Quit Genius, helping smokers quit, picks up an extra $1.1 million in seed

Quit Genius, the YC-backed app that helps users quit smoking, has today announced the close of an additional $1.1 million, bringing their seed round to a cool $2 million. Village Global VC, Pioneer Fund, Arab Angel VC, Max Mullen of Instacart, Olivia Teich of Dropbox, Paul Rosania of Slack, Ariel Polar of Strava, Eric Reis, David Langley of Zesty, Juha Paananen of NonStop Games, and Junaid Bajwa of Merck & Co participated in the round, among others.

Quit Genius was built by doctors — Yusuf Sherwani (co-founder and CEO), Maroof Ahmed (co-founder and COO), and Sarim Siddiqui (co-founder and head of product) — who met on the first day of medical school. They saw the terrible effects of smoking on patients’ health but didn’t see doctors giving those patients a clear path to quit smoking.

So the team started building out Quit Genius, which uses cognitive behavioral therapy to change a user’s behavior.

“CBT breaks down situations into three areas: your thoughts, your feelings and your behaviors,” Ahmed told TechCrunch in February. “What you think and feel can affect how you behave. CBT focuses on replacing any negative thoughts and feelings you may have that trigger you to smoke, with healthier and more positive thoughts that will help you to quit smoking.”

Quit Genius uses CBT to take smokers through stages of quitting, using a number of different types of content, from audio sessions to animated videos to interactive exercises to help people think differently about destructive addictions.

Since launch, the company has introduced new ‘packs’ for other addictive behaviors such as drinking alcohol. Packs aren’t quite as comprehensive as the Quit Genius program around quitting smoking, but they do offer troves of additional content around other addictions.

The company already has packs for alcohol, stress, motivation, and health, giving users extra content around the issue they’re dealing with most. Alcohol felt natural, according to Ahmed, because alcohol is such a trigger for many smokers, and one of the issues they dealt with most in their quest to quit.

Soon, Quit Genius has plans to launch packs around pregnancy (for women who are smoking when they become pregnant and want to quit), weight management, social pressure to smoke, and self esteem.

Since launch Quit Genius has grown to 300,000 registered users, with over 20,000 people officially smoke-free in the app (which Quit Genius defines as having not smoked for over 28 days). The company’s internal goal is to get to 100,000 smoke-free users by the end of the year, and will track their progress publicly on the website.

While consumers are the primary focus of the company, there is also a growing opportunity for Quit Genius to start working with big-name employers around well-being and health. Healthy employees save the company money and are more productive, and Quit Genius thinks it can not only help employees get healthier but give employers a way to track that progress. In fact, Quit Genius has already signed on a tech giant as a customer, but wouldn’t disclose which one.

Given that the company was founded by doctors, it comes as no surprise that the Quit Genius team is participating in scientific research papers around their process. One paper, published by JMIR mHealth, found that Quit Genius outperformed the NHS Smoke-free app. An upcoming paper, which will be published in the next few weeks, found that Quit Genius yielded a 36 percent quit rate among participants, with a 59.6 percent reduction in cigarettes among participants.