That’s why the entrepreneurs teamed up four years ago to help others get through substance abuse treatment and avoid relapsing by using a smartphone app. Now some deep-pocketed investors have joined their mission.
Seattle-based startup WeConnect today announced a $6 million Series A investment round to fuel growth of its research-based technology that supports those recovering from addiction. Investors include Fred Luddy, the billionaire founder of tech giant ServiceNow, and several other high net worth backers.
Tudor, the company’s CEO, struggled with addiction while leading a previous startup. She landed in treatment and saw the lack of resources available to patients once they got out of rehab.
“I learned that 90 percent of people relapse 60 days after getting treatment,” Tudor said. “That was very shocking to me.”
Jensen is a former tennis professional who won the 1993 French Open Doubles championship with his brother. But as he rose to celebrity status atop the tennis world, he struggled with drugs and alcohol. Rock bottom came six years later after a first-round loss at the 1999 U.S. Open. Luckily, he saw an interventionist and set off on an ongoing road to recovery.
Tudor and Jensen met in 2014. They teamed up with Jen Mallory, a former account director at Razorfish, and the three co-founders worked to release WeConnect in 2016.
Murphy, who retired from tennis in 2006 and now coaches a World Team Tennis franchise, said there are 26 million Americans struggling with addiction.
“This is beyond a healthcare crisis,” said Murphy, who has lost four friends this year to addiction. “We are in a state of emergency.”
The app, which is being used by thousands of patients across the U.S., focuses on the first year of recovery after treatment — risk of relapse drops by 60 percent after 365 days of recovery, Tudor said. Accountability is a pillar of the app, which rewards users for achieving milestones. It also provides easy access to a support network, which includes counselors and loved ones.
WeConnect sells its software to treatment facilities, helping them offer the technology to patients while enabling tracking of treatment plan routines and verified outcome data. It eventually plans to partner with commercial insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
“Drug and alcohol addiction in the United States costs the economy $442 billion a year while ruining millions of people’s lives,” Tim Kerr, a WeConnect investor, said in a statement. “WEconnect uses evidence-based treatment methods to create a support network for patients across the US. WEconnect will put support in the pockets of every patient using techniques research shows cuts relapse rates.”
WeConnect, which won the TechCrunch Seattle pitch-off event in 2016, employs 24 people and will grow its team with the fresh funding.
Murphy said something like WeConnect “would have helped a lot” when he was struggling with addiction. He wants to follow in the footsteps of tennis legends such as Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King, athletes who used their success to create social impact.
“All of us [at WeConnect] are going to look back and this will be the most important work we do in our lifetime because we’re looking at future generations that will be faced with this,” Murphy said. “Using technology as a solution is a home run — thank God.”