Des Moines, Iowa, company that expanded to Chattanooga named 2019 Startup of the Year [photos]

Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Max Farrell, with Workhound, receives a hug, and accepts the Startup of the Year award from CPR Wrap's Felicia Jackson Thursday night at the Miller Plaza Pavilion.

A Des Moines, Iowa, company that expanded to Chattanooga in 2016 and has grown to serve more than 20,000 workers was recognized Thursday night as the 2019 Startup of the Year business in Chattanooga.

Workhound, a real-time feedback platform for front-line workers, won the top prize at the StartupWeek awards celebration. Max Farrell, who co-founded the company with Andrew Kirpalani, said the company has raised more than $2 million of capital, including a $1.5 million fundraising round this spring.

By providing a platform for employees to more quickly and effectively communicate their needs and ideas to their employers, Workhound has found success, especially among employers such as trucking companies with scattered or remote staffs.

"Our goal is to give workers a voice and to give companies an insight to understand their people's issues and concerns so they can act on that feedback and improve their employee retention and business success," Farrell said after winning the prize. "With the worker shortages in so many industries and with the importance of people's input into the daily work process, feedback is more important than it has ever been. So we are in a prime position to help companies where they are hurting."

Workhound currently has 15 employees "and we're looking to hire many more," Farrell said. The company has grown 20-fold since coming to Chattanooga three years ago to participate in one of the first Dynamo Fund accelerator programs organized in Chattanooga by the Lamp Post Group.

"We realized that the smartest mid-sized cities are built around a thesis and in Chattanooga it was built around a strong supply-chain network," Farrell said. "We were able to take advantage of those ties to transportation and logistics to grow our customer base here."

Felicia Jackson, founder of CPR Wrap and last year's winner of the Startup of the Year business award, presented the award to Farrell.

"They are rapidly hiring workers and are rising to be one of the top B2B (business to business) companies in Chattanooga," she said.

During the 6th annual awards celebration Thursday night in the Waterhouse Pavilion that capped a a week of celebrations during StartupWeek, eight other winners also were recognized. The winners were all companies which are less than five years old with under $1 million in annual sales and are located within a 55-mile radius of Chattanooga.

* Gabrielle Blades, who started the branding and design agency Blades Creative in 2015, won the SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the statewide honor recognizes an individual under the age of 30 who has started a successful company.

* BWY Transport., which started in March 2017 and has already grown to 17 employees and 63 trucks, won the Rising Star of the Year by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.

* Medical Search Technologies won the CO.LAB's High Growth Company of the Year.

* Cheiman Tea won the Launch Chattanooga's Micro-Business of the Year award.

* Shelly Cove won INCubator's Goldfinch of the Year

*Attorneys Stephanie Rogers and Melody Shekari won the Society of Work's Coworker of the Year.

* Galen Riley of Pride Raiser won the Causeway's Changemaker of the Year award.

* Ken Hays, the former president of Enterprise Center, won the the Charlie Brock Ecosystem Builder of the Year award, which started last year to honor the former CO.LAB director who headed TN Launch for six years.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 757-6340.