Adelaide entrepreneur James Stewart has a clear goal – to rid the world of smoking.
James, a New Zealand national, is launching an attack on tobacco from his adopted home of Adelaide where he has found support, expertise and financial backing for his ambitious goal.
Kick.it is a web and mobile platform that logs the behaviour of regular smokers including when, where and with whom they light up. Then, through the engagement of family, friends and peers, smokers will be encouraged to stop smoking and get healthy together.
An ex-smoker himself, James says this program has the potential to create global change.
“What I want to pioneer is behavioural change,” he said.
“We need to be commercial but my driver is change. It’s my mission to wipe out smoking in my lifetime.”
Kick.it epitomizes the best of Adelaide’s startup ecosystem.
James moved to Adelaide in August 2011 after two former startup initiatives faltered leaving him burnt out. However it wasn’t long before he found himself engaging with leadership programs; first through Leadership Onkaparinga, a program provided by local government in his area, then through startup facilitators including Flinders University’s New Ventures Institute and the Young Entrepreneur Spark program at co-working space Hub Adelaide.
“I was surprised that someone still hadn’t built the world’s best smoking cessation app by early 2014 so I decided to try again,” James said.
“This time I pursued entrepreneurial education to learn how to successfully create a startup.
“Adelaide has a very strong scene for startups. It’s a very welcoming culture for the participants.
“(One thing that is) vital to having success as a startup is being embraced… (in Adelaide) people have time for you and open the door to you.”
These interactions were a real “game changer” for James. He not only gained confidence from positive responses about the idea, he also received guidance to refine it and develop crucial contacts.
Two such contacts are Hybrid Marketing and PricewaterhouseCoopers who have supported Kick.it with some seed funding. These connections came through presentations at Hub Adelaide and NVI where representatives from both companies saw an opportunity to support social enterprise.
“Kick.it has some good traction here in Adelaide, we are getting access to a few industry programs and these communities are small enough that everyone wants to see the other succeed,” James said.
“It’s the opposite to Tall Poppy syndrome and that’s really encouraging.”
These networks also led to a research partnership with the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research, an arm of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. James attended a Quitline training course for health professionals to deepen the theoretical side of the Kick.it platform. Now BHI researcher Joseph (Joep) van Agteren forms an integral part of the team.
Together Kick.it and BHI will run focus groups and scientific trials to understand the clinical needs of the social-media type platform.
“While most smokers are aware of the negative consequences, attempts to quit often fail…the lack of a supportive environment makes it really difficult for smokers to kick the habit on their own” Joep said.
“All aspects of the application are deeply rooted in scientific evidence and as it will be freely accessible it has the ability to influence the lives of millions of people.”
Research has shown that an eight per cent reduction in tobacco smoking in Australia would lead to 158,000 less cases of disease, reduce deaths by 5000 and save the health sector more than $490 million.
Yet the potential doesn’t stop there.
James believes that if successful, the platform could be manipulated to suit all types of health initiatives.
“I want to develop the prototype; to build this platform around behavioural change that could then translate to target obesity and fitness,” he said.
“I want to open source innovation… to use technology to become a thought leader in this space.”
Kick.it and Joep are finalists in The Hospital Research Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Awards. Two winners will receive $25,000 each for their research project.