Carrot, the Redwood City, California-based maker of a smoking cessation app and its paired, FDA-cleared breathalyzer device, announced this week that it has raised $25 million in new funding. The investment was led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JJDC), with participation from New York Life Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Marc Benioff, R7 Partners and Dr. David Utley, Carrot’s founder, president and CEO.
According to Carrot, the new funding will serve to commercialize its smoking cessation tech platform, Pivot. Comprised of the app and carbon monoxide breath sensor as well as in-app human coaching and pharmacotherapy, the over-the-counter system will first be rolled out through partnerships with health plans and self-insured employers.
"Quitting smoking greatly reduces chances of developing smoking-related diseases, yet successful quit attempts require a multi-disciplinary approach," Utley said in a statement. "Given Johnson & Johnson's expertise across its medical device, consumer health and wellness, and pharmaceutical sectors, we are excited to have JJDC lead this round as we believe it takes a concerted healthcare approach to address the consequences of smoking on a global scale. We're also pleased to have the funding of New York Life Ventures and the continued confidence of our existing investors. Their support furthers our mission to help millions of people to quit smoking.”
What’s the impact
According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes 480,000 deaths each year, or roughly one in five deaths. Smoking can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, as well as cause birth defects. Electronic cigarette use among teens and younger adults has also spiked in recent years, and has lately become a major focus for the FDA.
Carrot’s tech-driven platform looks to attack the issue using tools and approaches familiar to consumers. According to the company, the six-stage, 58-week program boasts enrollment rates “many times higher than the national average for employer-delivered cessation programs.”
What’s the trend
Although it was founded in 2015, Carrot’s first major blip on the digital health radar came last year when it received FDA 510(k) clearance for its over-the-counter, Bluetooth-enabled Carbon Monoxide Breath Sensor System. In the time since the digital health company signed a deal with Minneapolis-backed RedBrick Health that offered the latter’s clients early access to Carrot’s platform.
In general, smoking cessation has been a longtime goalpost for apps, wearables and other digital health platforms. Most recently, Ro announced that it would be using an $88 million investment to launch an app-based smoking cessation platform called Zero alongside its current men’s health and erectile dysfunction offerings.
On the record
"Carrot is a strong example of those companies that are driving exciting innovations at the intersection of digital health and life insurance," Tim Del Bello, director of investments at New York Life Ventures. "These technologies have the potential to play a meaningful role in the future of the life insurance industry."