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.”