in size again in 2022. It’s just a question of funding and keeping a close watch on the fundamentals to ensure the company doesn’t get veer off course, Gardner said.

“The challenge right now is to secure a large enough chunk of capital to allow us to be the first in each market that we play in and scale rapidly over the next 24 to 36 months,” he said. 

“I’m not worried about the tech. I’m not worried about the business model. The main thing I’m worried about is just making sure we have the right systems and processes so that as we go through that rapid growth, we keep the train on the tracks.”

Rollo, meanwhile, said he’ll concentrate on exploring potential M&A opportunities and developing the company’s “cross-docking” network of mini-warehouses that will serve as neighbourhood distribution hubs. It’s a challenge he’s looking forward to.

“I’m not the kind of guy who can sit around at a beach all day,” he said. “I like to do things. Staying involved with GoFor as much as I can, healthwise, is exactly what I need.”

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