‘Sober App’ High On Fighting Addiction
New York City-based LOOSID is raising capital for an ad-supported online platform featuring dating, leisure, therapy and more.
By Marlene Givant Star
Like many addicts, MJ Gottlieb, a former alcohol and cocaine abuser, remembers the exact day he became sober: March 21, 2012.
Now, the co-founder and CEO of LOOSID is giving away his “sober app” for free ahead of his company’s first institutional capital raise.
Gottlieb’s app, created in 2017, makes it easy to find new friends, date, go to fun events and destinations, and get support from groups in one’s community that promote sober living. LOOSID includes a full suite of recovery tools for people to connect and get help at a moment’s notice without leaving their homes, a plus during the pandemic.
Even before coronavirus hit, over 21 million Americans had at least one addiction yet only 10% got help.
COVID-19 gives new urgency to the need for a social connection for those battling addiction. Deadly drug overdoses in the U.S. have spiked since the pandemic took hold. With in-person Alcoholics Anonymous and addiction meetings put on pause, and people more hesitant to travel to rehab, treatment and assistance are being overlooked. Since the start of the pandemic, LOOSID has seen more than an 80% increase in monthly active users, while weekly active has risen nearly 107%.
Before starting LOOSID, Gottlieb owned and operated six businesses over the last 23 years. He is also the author of How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying, a book written for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The capital LOOSID is raising will total $2.5 million in growth equity, Gottlieb told Mergermarket, and he hopes to close the round by year-end. LOOSID is being advised by 361 Firm, a social impact firm that works with family offices around the U.S. “We’re very careful about who we select,” he noted.
LOOSID is currently pre-revenue and focusing on user growth. The LOOSID app has 81,000 free installs to date. In 2021, it will have a soft launch with selected advertising partners, which is projected to bring revenue to $6 million.
“We’re the first to market with what we’re doing. We want to capitalize on that and scale the user base,” Gottlieb added. “This is absolutely not a money play – it’s a passion play. The money will certainly follow but we won’t sacrifice profit over purpose — even when we exit.”
LOOSID offers addiction hotlines, virtual chatroom support, sober dating and booze-less menus with partnering restaurants, free of charge. The company is partnering with treatment facilities and telehealth providers to generate advertising revenue, as well as with restaurants and venues that provide alcohol-free libations.
Gottlieb envisions the platform will be used around the world. In 2022, it will generate full scale advertising revenue as well as subscription revenue. He estimated the total at $29 million.
He said he expects the app to be free through the second quarter of next year. After that, in-app purchases and subscriptions to a premium version of LOOSID will drive revenue, along with advertising, Gottlieb added.
The company has been funded by Gottlieb’s co-founder, Zhanna Basina, whose whole family has been ravaged by addiction. The third co-founder is her oldest son, Kirill Basin. Basina sold her previous healthcare company to private equity.
LOOSID provides comprehensive technology covering the addiction lifecycle — from active addiction to recovery and sobriety. “We want to show people how cool it is to be sober,” he said.
The company is addressing the three stigmas associated with addiction: that it’s something to be ashamed of, that it’s no fun to be sober and that recovery requires willpower and moral fortitude. “We want to help people realize that the feelings of emptiness and isolation are the same for everyone. It’s not their fault.”
Marlene Givant Star is New York editor-sector coverage for Mergermarket and Dealreporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.