When employees at KnowBe4 gathered in the Clearwater tech company’s lounge at noon Wednesday for pizza, it was for more than just an ordinary meal.
They were the pilot participants in a corporate partnership between KnowBe4 and Lunchpool, a local startup with an app to bring people together for lunch.
“We call it the lunchbreak renaissance,” said Alex Abell, Lunchpool co-founder and CEO. “We are revitalizing corporate America over the lunch break.”
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KnowBe4, a cybersecurity training company with more than 700 employees, was the perfect place to launch, Abell said.
“KnowBe4 has been with us from the beginning,” Abell said. He and his co-founders came up with the concept in November during Startup Weekend, a competition to develop a business idea in 54 hours. Lunchpool won the top prize, a lunch with the executive team from sponsoring company KnowBe4.
“My whole team said don’t pitch them on the idea, learn from Stu [Sjouwerman, KnowBe4’s CEO]. But I had a pitch deck ready and he actually invited me to pitch,” Abell said. “Stu said, ‘What do you need, investment or a beta test?’ and I said a beta test. We don’t want investors right now, until we validate and have a good product, but we would love to beta test. We’ve been working with them ever since to make this happen.”
Abell and other Lunchpool founders want to end what they call the “desktop dining epidemic,” where people eat lunch alone while working at their desks.
“People are saying it’s hard to connect with people. There’s risk involved. If I ask somebody out to lunch I might get turned down. So people are just eating at their desk and it’s causing a big ripple effect in the corporate space,” Abell said. “We have employees that need to work together and collaborate — knowledge workers — but they’re not because they don’t know each other. So we think that the corporate space is where the biggest opportunity is and they need our help the most.”
Abell expects to monetize Lunchpool through an approach he’s dubbed “lunch break as a service,” similar to software-as-a-service.
“We’re building a program where companies can pay per user to have their employees on there,” Abell said. He also envisions upgrades, that provide additional data to companies and allow them to provide incentives so that targeted teams will interact more frequently.
KnowBe4 sees Lunchpool as a perk it can offer its workers.
“Our company is always looking for new and engaging ways to give employees new benefits. This is another benefit that KnowBe4 is going to be offering,” said Amanda Tarantino, a spokeswoman for KnowBe4.
Lunchpool also wants to work with healthcare providers who could offer the app to their patients, helping them form support groups, said Pooja Pendharkar, co-founder and head of product and engineering.
“When you are diagnosed or a family member is diagnosed, you don’t know who to reach out to. You look at internet forums, google things. You get super scared. But to know people around you who have been through similar things – or who self-identify as mentors and would like to talk you through it so it’s not as scary – for you to have someplace to go,” Pendharkar said. “With Lunchpool we have the potential to tap into that, to work with institutions like AdventHealth and Moffitt Cancer and say, provide this to your patients as a support group.”
Lunchpool is collaborating with the University of South Florida Muma College of Business. A group of students is developing a marketing plan for Lunchpool as a capstone project, Abell said.
While he’s not currently looking for investors, Abell said Lunchpool is doing due diligence to get ready for a fundraising round. “We want to make sure the product is amazing before we go that route,” he said.