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These Midwest companies are bringing new ideas to the trucking industry

The trucking industry is on the move, and in more ways than one.

In 2017, the trucking industry generated more than $700 billion in annual revenue,  according to the American Trucking Association. The number of employees in the industry rose to 7.7 from 7.4 million in the previous year. And less than half of those positions, 3.5 million, are drivers.

The industry’s constant transitions and adjustments are necessary to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.

Here are some of the Midwest companies playing a role in the evolution of the trucking industry.


Cargofy has created an artificial intelligence virtual assistant the company describes as a “Siri for truck drivers.”

Using artificial intelligence, Cargofy offers an AI-powered freight broker. Cargofy’s AI algorithm can analyze metrics such as supply and demand, price dynamics and road conditions in order to calculate the market price. The virtual assistant then uses this information to help truckers search for nearby loads, generate documents, calculate routes and save money.

In the last year, Cargofy’s U.S. business has grown to $2.7 million in revenue.  Its early success earned it a significant place in the 2018 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in the U.S.  It has been cited as the second fastest growing company in Iowa.

In 2017, Cargofy participated in the Iowa Startup Accelerator, which led to their expansion in the U.S.  The company is now incorporated in the U.S., with an office in Cedar Rapids.

“Lots of transportation happens in the Midwest,” said Stakh Vozniak, CEO and co-founder of Cargofy. “That combined with the low cost and the accelerator made Iowa a great U.S. location for us.”


Based out of Omaha, BasicBlock is a platform for trucking companies to streamline their workflow with electronic paperwork and directly communicate with manufacturers and shippers without the need for third parties. Co-founders, Taylor Monks and Brett Byman, see the Midwest as the ideal location to start their company.

“Our location is a pretty big advantage for us. The majority of these trucking companies are in the Midwest. That’s allowed us, at a very early stage, to start stoking these conversations and relationships. The valley can raise all the venture capital they want but, the companies in our backyard,” said Monks. “We’re at truckstops talking to truck drivers, truly understanding their problems. I think that’s something that a whiteboard and a theory can’t do. We’re really diving into the culture of what we’re building.”

Using Blockchain technology, BasicBlock connects trucking companies directly with manufacturers, providing electronic proof of deliveries and bill of ladings. The company uses smart contracts to immediately distribute funds upon delivery and electronic signatures.

“In doing that, we can cut payment time from 30 to 90 days to minutes essentially and also cut out a massive percentage of premiums that all these third parties are taking,” said Monks.

In April, BasicBlock won first place at Block-a-thon Midwest 2018. BasicBlock is currently rolling out and piloting their MVP with plans to have their entire platform ready to be tested end-to-end in around three months.

“Blockchain is not used for everything we do,” said Monks. “It’s a core tool for us that enables our team and our company and our software to be very efficient and to reduce costs for enterprise logistics and trucking companies, but we use much more than just blockchain.”


Iowa-born startup WorkHound is a retention platform for the trucking industry with plans to expand into other high-turnover industries as well.

Founded by Max Farrell and Andrew Kirpalani, WorkHound’s platform centers around giving drivers a way to communicate suggestions or complaints to management, who can then respond or offer feedback.

“Context is everything,” said Andrew Kirpalani, co-founder and CTO of WorkHound. Companies need to understand the context they’re operating in. It affects everything you do from operations to hiring to fundraising. Trucking is not a flashy industry. In the larger tech hubs, flash is often necessary to get attention. So just like you wouldn’t start a consumer company like Instagram in the Midwest, you’re probably doing yourself a disservice starting a logistics company in the valley. When we started WorkHound we wanted to work on big, practical problems affecting real people. That’s what the Midwest ecosystem is good at.”

These Midwest companies are bringing new ideas to the trucking industry | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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