Erectile Dysfunction Startup Roman Raised $88 Million to Help You Stop Smoking

September 18, 2018, 12:30 PM UTC

Until now, Roman has marketed itself as a men’s wellness company, primarily focused on erectile dysfunction. Today, it’s dropping the “man” from its name and re-branding as Ro, “a mission-driven healthcare company.” (Roman will continue to exist as a standalone vertical under the Ro umbrella.)

Additionally, it announced $88 million in Series A funding to expand its offerings beyond erectile dysfunction. FirstMark Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including SignalFire, Initialized Capital, General Catalyst, Slow Ventures, Sinai Ventures, Torch Capital, BoxGroup, and Tusk Ventures.

It’s also debuting a new vertical called Zero, a service meant to tackle addiction, starting with helping people quit smoking. Why is an erectile dysfunction startup fighting smoking, you may wonder?

“Not many people know that ED is an early symptom of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure,” said Zachariah Reitano, Ro CEO and co-founder. “But if one of those things doesn’t exist, it’s usually a sign of poor lifestyle habits from stress to lack of sleep to drinking. And one of the big ones is smoking.”

When asked why the focus on smoking and not on some of the other factors he listed such as stress, drinking, or lack of sleep, Reitano said it’s because “a large percentage” of Ro’s existing customers were cigarette smokers. He declined to disclose the percentage, saying it’s in the double-digits.

Courtesy of Ro

After a customer completes an online visit about their medical history and smoking habits, a U.S. licensed physician will recommend a personalized quit program. From there, the company will offer a “Quit Kit” that costs $129 per month and offers a combination of bupropion (a prescription medication used to treat depression that can also help control smoking cravings), nicotine gum, and an app.

Reitano told Term Sheet Ro currently has a team of 70 employees and is on pace to do “tens of millions” in revenue by the end of the year.

It’s not entirely clear why a startup that launched less than a year ago wants to tackle a problem like cigarette smoking, especially given the fact that vape company Juul has raised $1.2 billion in funding to “eliminate cigarettes” and “help smokers switch to a better alternative.”

Other startups have tried everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to wearables to virtual reality with limited results. Although 70% of smokers want to quit (about half try to quit every year), only 3% are successful, according to the CDC.

Whether Ro is the startup to help customers kick this habit, I’ll leave to you to decide.

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