Why We Invested in Ditch Labs: A Modern Solution for Nicotine Addiction

An AI-driven solution to tackle a large-scale health problem

Fiona Hamilton
Sep 27 · 4 min read
Ditch Labs Founders Laurent Laferrière and Olivier Bourbonnais

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death with 1 out of every 5 deaths directly related to tobacco use. A nicotine addiction remains one of the most difficult addictions to curb permanently and current smoking cessation solutions have not proven to be effective. A CDC study found that while 68% of smokers want to quit smoking, only 55% will actually try to quit; sadly, a mere 7.5% of these attempts will be successful.

The CDC also found that about a third of quit attempts involve the use of an e-cigarette, making them the most popular choice to quit smoking. Nonetheless, only 18% of quit attempts using e-cigarettes are successful. The remaining e-cigarette users become addicted to these vaping devices, effectively replacing one problem with another.

Laurent and Olivier, both successful repeat entrepreneurs, became very passionate about tackling this problem when they noticed friends who tried to quit smoking becoming addicted to e-cigarettes. This prompted them to found Ditch Labs, a Montreal-based company which aims to combat smoking and vaping addictions by developing the first medically-approved hardware smoking cessation device. We are delighted to partner with a company that is addressing both the physiological and psychological components of addiction to effectively tackle this large-scale health problem.

Ditch Labs’ solution consists of a smart pulmonary nicotine inhaler, the DitchPen, paired with a mobile application, the DitchApp. The DitchPen allows for precise nicotine dosing and gradually decreases the quantity of nicotine delivered. The automatic and personalized decline provides a smooth withdrawal process and aims to limit withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The DitchApp acts as a complement to the DitchPen: it gathers user data to regulate the nicotine levels in the device and it offers a self-help program to the user.

DitchPen and DitchApp

The path to quitting smoking using the DitchPen is the following:

  1. The user fills out a proprietary clinically-validated questionnaire in the app, providing a wide variety of biometric and behavioural data points.
  2. During the first week, the patient uses the DitchPen without changing their habits: the nicotine delivered by the DitchPen replaces the nicotine previously delivered by the traditional cigarette or e-cigarette. Throughout this time, the app collects baseline data on the user’s behaviour.
  3. The proprietary algorithm combines the data collected by the device with the data initially provided by the user to create a nicotine reduction plan. This plan is then uploaded to the DitchPen. The data collected is also used to customize the self-help program which offers short educational articles and behavioural guidance to help the patient cope with addiction mechanisms.
  4. The DitchPen reduces the amount of nicotine over several weeks to zero while the self-care program assists the patient throughout the weaning process. During the treatment, the system monitors the patient’s consumption and behaviours to adjust the dosage.

Throughout the withdrawal process, the DitchApp provides the user with reward mechanisms and real-time behavioural support. The app can even predict cravings before they happen and can prepare users accordingly.

The device will retail for around $60, while the pods will be sold for between $7 and $9. A patient will use the device for an average of 24 weeks before completely withdrawing from nicotine.

Ditch Labs has surrounded itself with a strong team of advisors, who will help the team navigate the regulatory process. The company will begin clinical trials shortly, which will allow them to eventually file for FDA and Health Canada approval. Ditch Labs hopes to commercialize its product in the United Kingdom first, where regulations are more favourable and hopes to enter the US market in 2024.

The team currently has 10 people on board and is quickly growing. We strongly believe in the co-founders’ abilities to lead the team to new heights. Laurent Laferrière, the CEO, has had previous successes as a founder of Oatbox and Bombom. His co-founder and CTO, Olivier Bourbonnais, was also the co-founder and CTO of SmartHalo, a successful smart bike device startup.

We are thrilled to be an early partner of Ditch Labs, a strong team with a mission to improve the health of millions. The company is a great example of how we target investments in high-impact technologies that address important social problems.

Boreal Ventures

Funding deep tech, one seed at a time