By Courtney Trenwith
Eight years after launching first website, duo to return home to the US
The founders of popular classifieds website Dubizzle have announced they are leaving the UAE to return home to the US.
Sim Whatley and JC Butler, who launched the site in Dubai eight years ago, are relinquishing day-to-day running of the company, which has grown to include websites in 10 cities across the Middle East.
The decision was based on family, with both men expecting babies in December, they told Arabian Business.
“It’s definitely bitter sweet,” Whatley, who is returning to his home state of Louisiana, said.
“It’s been an internal struggle to manage the fact that we love what we do ... but it’s away from friends and family.
“It’s a 16-hour flight [to the US] but also the time zone is different. I have sisters that have children; I’ve been here nine years and they’ve really grown up while I was on the other side of the world.
“It’s been a really difficult decision to make because we really love what we do and we’ve been blessed to work with such talented people. But it’s a decision we knew we had to make and now is the right time to make it.”
Dubizzle began in 2005 from a shared bedsit in Dubai.
It now employs 150 people and recently opened an office in Egypt to support the growing market there.
Butler said 2013 had been the company’s strongest year yet, with 15m visits per month across all websites.
A succession plan had been in place for some time, he said.
“Dubizzle has gone through this transformation where we’ve given up a lot of control already,” Butler, who is moving to Texas, said.
“There’s a whole new generation of leaders, some new to the company, some have been with us since the beginning that have really come into their own. This is the first time we’ll let them do what they do or learn to be better leaders by not interfering so much.”
Arto Joensuu, present acting CEO, has been appointed CEO, a position Whatley and Butler had shared.
The company also is scouting for a general manager for UAE operations, presently performed by Whatley, and general manager of MENA, a role responsible for the company’s expansion outside the UAE.
Whatley and Butler will remain in the UAE until those roles are filled.
They will continue to play an advisory role from the US.
Both men said they did not have plans in the US but they were open to new venture ideas.
“[We’ll] try and understand the markets that we’re moving back home to,” Whatley said.
“I think both of us probably have aspirations to do something again in the future but we don’t necessarily know what that will be.”
Dubizzle is easily one of the best things to have come out of the UAE. Best wishes to Whatley and Butler in whatever they do next... from a very happy user of the site.
Well done guys. You nailed what it means to come to Dubai as an expat. Come here, fill a need/gap and make your money developing a great startup.
I've met JC. Super nice guy. Great entreprenur (from Boston, I believe). Hopefully, I can get back home to North America in another 5 years also with a nice little nest egg.
Best of luck and congrats on the new family.
Happy for you and sad that you will leave us. Thank you for Dubizzle and we want you to always come and visit us. Best of luck to you guys.
Dubizzle is usually my first point of reference when I want to buy especially automobiles and can say that it is indeed a very good solution - designed and implemented - I wish you guys more success in the future
I should tell the name Dubizzle.com, itself is unique one. It will be a unique in the future also in terms of service and all other activities.
Thanks peoples.. Dubizzle has been an awesome site. Hope it continues for a long time.
Dubizzle founders - a standing ovation to you guys for the gem of the website you guys have created. I wish the new guys continue on your legacy and keep making things better and easier at Dubizzle.
Dubai (and UAE largely) benefits so much from Dubizzle that its awe-inspiring.
Wow - I just read these comments - thanks guys. The fact that dubizzle has been of help to you all is what has made us feel so successful. We really appreciate all of the kind words. Have no doubt that Arto and the incredible dubizzle team will continue to do everything they can to WOW you all, and make the UAE (and MENA as a whole) a better community.
I listened to your interview in the radio and I enjoyed listening to your thoughts. Wish you all the best for your future ventures and new family. I truly believe there is a need to have more people like you to think of "Communities" as whole and I am sure the success of Dubizzle is sourced from your vision of "Making the world a better place to live". With such a vision, you will have more successful start-ups coming long the way.
A really great site Sim and JC that the region really needed, and as others have stated above, you made both expats and locals happy by filling a niche.
All the best with your future endeavours!