It started out as a gorgeous Saturday morning in Palo Alto, I wake up, head downstairs in my PJs expecting a relaxing morning…
Lucas (our CTO) finishes off his scrambled eggs and glances up at our analytics dashboard on the TV, “Were anyone of you guys testing the app last night?”.
Me and my two co-founders (Yusuf and Sarim) look at each other sheepishly “Not that I know of, why?”.
“Our servers are in meltdown – what’s going on??”.
It’s a frantic half an hour before we realise that Apple had selected Quit Genius out of the 2.2 million apps on the App Store to be the main feature in the USA. Our traffic and revenue have increased 10,000% from the day before. Our servers are in meltdown. I suggested we drill a Silicon-Valley-Style hole in the wall (shout out Guilfoyle), instead, Lucas goes for the more sensible route of calling up John (big up) – our contact at Amazon Web Services – to upgrade our servers. I jump on Intercom to answer hundreds of customer support emails that have begun to pile into our inbox. Meanwhile, the kettle is still boiling.
Meant to be me at the back
As the dust settles, I take a moment to do something I rarely do; reflect.
Less than a year ago, I was in London revising for my final exams of medical school. Fast forward 9 months and we have an incredible team of scientists, designers and developers, we’ve relocated to Palo Alto to participate in Y Combinator (a well known startup school that has produced the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox and Coinbase (the Bitcoin one)) and most importantly we’ve already helped thousands of real people quit smoking.
We pinch ourselves every day asking how this has even happened?
I still have a vivid recollection of the conversation I had with my parents after graduating as a doctor. The shocked look on their faces when I told them I wanted to pass up my dream job to pursue what they thought was a long lost fantasy. In hindsight, they were probably right. We knew what we wanted to make but we had no plan, no experience and no money…but what I did have were two friends who were just as foolish as me!
We launched Quit Genius just two months later. We messaged every single person we knew to download the app. Below is a message me of reaching out to my barber Luca, not for a “1 into a 4 and keep it wavy on top”, but a plea to download Quit Genius.
We spent our lunch breaks in Golden Square (Soho, London), preying on smokers and telling them about Quit Genius. I remember one day we managed to get 100 new users and we treated ourselves to a team dinner at one of Soho’s finest establishments.
Haters will say this is Pizza Express
It’s crazy to think just 6 months later we’ve touched hundreds of thousands of lives from all across the world. I can’t describe how rewarding it feels to get messages on a daily basis from people from all walks of life thanking us because their lives, and the lives of their families, has transformed because they’ve managed to quit smoking. All because of an app.
We always get asked why we’re not practising as doctors after spending six whole years at medical school. And the true reason is, as doctors we feel as though we could have made a positive impact on the lives of thousands, but with Quit Genius we believe we can make a positive impact on the lives of millions.
From the outside looking in, it may all look rosy: a fast-growing user base, features in the press and bringing on board notable investors. But I can assure you it is far from that. Every day there’s a new challenge, a new problem, a new setback. There are countless times this business could have been dead and buried (I’ll save these stories for another time). It’s only the dedication, motivation and sheer resilience of every single member of the team that has stopped that from happening.
We count our blessings every day and are thankful to God for giving us this opportunity to change the way therapy is delivered. We know we still have a long, long way to go to get anywhere close to achieving our mission of making the world a smoke-free place. A smoke-free world?! You might think we’re young, dumb and naive 24-year-olds wishfully thinking, but every step we take, every smoker we get to quit, fuels our fires. And so long as there’s an ember, rest assured, we’ll be working as hard as possible to make our long lost fantasy a reality.