It’s been 3 years since my co-founders and I made the decision to hang up our white coats, put away our stethoscopes and take the first steps on a road less traveled by medical doctors; an uncertain path that would lead us to build a digital health company.
When I joined medical school, it was with the intention to help make the world a healthier, happier place. That goal hasn't changed.
According to the World Happiness Report, Americans today are the unhappiest they have been in years. The culprit? Mass addiction.
We live in a mass addiction society, from tobacco, alcohol and opioid use to vaping, gambling and pornography - and the list goes on. These behaviors are causing a rising proportion of people to be left unhappy, clinically depressed and, worst of all, stuck.
The need for a solution to our mass addiction problem has only become more urgent.
Addiction is by definition a chronic disease. Yet it is rarely treated like one.
A person’s exposure to any addictive substance will lure them into a repetitive and vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior. This inadvertently spreads unhappiness to their families and communities.
During my medical training, I became exposed to the world of addiction, treating patients with dependent, addictive behaviors until eventually I, too, became infected by unhappiness.
I remember being on an OBGYN ward, looking down at the trembling newborn in my arms. The nurses infused him with repeated doses of morphine to combat his chemical opioid dependence; his mother was addicted to heroin and had continued to use throughout her pregnancy. All I could think of was how she was failed by our healthcare system.
Another time, I comforted a young lady as she cried at her husband’s bedside. Her husband was a life-long smoker, he just couldn’t stop. Smoking took his sight, his mobility and eventually, his life.
Unfortunately, substance addiction is not a sexy area of innovation. As a result, the toolkit we rely on hasn't evolved in decades.
The numbers speak for themselves. Across the spectrum of nicotine, alcohol and opioid misuse, fewer than 10% of adults with an addiction receive treatment and just 10% of them have a successful outcome.
We founded Quit Genius with the realization that the status quo was unacceptable and with the goal of using technology to scale our medical knowledge and help 100 million people quit their substance addiction.
Today, I am thrilled to share that we are one step closer to our goal with an $11M Series A led by Octopus Ventures with participation from Y Combinator, Startup Health and Triple Point Ventures. They join existing investors including Village Global, Semper Virens, Serena Ventures as well as angel investors Venus Williams and Eric Ries amongst others.
Nicotine is the most prevalent substance addiction in the US, affecting 48 million people and costing employers $120B in direct healthcare costs every year. The challenge of tobacco addiction has been complicated by vaping, which has seen meteoric rise amongst adolescents.
Nicotine has also long been recognized as a gateway drug that opens the door to alcohol and substance use.
Quit Genius replaces legacy telephone quit-lines with a new model of care that combines programmatically-delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), expert coaching, a connected breath sensor and easy access to clinically-proven medication.
In the last 3 years, Quit Genius has become the #1 digital program for tobacco cessation, enrolling 700,000 participants and over a dozen self-insured employers and health plans across the US, Canada and the UK. It is the only program available today to guarantee performance by putting meaningful fees-at-risk while averaging a 3:1 ROI in the first year.
As a physician-led company, we also recognize that maintaining a high-bar on clinical evidence is essential. To date, Quit Genius has been validated in six peer-reviewed papers, with the largest randomized-controlled trial for a digital addiction program soon to be published.
Despite making significant progress, it’s still day one at Quit Genius! Scaling to hundreds of enterprise partners and millions of people will require deep investment in our technology and infrastructure.
A deeper issue is that most employers today have poly-substance addiction challenges. The messy reality is that an individual addicted to nicotine is also much more likely to have other substance use addictions and the wrong approach can often see people swapping one addiction for another.
This year, we will launch the first dynamic addiction program encompassing capabilities across alcohol dependence and opioid use disorder, which collectively affect 15 million Americans.
Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work in addiction treatment, users will receive a highly curated and personalized experience irrespective of which addiction or combination of addictions they are working to overcome.
It doesn't stop there. Our mission is to help 100M people quit their nicotine, alcohol or substance use addiction.
Despite these unprecedented times, we are diving into 2020 with tremendous momentum and are excited to expand our ecosystem of partners, users and team members. If you would like to bring Quit Genius to your workplace or join a rapidly growing team at the leading edge of healthcare, please contact us.
Here’s to an addiction-free world —
Yusuf Sherwani, MD
CEO & Co-Founder
Join our newsletter to receive updates on smarter health