Family and friends of Brad Rollo described the founder of GoFor, an Ottawa-based renewable delivery startup, as clever and not afraid of risk. His wife, Melina Craig, recalled that when Rollo founded GoFor in 2016, he was the sole employee.
“At the beginning, it was Brad, and he’d rent a little white van, and he’d do the deliveries himself,” Craig remembered. “He had this alias he’d use because he didn’t want people to think that it was just that small, just him and his van. He was always thinking big, even from the very beginning.”
John Bradley “Brad” Rollo died in his sleep from cancer on December 24th, 2021. Rollo’s death triggered an outpouring of remembrances and tributes from his family and friends.
“He always had a joy for life,” Craig told BetaKit. “He was always looking for fun things to do, and exciting things to do. I guess that’s part of being an entrepreneur.”
“He was always thankful, kind, resourceful and laser-focused on succeeding.”
Craig called the response from the family’s friends “unbelievable.” She said people have been continuously bringing food to the house, and walking the family dog. “There’s hundreds of people reaching out and helping us out,” she said. “It’s so heartwarming. He was very loved.”
Nick Quain, the vice president of venture development at Invest Ottawa and one of Rollo’s friends, recalled going with Rollo one night to an angel pitch event. He’d met Rollo beforehand to talk with him about Rollo’s cash flow problems, and said Rollo showed up at the event just to work on his pitch and see what might come of it.
Much to Rollo’s surprise, he won the event and found himself being presented with a cheque for $10,000. “Brad and I couldn’t stop laughing after, as he walked out the door with this giant, big cheque,” Quain said. “Only Brad….”
Rollo, 52, was born on March 2, 1969, in Ottawa. While he made his name in technology, Rollo actually studied geography at Laurentian University. Craig said he worked doing geographic information system mapping, which ultimately led him toward technology. But before he became a tech entrepreneur, he ran his own construction company.
Rollo met Craig during a casual basketball game in 2003. Craig is an architect, and the two joined forces and flipped houses together. “There was always a business going, whether it was in construction or an idea of a business,” Craig said. “He had other tech-related ideas in the past, but GoFor was the one where everything clicked.”
GoFor calls itself a renewable delivery service that offers small companies outsourced truck fleets and web-based scheduling solutions. Large businesses can supplement and scale their own existing fleets, and link to GoFor’s logistics system.
A tribute to Rollo on the GoFor website said the startup was founded on a dream and a cocktail napkin, “literally.” The tribute recounts how when Rollo was working as a contractor in the construction industry he experienced slow and incomplete deliveries to the job site. “This led to the idea that was written down on a cocktail napkin, and the creation that has unfolded into what we know as GoFor today,” the tribute reads.
Quain recounted how in the early days of GoFor, Rollo made the decision to lease a space at a time when the company had no cash, signing a long-term lease that gave him six months free for a massive warehouse-style space. Rollo quickly sublet half the space to another tech startup to provide immediate cash flow over the six months.
Early on at GoFor, Rollo went to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018 to test the US market. That was well before GoFor’s Canadian model had been proven, Quain said. “But he knew it was a different market, and that the US was important, so he spent the time there to position the company later for US growth, and to understand their market dynamics,” Quain recounted.
GoFor won the AccelerateOTT Pitchfest, receiving $500,000 in 2019 from the pitch competition that aims to address key opportunities and challenges facing the startup and scale-up community.
“His last words to me were ‘I am going down with a smile, I know I’ll see you in another life, enjoy this one man.’”
– Solon Angel, MindBridge.ai
The startup raised a $9.8 million CAD seed round in 2020, and later that year raised a $20 million CAD Series A round to further its expansion into the United States.
“GoFor bears the imprint of Brad’s passion, enthusiasm, and creativity in creating all of this from a simple idea conceived so long ago,” reads GoFor’s tribute to Rollo. “Brad’s contagious energy has inspired so many throughout the years and will always live on in the company that he helped create.”
The technology entrepreneur, investor, and co-founder of Millions.co, Adrian Salamunovic, recollected that he first met Rollo for what was supposed to have been a quick coffee while Rollo was first launching GoFor at Invest Ottawa in 2017.
“At the time, I was an advisor to several companies and he wanted to get my feedback,” Salamunovic remembered. “I was impressed by the idea and by the fact that Brad was ‘scratching his own itch’ as someone who had been in the construction industry and was solving a very real problem. I remember how determined and passionate he was.”
Salamunovic told BetaKit that he helped Rollo raise his seed round. “He was always thankful, kind, resourceful and laser-focused on succeeding,” Salamunovic said. “It doesn’t feel real to me that we lost him. Brad has created a company whose legacy will be around for a long time. He was a disruptor and to me embodied everything that makes up a great entrepreneur. This is not just a loss for the Ottawa tech sector; it’s a loss for Canada and he will be missed.”
Outside of work, Rollo enjoyed playing basketball, and had a real flair for ultimate frisbee. He excelled in the latter sport, playing for the senior Canadian men’s team, which won a championship in Halifax.
Rollo loved travelling. Before he met Craig, he’d spent six months in Southeast Asia, and he and Craig both journeyed to Europe and South America. Craig said after Rollo received his diagnosis last year, they took their children, drove across the country and spent eight months in British Columbia. Craig said exploring other countries was one of the things that made him happy.
“He loved his little boys more than anything,” Craig said.
Rollo is survived by Craig, their sons Declan and Kieran, his sister Lindsey Rollo, and their father Ron Rollo.