Image Credits: Sunny side
“Sober curious” and “conscious drinking” have become popular terms in recent years, with 47% of the American adult population wanting to cut back on alcohol. Sunnyside, the app that promotes healthy drinking habits, secured $11.5 million in Series A funding led by Motley Fool Ventures with major participation from Will Ventures, the company announced today. The funds will help Sunnyside launch its new AI-aware drinking coach named “Sunny,” which generates recommended responses for Sunnyside’s team of human coaches.
Other participants in the round include Uncork Capital, Offline Ventures, Joyance Partners, Wisdom Ventures, Eudemian Ventures, Adjacent, Scribble Ventures, Cooley LLP and MyFitnessPal founder Michael Lee. To date, Sunnyside has raised a total of $14.6 million.
Alongside the funding announcement, the company revealed its newest hire – Steve Lloyd, Chief Product and Technology Officer. Lloyd previously held the same role for fitness app Strava.
“Two years ago I started using Sunnyside to help me get my own drinking habits under control,” Lloyd said. “From day one, there was never any guilt or shame about missing my weekly commitment, just positive and motivational reinforcement and an acknowledgment that it’s not always easy to change ingrained habits. I am keen to bring my previous experience in technology and wellness to Sunnyside to help create product experiences that bring our community together to support each other on a conscious drinking journey.”
For $99 per year, Sunnyside’s app features daily drink tracking, text reminders to keep you on track with your goals, a personal one-on-one coaching program, and a community chat section to share struggles/wins with other members. The cost is on par with Reframe, a similar app that costs $8.33 per month or $100 per year.
An analysis panel calculates how much money and calories you have saved so far by cutting back on drinking. Plus, you can take part in challenges to help you stay accountable, such as a 30-day alcohol recovery or competing with your friends to see who can drink 50% less than normal.
You can also sign up for the $298 annual premium subscription for weekly Zoom check-ins with coaches and faster response times. Sunnyside also offers a free 15-day trial if you want to quickly learn how to reduce your alcohol consumption and then cancel your subscription.
Sunnyside’s new AI mindful drinking coach aims to support coaches by answering simple questions from members. For example, if you’re going to a party and still only want to stick to one alcoholic drink, Sunny can give tips on how to stick to your goal. Instead of Sunny responding directly to members, the AI coach generates recommendations that a human coach reviews before sending them as SMS.
“Our team of coaches will remain a central part of the experience long-term… The goal is not to (AI) replace the human (but) make them more efficient and free up their time to do deeper, individualized coaching,” Allen told U.S.
Built on ChatGPT, the AI is loaded with Sunnyside’s data set around members’ “drinking patterns, long-term behavioral changes and drinking habits,” explained Sunnyside CEO and co-founder Nick Allen, formerly head of growth at Lyft for Business.
Sunnyside recruits coaches who are long-time members and consistently successful with the program. There are about 20 coaches, all of whom have gone through an “independently developed coaching certification program in conjunction with a licensed counselor,” Allen said.
“This is like the sponsor/sponsorship model. We’ve brought some of the best practices into our coaching experience, where you need the support of people who have empathy because they’ve already been on the journey,” he added.
But even though Sunnyside trainers are trained by professionals, that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to give medical advice.
“We’re sure to be upfront about the fact that these are peers, and these are not licensed counselors or therapists. These coaches are there to be a friend in your corner rather than a professional provider,” he warned.
(Note: if you are addicted to alcohol, it can be dangerous to stop drinking altogether. Possible symptoms include hand tremors, sweating, depression, anxiety, insomnia or even seizures. If you experience any of these, it is important that you seek professional help.)
Founded by Allen and Ian Andersen (CGO), Sunnyside was born as an alternative to sobriety-focused programs, sparking a conversation among alcoholics about the negative effects of uncontrolled drinking.
“The goal of the funding is to catalyze this movement of conscious drinking, to break through in the popular health conversation. Our mission is to become a household name for anyone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol… We want to create a very differentiated brand from that that’s in the alcohol treatment market today. We’re meeting players coming from this lens of recovery and sobriety,” Allen said.
Allen shared his personal experience with us regarding alcoholism, growing up in a household with two parents who were recovering alcoholics. Andersen also has a history of alcoholics in his family, with his mother passing away from liver failure related to alcoholism.
“This is a deeply personal mission for both my co-founder and I,” Allen told us.
Since its launch in 2020, Sunnyside says it has helped over 200,000 people ditch 13.5 million drinks. These are impressive numbers, given that alcohol use skyrocketed during the pandemic. According to the company, Sunnyside members have reduced their drinking by an average of 32%, cut 1,500 calories and saved over $50 in their first month of signing up.
Sunnyside is available for download in the Apple Store.
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