David Utley Joins Startup Savant to Talk About His Startup Pivot

Everyone knows that tobacco use is addictive and unhealthy. It’s so unhealthy, in fact, that lifetime tobacco users will die more than 55 percent of the time from their habit. Unfortunately, many of the existing programs that aim to help people quit don’t work very well. David Utley, M.D., joins Startup Savant to talk about his startup Pivot, which uses proven techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to help people ditch nicotine for good.

  • Startup Savant is a business podcast that tells the stories behind up-and-coming startups.
  • David Utley joins Startup Savant to talk about his startup Pivot.
  • Pivot uses proven techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to help people quit smoking once and for all.

Former Cancer Surgeon Becomes a Founder

David is a former head and neck cancer surgeon at Stanford Medical Center. During his interview with Startup Savants, he said his work taught him the dangers of smoking first hand. He noted that all forms of tobacco use are collectively the world’s leading cause of preventable illness and death. In fact, all of his patients at Stanford used tobacco, which led to them developing serious cancers during middle age or later in life. 

David and his colleagues did what they could, which mostly involved operating to remove tumors, etc. While these efforts obviously helped preserve and extend the patients’ lives, they wouldn’t have been necessary if the patients had had better preventive care – in particular, better tobacco cessation interventions. However, he said most existing programs are not very effective because they simply set a date for you to quit and then “cut you loose.” 

The result of all of this is millions of entirely preventable deaths. For example, David said three times as many people died from tobacco use in the U.S. over the past three years as died from covid. He thought he could do something about an ongoing disaster that’s 300 percent more deadly than the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history. Eventually, he hit upon an idea that became Pivot.

Pivot Relies on Evidence-Based Strategies

Pivot, through a program called Pivot Breath, seeks to better inform people about their tobacco use and help them come up with more effective ways to kick the habit. In particular, it uses “evidence-based strategies” to help tobacco users learn about what they are actually putting in their bodies. Pivot also educates people about the dangers of tobacco products other than cigarettes, such as vaping products and smokeless tobacco. 

David said during his interview that tobacco use causes lifelong conditions and thus should be treated like other chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, mental health issues, musculoskeletal disease, and cardiovascular disease. Pivot wants to help people quit not just temporarily, but for the rest of their (hopefully longer) lives. 

To that end, the company consulted Department of Health and Human Services guidelines to learn what works and what doesn’t. The company’s plan includes personal assistance from trained coaches, Food and Drug Administration-approved nicotine replacement products, a mobile app that customers can use for cognitive behavioral therapy, and other services to help clients stop smoking for good.

Startup Savant Podcast 

The Startup Savant podcast is a business podcast created by The Really Useful Information Company (TRUiC) and hosted by Ethan Peyton, founder of StateRequirement. Listeners can hear the stories behind startups, as told by their founders, that are in the midst of growing their companies.

Hear from a variety of real startup founders from around the globe and with varying backgrounds, making their startup idea a reality. Learn from experts sharing their industry knowledge on venture capital, securing funding, and more on the Startup Savant podcast. 

Final Thoughts

David Utley joins Startup Savant to talk about his startup Pivot. He explains how Pivot helps people quit smoking before the habit causes more serious health complications than it already has.

You can find the Startup Savant podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.