Reframe, an app to help you cut down on drinking, raises $12.5 million as alcohol intake continues to climb
It was a night in jail that convinced Tara Nicole Johnson that she needed to make a change if she wanted to see her son grow up. She had been driving under the influence of alcohol and blacked out behind the wheel, crashing into a parked vehicle.
“That was the knock in the gut for me,” says Johnson, 32, who says has been a heavy drinker since she was around 14 years old. “It’s not something that I’m proud of.”
Johnson, a single mom, made a definitive decision to stop drinking after the accident, in 2019. She says it wasn’t hard at first. Every time she had the urge to drink, she’d go for a run. But then she began to go out with friends again, or her family would drink during the holidays, and it was tempting.
That was around the time Johnson started using Reframe, an app that helps individuals either cut back on alcohol consumption—or quit drinking altogether. “The first year, I made it a full 15 months sober without drinking alcohol—no slips,” she says. Prior to that, she had only been able to quit in two-week increments, she says.
Reframe, which was co-founded by Ziyi Gao and Vedant Pradeep, recently raised $12.5 million in Series A funding to help its approximately 100,000 paying subscribers cut back on drinking. The round, which valued the company at $100 million, was led by Goodwater Capital and joined by existing investors Atlanta Ventures, HOF Capital, and a series of angels in the Atlanta area, where Gao and Pradeep are based.
Reframe, which graduated from Y Combinator’s accelerator program last year (after initially being rejected three times), has helped nearly nine in 10 users meet their drinking goals within two months and collectively cut back drinking levels by 50%.
Reframe allows users to set goals, and it features daily tasks to complete, a drink log, educational resources, and a forum to interact with others anonymously. It charges an average of $14 a month for the base subscription depending on the selected payment plan, and users can add a coaching service for an additional fee.
“I love the science-backed information,” Johnson says, noting that it has helped her better understand why it is that she drinks, and what she can do to correct it, rather than relying on herself to set her own plan. Most importantly, she likes the community.
“It can be 10 o’clock at night if I’m laying in bed and can’t go to sleep, and I want to get a drink,” she says. “I can just pop on my phone and connect with somebody.”
Pradeep says the app is meant to be a resource that sits in between a formal organization like Alcoholics Anonymous, or relying on your own strong will. “For most people that are just looking to cut back, there’s really no solution,” Pradeep says.
Pradeep and Gao don’t struggle with alcohol abuse themselves, although Pradeep uses the app to help with his OCD compulsions. The two of them wanted to build something that helps people with their mental health, and they eventually want to expand beyond the topic of alcohol consumption and focus on improving people’s mental health, fitness levels, and nutrition.
Reframe, which currently has a team of 20, crossed $10 million in annual recurring revenue last month, Pradeep says, and now the two founders say they want to use that revenue and the influx of new capital to focus on exposure and expanding awareness for their product.
Coronavirus, in particular, has led to a surge in heaving drinking. Since March 2020, individuals have been turning to alcohol—and quite a lot of it, according to research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. More than 60% of respondents said they had started drinking more since the pandemic, many of whom said it was because of stress or because it was more readily available. More than one-third reported “extreme binge drinking.”
Reframe, which is currently only offered in English, is collecting user inputs and data to see overall trends. It is anonymized and can’t be used on an individualized basis, according to Pradeep. The founders say they will never sell the data to third parties.
“All the analytics and data analysis that we do is to make sure that the product is more useful for our users and that they find more value from it,” Pradeep says. “Nothing else, because we personally don't like the whole idea of advertisements and how that works.”
For Johnson, there is no solution that can completely remove the urge to drink—though the app and the community she has found within it have done an awful lot to help.
“People can make it years and years and years,” Johnson says, adding “There’s still days that you struggle. It’s not a perfect thing.”
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