For Mike Maser, CEO of Big Sky Health, fasting was a way to try to fight cancer as he underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatment for Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Research he’d found showed that fasting could help better target malignant cells.
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Serial entrepreneur Kevin Rose had started the company behind Zero in 2016 but was ready to move on to join True Ventures. So in 2018, Maser acquired the company and rebranded it as Big Sky Health with the mission of making fasting “more accessible and personalized for all.” (Sidenote: He’s thankfully now cancer-free.)
Specifically, the Zero app aims to provide custom, adaptive fasting plans and “exclusive, science-backed content” to help guide users wanting to improve their health.
Today, Montana-based Big Sky Health announced it has raised $8 million in Series A funding to help it advance on its goals. Greycroft led the oversubscribed financing, which also included “above pro rata participation” from existing backers True Ventures and Trinity Ventures. The latest investment brings Big Sky Health’s total raised to $12.2 million, according to Crunchbase data. The company had previously raised $4.2 million across two tranches of a seed round from True Ventures, Trinity Ventures, and individual investors including such as former NFL player Tony Gonzalez, WordPress co-founder and Automatic CEO Matt Mullenweg, and Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus.
Serendipitously, the intermittent fasting trend has taken off in recent years, only fueling demand for Zero. Since launching in 2017, Zero has recorded over 1.5 billion hours of fasting across nearly 100 million completed fasts. Interestingly, more than one-third, or 37 million, of those fasts were recorded this year alone. This translates into a 500 percent spike in active users compared to 2019, according to Maser.
“We’re adding about 20,000 new users per day,” he told Crunchbase News. “And we haven’t even been doing any advertising. This has been purely organic growth. Fasting is where meditation was five years ago. And as we’ve been the leading product in the space, we’ve been able to take a disproportionate share of that growth.”
In conjunction with its funding announcement, Big Sky Health also launched today a subscription product called Zero Plus which builds upon its free offering.
“We’re still committed to democratizing the fasting lifestyle for anyone who wants it, but our No. 1 request from users has been getting more guidance, and that’s what the premium subscription will offer,” Maser said. “It’s basically getting a custom fasting plan and the ability to adjust that plan over time based on how you’re accomplishing your goals and how you’re feeling.”
Zero Plus is being offered at an “introductory subscription price” of $9.99 a month or $49.99 a year at launch, with a free one week trial.
Greycroft Principal Teddy Citrin said he was an avid user of Zero and saw “firsthand” how it “positively affected people’s lives.”
“When Mike pitched us on his vision for the company, our team quickly became enamored with Mike’s personal journey, the incredible traction of the product, and the massive market potential of this business,” he said in a statement.
The company’s chief medical officer and Zero co-founder, Dr. Peter Attia, said he had long implemented fasting in his own practice.
“I’ve seen how fasting has worked for some of my patients, which is why it was so important to me to grow the reliable tools that are out there for others,” he said.
Besides Zero, Big Sky Health also offers an alcohol tracker called Less, as well as a meditation and breathing app called Oak. The totally distributed company (even before the pandemic) has 15 employees. It plans to do more hiring with its new funding, as well as focusing on customer acquisition.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias