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October 25, 2023

Bookclubs startup to start next chapter with $50K LaunchPad prize

Screen shot Screenshot Anna Ford, co-founder and CEO of Bookclubs, delivers her winning pitch at Tuesday’s Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad finale in front of judges and a live audience.

Bookclubs, a Camden tech business that helps users start, manage or join a book club, will start its own next chapter with a $50,000 prize from the Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad Competition.

“I’m extremely passionate about the personal connections and strong sense of community that come through a discussion of books,” Bookclubs co-founder and CEO Anna Ford said in her winning pitch. 

Ford co-founded Bookclubs in 2019 with Ian Campbell. Today, the company employs six people full-time.

Woman in pink
Provided photo
Anna Ford

"With our prize money we plan to hire a UI/UX app designer so that we can redesign and relaunch our app early next year, optimized for club growth, activation and conversion to premium," Ford told Mainebiz. 

As for what's next, she said, "In addition to an app relaunch, we’ll be experimenting with lots of new growth and paid marketing strategies. We hope to reach one million members soon."

She also noted that premiums subscriptions are going well, and that Bookclubs is on pace to reach 1,000 paid clubs before the end of this year. Around 10% of new clubs on the platform are upgrading to premium, she said.

Tuesday’s LaunchPad event was held at the University of New England’s Innovation Hall in Portland before a live audience and streamed to remote viewers. 

Bookclubs was a returning finalist from 2022. The other finalists were Bijou Build, of Camden; Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear, of Brunswick; NKENNE, an African-language learning app founded by Mainebiz 40 Under 40 honoree Michael Odokara-Okigbo and last year’s Emerging Business Award winner; and Portland-based Ocean Data Network.

Contestants were judged by John Burns, former head of the Maine Venture Fund who now leads corporate engagement at the University of Maine; Kristine Delano, a strategic business advisor and host of the WE Talk Careers podcast; and Kate McAleer of Bixby Chocolate, the 2014 LaunchPad contest winner.

“It was a fabulous event,” McAleer told Mainebiz after Tuesday's finale. “I thought all of the businesses were so interesting and innovative. The pitch by Bookclubs was very strong. I am definitely an advocate for what it's like to be on the pitching side and can relate to the amazing impact LaunchPad can have on one's business. It's quite a responsibility.”

Emerging Business Award

Amply Energy, a Cumberland-based developer of proprietary software to streamline the process for designing heat pump systems, won this year’s Emerging Business Award. The award consists of a $10,000 grant plus $10,000 of in-kind business and marketing-related services from Creative Imaging Group, Grove Marketing, iBec Creative, Nu-Yar and Philbrook PR.

The other Emerging Business finalists were Black Travel Maine, of Waterville; ReachMyTeach in Portland, winner of last year's $25,000 Top Gun prize; and Shred Electric, of New Gloucester.

Photo / Gotham Savings Bank Facebook page
Eric Fitz, Amply Energy co-founder and co-CEO, with the Emerging Business Award prize at Tuesday's finale.

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