By Lauren Ferrone
When New Zealand-born, James Stewart, became depressed after losing everything on a start-up venture back home, his first thought was to quit.
But James isn’t exactly a ‘quitter’ when it comes to most things – except cigarettes.
The 32-year-old ex-smoker moved to Adelaide a couple of years ago for a second chance to create smartphone app Kick.it to help people quit smoking.
“I was really over smoking, and had tried a couple of times to quit and failed. I thought: ‘There has to be a cooler way to do this’,” James says.
He started to pitch and develop Kick.it with organisations and researchers in New Zealand, including Quitline New Zealand, whose CEO was that impressed she handed James $50,000 in advance.
“We ended up securing that money, but the development costs were more than that so we ran out of cash. I became super burnt-out and depressed before moving to Adelaide after being encouraged by family friends who live here,” he adds.
After two years of research development in Adelaide, James’ start-up venture Kick.it is now becoming, what he calls, the world’s first smoking cessation research platform.
Kick.it uses mobile and bluetooth technology to help millions of smokers kick the habit through: peer support and networking; research; tips and advice; and more.
“The reality is, only four per cent of people use Quitline to help them to stop smoking. The big picture is for Kick.it to become a leading software company where health professionals refer their patients or clients,”he says.
James, who ‘kicked’ his smoking habit five years ago, recently won the national finals in the Bridge to Mass Challenge in Sydney. He is now one of 10 Australian startups heading to Boston for a five-day entrepreneurial boot-camp program next February.
Despite it taking an average of seven attempts to quit smoking, James says people can, in fact, ‘kick it’.
“Stopping smoking is possible… and, with Kick.it, I hope we’re somehow able to increase people’s chances of success,” he says.
“It’s not a magic bullet, but Kick.it is based on peer support so we can kick the habit together,” he says.
“From a traumatic experience and losing everything in New Zealand to what I’ve now achieved in Adelaide, it’s been quite a supportive journey… there’s a really good start up community here,” he says.
James is working with Basil Hetzel Institute to run focus groups and scientific trials and is also in discussions with researchers from Adelaide, Auckland, Sydney, Newcastle and Tasmania to build the first trials on the Kick.it Research Platform.
He recently presented Kick.it to SAHMRI’s Aboriginal Health research team, and plans to work with universities, research institutes, tobacco control organisations, hospitals and health care workers to continually develop and promote the app.
There are now plans to test and refine the app in preparation for a soft launch by April next year.
Did you know…?
James gives us the stats behind going nicotine-free:
- If a spouse quits smoking, you’re 67% more likely to quit too
- If your close friend quits smoking, you’re 36% more likely to stop
- If a colleague quits smoking, you’re 34% more likely to stop