“Sober curious” and “mindful drinking” have become popular terms in recent years, with 47% of the U.S. adult population wanting to cut back on alcohol. Sunnyside, the app promoting healthy drinking habits, secured $11.5 million in Series A funding led by Motley Fool Ventures with major participation from Will Ventures, the company announced today. The funds will help Sunnyside roll out its new AI mindful drinking coach named “Sunny,” which generates recommended responses for Sunnyside’s team of human coaches.
Other participants in the round include Uncork Capital, Offline Ventures, Joyance Partners, Wisdom Ventures, Eudemian Ventures, Adjacent, Scribble Ventures, Cooley LLP and MyFitnessPal founder Michael Lee. To date, Sunnyside has raised a total of $14.6 million.
Alongside the funding announcement, the company revealed its newest hire — Steve Lloyd, chief product and technology officer. Lloyd previously served the same role for fitness app Strava.
“Two years ago, I started using Sunnyside to help me get my own drinking habits under control,” said Lloyd. “From day one, there was never any guilt or shame about missing my weekly commitment, only positive and motivating reinforcement and acknowledgment that it’s not always easy to change entrenched habits. I’m eager to bring my past experience in technology and wellness to Sunnyside to help create product experiences that bring our community together to support each other on a mindful drinking journey.”
For $99 per year, Sunnyside’s app features daily drink tracking, SMS reminders to keep you on track of your goals, a personalized one-on-one coaching program and a community chat section to share struggles/wins with other members. The cost is on par with Reframe, a similar app that costs $8.33 monthly or $100 annually.
An analytics dashboard calculates how much money and calories you’ve saved so far by cutting back on drinking. Plus, you can participate in challenges to help you stay accountable, such as a 30-day alcohol reset or competing with your friends to see who can drink 50% less than normal.
You also can sign up for the $298 annual premium subscription for weekly Zoom check-ins with coaches and faster response time. Sunnyside also offers a free 15-day trial if you want to quickly learn how to reduce your alcohol consumption and then cancel the subscription.
Sunnyside’s new AI mindful drinking coach aims to support coaches by answering simple questions from members. For instance, if you are going to a party yet want to stick to only one alcoholic beverage, Sunny can provide tips on how to stay committed to your goal. Rather than Sunny responding to members directly, the AI coach generates recommendations that a human coach reviews before being sent as SMS.
“Our team of coaches will remain a core part of the experience for the long term… The goal is not to have [AI] replace the human [but] make them more effective and free their time to do deeper, individualized coaching,” Allen told us.
Built on ChatGPT, the AI is loaded with Sunnyside’s dataset around members’ “drinking patterns, long-term behavior changes and habits around drinking,” explained Sunnyside CEO and co-founder Nick Allen, the former head of growth at Lyft for Business.
Sunnyside recruits coaches who are longtime members and consistently successful with the program. There are around 20 coaches who have all gone through an “independently developed coaching certification program in partnership with a licensed counselor,” Allen said.
“This is like the sponsor/sponsee model. We’ve brought some of those best practices into our coaching experience, where you need support from people who have empathy because they’ve been on the journey already,” he added.
However, while Sunnyside coaches are trained by professionals, this doesn’t mean they’re allowed to give medical advice.
“We’re sure to be upfront about the fact that these are peers, and these are not licensed counselors or therapists. These coaches are there to be a friend in your corner rather than a professional provider,” he cautioned.
(Note: If you’re dependent on alcohol, then stopping drinking altogether could be dangerous. Possible symptoms include hand tremors, sweating, depression, anxiety, insomnia or even seizures. If you are experiencing any of these, it’s important that you seek professional help.)
Founded by Allen and Ian Andersen (CGO), Sunnyside was born as an alternative to sobriety-focused programs, sparking a conversation among alcohol consumers regarding the adverse effects of unmanaged drinking.
“The goal with the funding is to catalyze this movement of mindful drinking, to break through into the popular wellness conversation. Our mission is to become a household name for anyone looking to change their relationship with alcohol… We want to create a very differentiated brand from what exists in the market for alcohol health services today. We’re up against players that are coming from this lens of recovery and sobriety,” Allen said.
Allen shared his personal experience with us regarding alcoholism, growing up in a household with two parents who were recovering alcoholics. Andersen also has a history of alcoholics in his family, with his mom passing away from liver failure related to alcoholism.
“This is a deeply personal mission for both my co-founder and I,” Allen told us.
Since launching in 2020, Sunnyside says it has helped over 200,000 people cut out 13.5 million drinks. These are impressive numbers, considering that alcohol use soared during the pandemic. According to the company, Sunnyside members have reduced their drinking by 32% on average, cut out 1,500 calories and saved over $50 in their first month of signing up.
Sunnyside is available to download in the Apple Store.