- The startup behind men’s health company Roman now wants to help you quit smoking.
- The new business, called Zero, provides nicotine gum, a prescription drug, and an app to track progress.
- The company also raised an additional $US88 million from investors including FirstMark Capital, SignalFire, General Catalyst and Alexis Ohanian’s Initialized Capital.
- It’s part of a growing space of direct-to-consumer businesses that are changing patients’ relationships with their healthcare.
A company which delivers Viagra to your door is now trying to treat one of the root causes of erectile dysfunction.
Since launching in November 2017, men’s health company Roman had been connecting men to doctors to treat their erectile dysfunction. Along the way, the team noticed that when some of the men realised their health problem had to do with their smoking habits, they started asking for tips on how to quit.
And it’s not a uniquely male problem. An estimated 37.8 million Americans – male and female – smoke cigarettes, and almost 70% of smokers in 2015 reported wanting to quit. Rather than focusing just on helping Roman patients quit smoking, the team decided to branch out to all smokers interested in quitting.
“The way you speak to a 35-year-old person who might be struggling with ED is very different from how you might want to speak to a 35 year-old man or woman trying to quit smoking,” co-founder Zachariah Reitano told Business Insider.
Thus, a second service was born: Zero. The men’s health-focused brand Roman and Zero both fall under the umbrella of Ro, which powers the connections between patients, their doctors, and the pharmacies that dispense the mediation.
New York-based Ro said Tuesday that it’s also raised an additional $US88 million in a series A round led by FirstMark Capital, along with SignalFire, Alexi Ohanian’s Initialized Capital, General Catalyst, Slow Ventures, Sinai Ventures, Torch Capital, BoxGroup, Tusk Ventures and undisclosed angels. In total, the company’s raised $US91.1 million.
Here’s how Ro’s smoking cessation program works
- Patients can go to Zero’s website and complete an online visit giving details about their medical history and smoking habits. That online visit costs $US15, which gets refunded if they’re not deemed a good candidate.
- That visit will get analysed and sent to a physician, who can help determine what program might work best for a particular patient and can refer them to another doctor if they need in-person attention.
- Ro then ships a kit that includes smoking cessation medication bupropion (known by the brand name Zyban), nicotine gum, and an app used to help track progress.
- Altogether, the system costs $US129 a month but individual pieces of the kit can start at $US42 a month. Ro doesn’t take insurance yet, so both Roman and Zero are paid in cash rather than through an insurer.
Startups like Ro that have an approach of going directly to consumers have been growing like crazy.
Since launching, Roman’s already facilitated one million patient-doctor interactions, Reitano said. Startups spanning everything from hair loss to birth control to contacts have attracted tens of millions in venture funding. Men’s health startup Hims, which has so far raised $US97 million, has reportedly been seeking to raise an additional $US100 million as part of its move into women’s health.
And the model has seen successes elsewhere outside the pharmacy realm such as in the clear aligners market.
“It’s becoming the soup du jour,” said Eric Kim, a managing partner at Goodwater Capital, who has invested in companies like Simple Contacts and at-home diagnostics company EverlyWell. Kim’s been investing in direct-to-consumer healthcare companies since 2014, and what appeals to him about the business is that because there isn’t a physical component – real estate to manage, if you will – the companies can focus on the consumer in a way that a brick-and-mortar doctor’s office can’t.
Ultimately, he sees this being a good entry point into healthcare.
“What I think these direct to consumer businesses are good at over time is being the tip of the spear in your care journey,” Kim said.
- An $US80-a-month startup that wants to help straighten your teeth- without you having to step foot in an orthodontist’s office – has been growing like crazy
- Meet the rising stars under 40 working on startups that change your relationship with healthcare
- A former Googler who started losing his hair in his 20s founded a company to help other men facing a similar fate
- These two entrepreneurs came up with a way for you to get new prescription contact lenses without ever having to leave your house
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.