Startup of the week:
Who they are: DxRx Medical
What they do: They built an app that helps people struggling with their alcohol use either cut back or stop drinking altogether.
Why it’s cool: Most alcoholics aren’t getting the treatment they need, according to research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Just 8 percent of U.S. adults suffering from alcohol use disorder got treatment at a facility in 2015.
“It’s the last major chronic disease which is essentially untreated in the United States,” said DxRx founder David Deacon. His co-founder, Dr. John Mendelson, is a medical doctor who specializes in addiction.
That’s where San Francisco-based DxRx comes in. New patients start by having a video interview with a doctor, after which they receive a diagnosis and likely a prescription for a drug such as Naltrexone — which is intended to reduce the craving for alcohol. A counselor speaks to the patient at least once a week, either by phone, video call or text, and the app tracks the patient’s progress. The patient is asked to buy a breathalyzer and test his or her blood alcohol level every morning and evening. The app’s analytics also can predict when a patient is going to have a relapse, and take steps to avoid that setback.
DxRx is intended for alcoholics or anyone who would rather drink less, from people who tend to have a few too many at parties, to people who drink a bottle of liquor every day. The idea is to change problematic drinking habits before they get out of hand, Deacon says. And the platform won’t force patients to give up alcohol entirely, instead allowing them to drink in moderation. Though programs like Alcoholics Anonymous tend to say even one drink can be damaging for someone in recovery, Deacon argues such an approach is outdated and deters people from seeking help.
DxRx costs $99 a month, but Deacon says the platform plans to accept insurance starting in September.
Where they stand: DxRx has treated 95 patients throughout California since launching at the start of this year. Of those, five have dropped out, five have “graduated,” and 85 are still in treatment. The startup comes out of the San Francisco-based IndieBio Accelerator.
Only in Silicon Valley:
Just when you thought the options for new social media and message-sharing services had been exhausted, meet Skrite — the app that’s a cross between Facebook and skywriting. Skrite, which launched this week, invites users to point their iPhone at the sky, type a message or draw a picture, and “post” it there for all the world to see. The idea is that when other Skrite users log on, they’ll be able to see messages all over the horizon.
I tried it out, and while I didn’t see many other Skrite messages, I left my own picture of a heart hovering over The Mercury News office in downtown San Jose.
Run the numbers:
More bad news for Uber. The controversy swirling around the company (claims of sexual harassment and other bad behavior in the workplace, among other scandals) is, in fact, making some customers less likely to use its ride-hailing app, according to another study by market research firm Morning Consult. A survey of 1,652 Uber users found 23 percent said recent headlines made them use the app less, while 32 percent either had deleted or stopped using it altogether. But in possible good news for the company, 28 percent of customers who stopped using the app said they’d come back if CEO Travis Kalanick left (he resigned this week). And 35 percent said they could be lured back with lower prices.
Despite the recent scandals 77 percent of users said they were satisfied with the Uber app.
Will we miss Travis? While some of Silicon Valley cheered when Kalanick resigned as CEO of Uber this week, forced out by his investors after months of scandals, a wide swath of Uber employees reportedly were heartbroken by his departure. This Travis fan club launched a petition to get their CEO back, with Axios reporting more than 1,000 Uber employees had signed the document and taken their demand to the company’s board.
Meanwhile, Uber employee and writer Andrew Chen wrote an open letter singing Kalanick’s praises, including his attention to detail, willingness to make himself available, optimism and energy.
“It’s hard to imagine someone else stepping into TK’s shoes,” Chen wrote, “and the bar will be insanely high.”
Photo: A Lagunitas Dopple Weizen is pulled at Martinez’s Creek Monkey Tap House on Thursday Dec. 29, 2011, in Martinez, Calif. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)
Tags: alcoholism, apps, startup, Travis Kalanick, Uber