Our investment in Pelago (formerly Quit Genius)

It’s estimated that 40% of all cancers are linked to smoking tobacco. In 2018, US businesses spent $120bn on healthcare claims directly related to the addictive habit, which disproportionately affects blue-collar jobs and low-income households.

There are companies and treatments out there attempting to tackle the problem, but of current solutions, many have less than 1% utilisation rates. They are largely generic and phone-call based and achieve quit rates of around 20%.

Real change

Pelago is set to change this. The Pelago programme involves a personalised CBT app, a connected carbon-monoxide detector, nicotine replacement therapy (patches and gum) and a personal quit coach for each user. The team have been able to build a product that has demonstrated a 53% quit rate for people using the app; this compares with the gold standard of one-to-one therapy at 27%. Because of this, Pelago can offer a 25% quit rate guarantee with their product.

Smokers and vapers are at high-risk of developing serious lung disease from COVID-19, so Pelago are offering free tobacco and vaping cessation programming to employers in April 2020. Find out more here.

The product

Personalisation is the key. A qualified quit coach supports each user through a 12-week programme, personalised to target each customer’s addictive triggers. With an increase in data of Pelago’s population, the company expects they can improve on their current quit rate percentages even more in the future.

Beyond smoking, the company is looking to tackle a whole spectrum of addictions. In any single person’s life these can take numerous different forms, including alcohol and opioid dependence. The team’s mission is to help 100 million people quit their addictions.

3 Founders

The team behind Pelago are a rare breed: Medical Doctors, from Imperial College London, with a history of entrepreneurship. Yusuf Sherwani, Co-founder & CEO, Maroof Ahmed, Co-founder & COO and Sarim Siddiqui, Co-founder & CPO, have combined their medical and commercial backgrounds to form a deep understanding of employers’ needs for this kind of guaranteed efficacy in tacking the enormous problem of addictive, health-threatening behaviours.

Testament to the quality of the founding team is the calibre of experienced US-based advisors they have attracted, from the likes of Livongo (Anmol Madan) and Hinge Health’s co-founder Gabriel Mecklenburg amongst others.

Our investment

Due to the binary outcomes of quitting smoking (you’ve either quit or you haven’t), data – and the higher efficacy – can play a vital role in helping self-insured employers take on the Pelago programme. The use of a carbon monoxide detector means the company can accurately measure the impacts of the program and show their customers the potential ROI savings from taking on Pelago.

Pelago joins our growing health portfolio at Octopus, now more than 10 companies strong, alongside the likes of Elvie and Big Health. We are hugely excited about the potential to build global businesses in this space, and our investment in Yusuf, Maroof, Sarim and the wider team is another step towards our ambition to become the top health investor in Europe.

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