An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Max Farrell (co-founder and CEO) of WorkHound, which was honored in our:
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Chattanooga
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Chattanooga
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Chattanooga
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Chattanooga
- 2018 Best Tech Startups in Des Moines
Tell us the origin story of WorkHound – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
When we launched WorkHound, we did so with the knowledge that frontline workers across the country often suffer a substantial disconnect from the businesses they work for, and that the resulting breakdown in communication is responsible for negative experiences felt by the frontline workers themselves, as well as by their managers and the larger organization. We believed (and we still do) that a healthy feedback culture, wherein frontline workers can safely and in real time share their wants and needs, can promote a healthier work culture that yields positive results for workers and management alike. One of the upshots of a strong culture is that fewer workers leave their jobs in search of something better. So, the work we do at WorkHound helps workers feel more valued and heard while also minimizing costly worker turnover. The first industry we focused on was trucking, an industry rife with turnover and culture issues. We felt that if we could prove ourselves there, we could take the lessons we learned to grow into additional industries.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
The way non-coastal software startups get off the ground has changed in the six years since my co-founder, Andrew Kirpalani, and I began building WorkHound. Back then, for us to attract capital, we had to demonstrate traction first. We had to show we could win in the real world before anyone would even consider opening up their checkbooks in a substantial way. Conversely, it would be nearly impossible to tally all the pre-revenue startups in the tech metropolises that have been able to lure in big investments. Our first year in business, we ran WorkHound off of a $50,000 investment. We had to be very lean and scrappy, and the fact that we were able to survive and grow then is something that gives me great pride today. Yes, we had to take some shortcuts, and we had to pass up on opportunities due to cash flow realities, but the fact that we had to focus on what really mattered was a great lesson in prioritization.
What does the future hold for WorkHound?
In the six years since our founding, we’ve been able to establish a strong product/market fit, which is what every startup fights hard to figure out. Casting an eye forward, now it’s time to amplify what we’ve built, finding new clients and growing with the ones that have been with us. We have built a solution that has a proven track record of helping other businesses thrive, and the Great Resignation is the perfect moment to expand since businesses have been forced to give a damn about their frontline workers, what they’re experiencing, and what they need to perform well.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Chattanooga?
Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been a great base camp to grow WorkHound. The community is invested in the continued maturation of its entrepreneurial ecosystem, making it more accessible, building on its assets (like its community-owned fiber network), and luring in new talent and promising young startups. Though we do live in a work-from-anywhere world now, it is helpful to be anchored in a place like Chattanooga that puts such effort into the business community, especially helping young businesses become (and stay) successful. There is also plenty of opportunity for leisure on the weekends, namely the near limitless outdoor options, while we’re able to easily connect globally.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I am an avid believer in this equation: Pain + Passion + Persistence = Payoff
It’s pretty straightforward, but what it means is that you have to solve a widespread, meaningful problem that people are willing to pay to make go away. You also have to be passionate about solving that problem and be willing to persistently attack it. WorkHound’s journey so far has been the embodiment of this equation. The problem we solve is abundant, but had we not approached it with passion and persistence, we wouldn’t still be here today. It took us two years to really gain traction. It would have been incredibly easy to quit along the way, but I’m glad we didn’t. It’s rewarding to be where we are and to have achieved what we have, and I am excited about the next chapters of this business journey.