Ro—company previously known for its online men's health platform focused on erectile dysfunction, Roman— announced that it landed $88 million, this time to work on an addiction cessation platform. This round was led by FirstMark Capital with participation from SignalFire, Initialized Capital, General Catalyst, Slow Ventures, Sinai Ventures, Torch Capital, BoxGroup, Tusk Ventures and undisclosed angel investors.
Why it matters
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 defect and impact fertility for both men and women.
The company plans to use the new money to launch the platform Zero, which will hone in on this public health challenge. The platform will integrate a prescription, nicotine replacement therapy and a behavioral app. The company claims that it will increase a users chances of quitting smoking by four times.
“Zero isn’t just a single product. It’s a combination of a prescription plus nicotine gum to help fight cravings,” Zachariah Reitano, cofounder of Ro wrote in a blog post. “It’s an app to track your progress that is fully integrated to our custom EMR and pharmacy software. It’s 24/7 access to a doctor and a team of pharmacists.”
This isn’t the first time Ro has caught the attention of investors. In November 2017 the company announced that it landed $3.1 million in funding to launch its ED platform.
This latest news means it will be joining the growing space of digital health for addiction. Somatix’s platform SmokeBeat specifically focuses on cigarette smoking. It includes a wearable body motion detector that can tell when someone is smoking. It can send the user text messages to confirm and then use cognitive behavioral therapy to intervene.
Additionally, Carrot, a smoking cessation, carbon monoxide breath sensing system that connects to a smart phone app, landed FDA clearance last year. The device is designed for commercial use in smoking cessation programs.
“We had thousands of members asking for our help on how to attack the root cause of their ED. As we dove in, we saw a pattern. Physicians on the platform would reach out to us constantly for our favorite resources or programs on smoking cessation. Finally, one member asked us if we could help him directly,” Reitano wrote. “So the team asked ourselves what it would take to build the best online smoking cessation program in the country.”
Unlike its erectile dysfunction products, Zero is designed to be used by every sex. That means that the product needed to have a distinctive brand, according to the blog.
“Zero needed to resonate with a community too often looked down on,” Reitano wrote. “People who smoke know how bad it is. They don’t need another ad telling them they’re going to die. No one is going to be successfully shamed into quitting an addiction. They need someone to meet them at eye level and just be there when they’re ready.”