COVID-19 Startups Venture

Serial Entrepreneur Mike Russell Taps Into Own Struggle With Alcoholism For Newest Startup

Serial entrepreneur Mike Russell launched his newest startup, Monument, on Monday. The New York City-based online treatment platform is designed for users looking to change their relationship with alcohol by connecting with physicians, therapists and peers.

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Accompanying the launch is a $7.5 million seed round led by six investors that backed Russell’s previous startups, MyClean and Paintzen.

“They believe in me, but also what I am trying to do: Create a phenomenal business while making impactful change,” Russell told Crunchbase News.

The seed round included Lerer Hippeau, Collaborative Fund, Red Sea Ventures, NextView Ventures, Corigin Ventures and Data Point Capital.

“We are thrilled to be backing Mike again, after having worked alongside him at Paintzen for many years,” Taylor Greene, general partner at Collaborative Fund, said via email. “The companies that push the world forward sit at the center of our mission and business, and helping people change their relationship with alcohol is a mission driven business that we believe in.”

Russell plans to use the new funding to expand treatment offerings across the country and add a therapist-moderated support group option to the platform.

Before founding Monument, Russell has started two companies aimed at helping people cross items off their “honey do” lists. The first was MyClean, a marketplace for home and office cleaners. The second was Paintzen, a network of experienced painters, that was acquired by PPG Industries in 2018.

Seeking therapy

Russell chronicled his alcohol addiction realization and journey toward therapy in a January 2020 Medium blog post.

“I learned there were all of these diagnoses, severities of drinking and relationships with alcohol,” he said. “I am fortunate to not have a severe relationship. I never thought about drinking in the morning, or on a daily basis, but when I would go out, my one drink would turn into 20.”

While looking for therapy, Russell said he found options for more intensive care and lifestyle changes, but he wanted an option that would fit into his lifestyle.

“That was the disconnect,” he added. “The other programs are fantastic, but they were not built for me.”

Enter Monument, a platform designed for someone with a low to moderate relationship with alcohol, to support sobriety or moderation, and personalized to members’ goals, lifestyles and preferences.

Although Monument is not for someone with a severe relationship to alcohol, it can help anyone connect with physicians and therapists who understand their disease, Russell said.

The online platform includes leading experts in the addiction field who have built research-based treatment plans, which include access to an anonymous community of peers, virtual therapist-moderated support groups, and options for one-on-one video therapy and physician-prescribed medication.

Due to the COVID-19 quarantine, Russell said, some of Monument’s features are free as long as the quarantine lasts.

In good company

In 2015, Rock Health reported that technology was playing a bigger role in addiction treatment, as a handful of startups emerged.

One of them, DynamiCare, raised a $5 million seed round in 2019, according to Crunchbase data. Its research shows a 53 percent retention rate for patients utilizing its alcohol use disorder treatment.

Russell said that as a result of the pandemic, platforms like Monument are needed as alcohol sales rise and millions struggle to control their drinking while in isolation.

For example, Drizly, an online retailer for ordering alcoholic beverages, reported a 392 percent increase in sales over baseline during the week of April 26, while new users grew 42 percent in March, compared with an average growth of 15 percent.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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