Startup of the Week: Smokio (Wired UK)


Smokio


Smokio makes an electronic
cigarette that connects wirelessly to an app in order for smokers
to monitor their consumption. It’s designed to help better coach
smokers into quitting tobacco. It was founded by former GroupOn
exec Steve Anavi, Wimdu.com founder Alexandre Prot and electronics
manufacturing entrepreneur Emrah Yuceer. Wired.co.uk caught up with
Prot.

Founders: Steve Anavi, Alexandre Prot, Emrah
Yuceer
Headquarters: London
Launch: August 2013 (product started shipping in
March 2014)
Staff: 10
Funding: VC and angel investment

What is your USP?

Smokio connects wirelessly to a proprietary app on the user’s
smartphone, letting the user not only monitor their consumption,
but also control their electronic cigarette by changing the vapour
density.

What problem do you solve?

Over 5 million people die every year from smoking-related diseases.
This figure is expected to increase to 6 million by 2030 (WHO) if
nothing changes. Trillions of dollars are spent every year by
healthcare systems in treating smoking-related illnesses, and
economies lose billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.
Anecdotal evidence, and an increasing number of scientific studies,
indicates that smokers who use electronic cigarettes to quit are
far more likely to succeed than those who try to quit cold turkey,
or use any other form of substitutes.

Smokio is a high quality, beautifully designed electronic
cigarette which, when linked to the Smokio app, becomes a coach for
both smokers looking to quit smoking, and ex-smokers trying to stay
off tobacco.

How do you plan to make money?

Direct (B2C) and indirect (B2B) sales

Where did you get the idea for the
business?


Both of our [Alex and Steve] mothers are smokers, and tried to quit
using electronic cigarettes. We found it very difficult to monitor
the amount that they vaped — there was no easily accessible way to
track the number of puffs they had during a day, or to convert that
into an equivalent number of cigarettes; in the end, like many new
vapers, they probably ingested more nicotine when they started
vaping than they would have done when smoking. We realised that,
given the right tools and feedback, the electronic cigarette could
become the most important and useful tool you could use to quit
smoking. By providing feedback and long-term consumption
information, you could accurately track your progress, set future
goals and cut both cigarettes, and then nicotine, out of your life
completely.

What’s the biggest misconception about your
business?


Many people, including some in the medical and research industries,
view e-cigs with suspicion, thinking that you’re only swapping one
addiction for another — they would rather you quit smoking
completely. If viewed from the perspective of harm reduction,
however, we believe passionately that e-cigs are a force for good
— and an increasing number of experts tend to agree with that.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals, 700 of
which are toxic and 70 of which actively carcinogenic. High-quality
e-cig vapour should contain only propylene glycol, vegetable
glycerin, a flavouring, and in some cases nicotine. Whilst the
long-term effects are not yet completely understood, surely in the
short term it is simple to see that switching people from tobacco
cigarettes to electronic cigarettes will significantly lower the
5,000,000 people that the WHO says die every year from
smoking-related diseases.

Can you express in some tangible terms how the business
has developed?


We’ve sold thousands of e-cigs and millions of puffs have been
taken since March 2014.

What has been the most challenging time for the
company?


Early 2014. We missed our first release date (1st Jan 2014) due to
technical development problems. We then had to push back the second
release date due to software problems. We only launched the Android
app (in beta) at beginning of April — frankly too soon as
well.

How did you overcome that?

Working every hour god gave, and then a few more!

To what extent is the regulatory environment a threat to
Smokio’s business model?


Depending on the form of eventual regulations, we don’t believe
it’s too strong. We have very high-quality material inputs,
manufacturing processes and quality control, so we’re confident
that whatever the eventual form of the FDA or EU’s regulations, we
will be able to sell in our largest markets. Our kits contain no
nicotine, so there’s no problem with customs into countries that
have restrictions on nicotine transport. Obviously, the increasing
prevalence of legislation banning electronic cigarette use in
public places is disappointing — no study has shown that there is
any risk of second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes, most studies show
very few non-smokers starting with e-cigs — but this will impact
the electronic cigarette industry equally.

Which business person do you most admire and
why?


Dr Dre; he revolutionised a fairly static industry by insisting on
high quality output, great branding and fantastic marketing. We aim
to do the same.

What is your biggest barrier to future
success?


Speed of innovation. The e-cig industry is in its infancy, and as a
result is evolving very quickly. We have to adapt quickly to stay
ahead of the curve.

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Source: wired.co.uk
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