BooknBrunch wins $30,000 at CNE Innovation Garage Pitch Competition


BooknBrunch, an online book and food experience platform based in Toronto, took home $30,000 after winning the CNE Innovation Garage Emerging Innovators Pitch Competition at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).

“We are absolutely thrilled to have won this competition and cannot wait to use the funds to help connect more people.”

The startup, which allows users to organize and host book and food experiences, won $5,000 in the first round of the competition, and $25,000 in the finals. The CNE Innovation Garage allowed selected startups to have a booth on-site to conduct market research and sell their products. Judges from this year’s event included Angelo Del Duca of York Angel Investors, Ashley Martis of Startup Fuel VC, Danielle Graham of Dream Maker Ventures, and Helen Kontozopoulos of Odaia.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have won this competition and cannot wait to use the funds to help connect more people in real life over a book and meal,” said BooknBrunch co-founder Daniela Kelloway. “One in three people are lonely, and the World Economic Forum recognizes loneliness as a risk factor greater than smoking 15 cigarettes a day for our health. When I saw that my co-founder’s book club helped her out of a dark place, we felt compelled to empower others to host their own experiences and connect with like-minded people over a meal.”

Launched in July 2018, BooknBrunch’s mission it to connect the world in real life through books and food. The company was founded by sisters Zuzana Drakul and Kelloway, after Drakul was helped out of depression through a combination of reading, meeting, and eating. The co-founders bootstrapped the venture for $40,000, which helped them acquire design, branding, trademarks, and the platform itself.

BooknBrunch has a book list on its platform, from which hosts can choose the book to read or select their own book. Hosts then choose a restaurant for their event from a list of BooknBrunch venue partners or any venue they wish to use. Participants then go to the site and sign up, for free, for the event of their choosing.

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The platform also offers an opportunity for companies in the hospitality industry to boost group sales, book out venues, or turn new guests into returning customers. Restaurants and venues are loaded onto the platform, and venues can control every aspect of their offering through BooknBrunch.

“We are a movement towards more reading, more meeting, more social gatherings and a company that believes in delivering an amazing experience with some surprise and delight thrown in,” said Drakul last year. “The irony is not lost on me that we have a tech company whose goal is to get people to meet in reality more, but we have to use today’s tools to make that magic happen.”

BooknBrunch has members in 40 cities globally and is looking to grow in six markets across Canada.

Photo by Katherine Holland

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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