Quit Genius Raises $64 Million For Its Addiction Treatment Telehealth Startup - Forbes
Maroof Ahmed (left), Sarim Siddiqui (middle) and Yusuf Sherwani (right) are the three physician ... [+] founders behind Quit Genius.Courtesy of Quit Genius.
Substance abuse has been a consistent and growing problem for decades. Within the U.S., it’s now estimated to impact nearly 21 million Americans, according to statistics from the Addiction Center. For Yusuf Sherwani and his fellow physicians Maroof Ahmed and Sarim Siddiqui, it was hard to watch their patients try to get help for addictions in an environment where it was easy to get diagnosed, but much harder to get connected to treatment. “We knew we wanted to do something for people, and we knew there had to be a better way to give them access to evidence based-treatment,” Sherwani tells Forbes. “Approximately 90% of people not getting care was really shocking to us.”
The trio decided to develop a way to make existing proven treatments for addictions more accessible. They arrived at Quit Genius, a B2B2C startup that uses structured digital treatment programs to meet people where they are — online — and bills through their employer to help ease some of the associated, and usually costly, fines. The company, founded in 2017 and launched in 2019, is now operating in the U.K. and about half of the states in the U.S. It’s signed 55 employer and health plan customers, giving more than two million people access to its opioid, alcohol and tobacco programs. After increasing revenue 10x over the last 12 months, the startup raised a hefty new round of financing to keep expanding.
The U.K. and New York-based company raised a $64 million Series B round co-led by Swedish asset manager Kinnevik and British VC firm Atomico, with participation from existing investors Triple Point Ventures, Octopus Ventures and Startup Health, as originally reported in Midas Touch . Georgi Ganev, the CEO of Kinnevik, says that they were attracted to the company because of its B2B2C approach, which he’s seen successfully play out through the firm’s past investment in Livongo, a diabetes detection company. “We know that substance abuse was a large, growing problem in the U.S. but the pandemic has been a pressure cooker from this perspective,” Ganev says. “Abuse and addiction has nearly doubled. It’s kind of the epidemic within the pandemic.” Quit Genius plans to use the capital to help expand the company’s reach in the U.S. and to continue investing in peer-reviewed studies that track and help improve its treatment programs.
With accessibility in mind, Quit Genius opted to focus on a digital platform rooted in connections with real doctors back in 2017. “We are increasingly finding that [patients] do want to receive virtual treatment but know there is a human on the other end,” Sherwani says. Such an approach allows a patient to conduct weekly sessions with a doctor, while also accessing digital tools and chat features that nudge or support them in the interim. “People don’t want to spend a huge amount of time on their healthcare, but want to be doing the stuff that is high impact,” Sherwani adds. The different programs also send related physical tools needed for treatment like a breathalyzer that can analyze nicotine levels for the tobacco track or Naltrexone, a medication that helps prevent relapses, prescriptions for the alcohol plan.
Patients are only charged when they see results, the CEO says. One thing that sets Quit Genius apart: the success of its treatment programs. The startup has conducted multiple peer-reviewed studies so far, including a 12-month controlled study of tobacco treatment that Sherwani says outperformed solely face-to-face sessions. “While we were trying to prove we were just as good, it was significantly better than usual care,” Sherwani says. “We were seeing quit rates we had never seen before, sustained quit rates at six months.” The program was also recently named the preferred solution for tobacco addictions by the World Health Organization. “It was always drummed into us through medical school,” Sherwani says about gathering research. “We have invested very early in clinical research.” Quit Genius has published eight peer-reviewed studies so far.
“Addiction has really plagued society for decades but the unfortunate trend has been upward,” Sherwani says. “We spend about $42 billion on addiction treatment per year. There is not going to be a silver bullet. It’s going to be thousands of different solutions. But giving people great access to treatment? That will go a long way to solving this problem.”