Carrot CEO David Utley on VatorNews podcast

Steven Loeb · June 25, 2021 · Short URL:

Carrot's Pivot platform helps people quit smoking by combining behavioral science and technology

Steven Loeb and Bambi Francisco interview David Utley, CEO of Carrot, a digital health company that helps people quit smoking. Its platform, called Pivot, takes a multifaceted approach to getting people to quit smoking, involving mobile technology, behavioral science, and clinical expertise.

Carrot was founded in 2015, and has raised $30.8 million in funding from investors that include JJDC, New York Life Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Marc Benioff, and R7 Partners.

For these digital health podcasts, our goal is to also understand these three high-level questions: How are we empowering the consumer? Are we creating productivity that also allows us to see overall economic costs go down? How is this advancement changing the role of the doctor?

Highlights from the interview:

  • Utley was an academic head and neck surgeon at Stanford, where he was responsible for all the tumors for northern California, most of which were caused by tobacco use. He left in 2003 to start a company a cancer therapeutics company, and then started Carrot to tackle the problem that tobacco causes, which includes premature death, illness, tremendous cost and suffering, with a scalable, mobile solution.
  • Carrot started in 2015 with the premise of creating a medical device, like a FitBit or a glucose meter, that was Bluetooth connected and could measure a biomarker in the bloodstream or the breath to tobacco use. Since then, the company has launched a complete program which includes a user-centered app, which gives users access to a coach, nicotine replacement therapy, and a HIPAA-compliment community.
  • 1.4 billion people smoke globally. The number of smokers are going up around the world, and while they are falling in the U.S., due to an increased interest in wellness, there are still 34 million smokers in the U.S., more than the number of people with type 2 diabetes patients.
  • The company sells into large self-insured employers, like Target, and also health plans, like Blue Cross of North Carolina. When the program is offered for free, they will join because, even if they don't want to quit, it has something for them. Only 30% who join are ready to quit in the next month, but there's an equal success rate with those who do and don't want to quit.  
  • An employee who uses tobacco will cost that employer $7,000 to $10,000 more per year due to lower productivity and higher health claims. So, there's a strong financial story to tell potential buyers: if 10% of their tobacco using population quit smoking, it's a huge reduction in costs.  
  • Carrot measures success as somebody that has not smoked for 30 days. Roughly 35% of users quit fully at seven months, compared to 1% who quit cold turkey and 5% with pharma-assisted quitting. 
  • There was a rise of people smoking during the COVID pandemic, with cigarette sales rising, and a 27% reduction in the number of people seeking formal tobacco cessation programs. While COVID killed 3.9 million people in 2020, while 10.5 million people died from tobacco use. 

This podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp and VatorNews listeners get 10% off their first month at This podcast is also brought by Octave, your partner for mental health and emotional well-being. Learn more at Also thanks to NeuroFlow, which is working with hundreds of healthcare organizations to provide best-in-class technology and services for the effective integration of behavioral health.

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