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👩💻 Q+A: Holly Whitaker and Will Quist
This week we are psyched to feature an Q+A from the Founder & CEO of Hip Sobriety, Holly Whitaker and Slow Partner, Will Quist. Hip Sobriety is a Slow portfolio company rebranding addiction through an 8-week program that combines community and mentorship to help people meet and accomplish their unique goals.
WQ: What are you building?
HW: I'm building a consumer branded, digital recovery. Almost like a modern version of Alcoholics Anonymous -- that is the easy reference but what we are building is truly the opposite. It's bottom up approach to help people engage and change their relationship with alcohol in an aspirational and empowering way.
WQ: Why does AA need to be reinvented?
HW: I don't think AA needs to be reinvented. I think it works perfectly for people that are at a specific point and have a specific profile. AA was built in the 1940s by two white men who thought they were God and has remained virtually unchanged since. The archetype it was created for is not representative of the experience women and other marginalized people face when confronting addiction or their relationship with substances. Further, it's aimed at end spectrum addiction, and 90% of people who struggle with alcohol aren't on that part of the spectrum. So: I don't think AA needs to be reinvented, I just think there needs to be other ways to face addiction and substance abuse.
Furter, AA specifically asks you to identify yourself as having a disease, and then it tells you that you will have this disease for the rest of your life and that you need to quit drinking. That rhetoric and fundamentalism doesn't meet people exactly where they are at and it keeps people out unless they are absolutely desperate. I doubt most people reading this who struggle with their drinking are willing to go to AA because it is such a huge, huge step.
WQ: Why have you taken it upon yourself to fix this problem? I assume it must occupy all almost all your waking and non-waking hours?
HW: I believe this is my reason for being and yeah it occupies almost every minute of my waking life. I have personally struggled hard with alcohol and drug addiction as well as eating disorders and other behavioral addictions. I had a terrible experience getting sober, a lonely experience that I pieced together with scraps from different modalities. Nothing on the market spoke to me, and I knew from very early on that I would spend the rest of my life trying to fix what was broken for me.
WQ: At first glance, why would someone with a personal brand, who has been able to build a following, have a mission that is proper for venture capital?
HW: First, I am pretty sure that personal brands are just starting to get traction as scalable consumer brands - think of Girlboss and that one Kardashian who is now worth a billion.
For me, it was always a matter of asking how can I affect the most change.
I could have gone on my pretty, little path and continued to help 450 to 500 people a year, but instead we are close serving that many people a month. VC means I can serve more people, increase the scope of services provided, and provide better services. It's the difference between having a lifestyle business and having a business that can change millions of lives.
I didn't start this just to have a personal brand and to become the fucking Martha Stewart of addiction, which was in my first venture capital pitch in 2014. I knew that I wanted to build an incredible ethical business whose purpose was not to make money. That is why we have been successful. I have never been about the money, we have never been about the money. It is only and always about being in service and fixing something that is desperately broken.
HW: I have a question for you, Will. As someone who isn't sober, why would you invest in a company that is geared towards sobriety?
WQ: Well it is astounding amount of our population that needs to reexamine their relationship with alcohol. But on a personal level, the first time we discussed this, I was like, wow, this is a thing for me too! I have already gotten there as a parent, understanding the consequences of having people who rely on me increasingly more as I get older. Alcohol does not need to be stripped out of our lives but I think every person in a developed country who has met enough of Maslow's hierarchy has to deal with problems like this and should be thinking about it.
Learn more about Hip Sobriety and Holly's mission here! Or sign up for their new online magazine, The Temper!
📚 Essential Reads from Sam
If you have a spare hour, read our partner, Sam Lessin's 9,000 word opus on The Information on How The Internet Broke and the three options we have going forward to deal with the direct tension between freedom of speech and security in our frictionless digital world.
If you want something shorter from Sam, you can also pick up a copy of his new children's book, B is for Bitcoin. It is a lovingly written and illustrated A-Z primer from Algorithm to Zero knowledge for ages 0-99! All proceeds go to early childhood education non-profits.
Not only is blue light ruining our sleeping patterns, it is accelerating blindness! Settings >> General >> Accessibility >> Display Accommodations >> Color Filters >> Turn on Color Filters >> Greyscale (woah that was hard to find)