We’re sitting down with RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP) participants to learn their stories, find what inspires them and share with the community.
Slighter is on a mission to help smokers achieve a healthier lifestyle. Founder & CEO, Samer El Gharib, was inspired to create slighter, the smart learning lighter, after having trouble quitting smoking himself. Having been a smoker himself since he was 17 years old, Samer knows better than anyone how difficult it is to quit. Samer is a passionate and optimistic individual, and a strong believer in the power technology to drive social change. He began his career as an actor and TV show host and has dedicated his career to Slighter for the past four years. In addition to being an entrepreneur, he is also a musician, copywriter, lover of art & science, a husband and a father of three beautiful kids.
Q: What does Slighter do in a nutshell?
A: Slighter is a well-rounded solution for smokers who would like to reduce harm from smoking or even quit. It is a smart learning lighter powered by artificial intelligence. It learns the habits of smokers and develops a customized program for each individual to gradually decrease their daily amount of cigarettes.
It’s about time we made use of smoking data in order to increase our overall health. We have access to endless knowledge about the foods we eat. We know how many calories, grams of fat, etc. are in everything. But until now, smokers did not have that information about smoking. Slighter gives people who smoke tools to visualize their habit, learn their behavior and re-train themselves through principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and conditioning. By so doing, we’re giving them the choice to have freedom over their habit.
Q: What inspired you to start this company?
A: It started because I was trying to quit smoking myself. Like most smokers, I didn’t believe I was addicted. I thought I could quit anytime. But at some point I realized I was super addicted. I started to feel like I couldn’t operate without smoking and I started trying to quit. I tried everything – cold turkey, nicotine replacement therapy, acupuncture, medications – and nothing worked.
One day I had a thought. No one starts smoking one pack a day overnight. We train our brain by increasing intake a small amount at a time. We start with a puff, then one cigarette, then two, and eventually can get up to as many as five packs a day.
Yet most smoking reduction programs expect you to jump to zero cigarettes overnight. I thought, why don’t we have a tool that learns our habits and coaches us to gradually reduce? Let’s take one step at a time instead of trying to jump a whole flight of stairs at once.
I started dreaming up a smart lighter and the word slighter came to me immediately. I realized I had a one billion dollar concept and I started to dream.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: I’m going to be honest. There is no favorite part for me. Being an entrepreneur is like deciding to go through a home on fire to get something precious from inside. It’s so hard. The best part will be getting to see my dream to come to life, helping millions of people reduce their harm from smoking and realize what we’re doing to ourselves.
The phrase no pain no gain really fits an entrepreneur. We’re like athletes who have to train every day. We feel the pain every day in order to lift our hands up at the finish line and say we did it. I’m not a masochist. I’m not someone who enjoys that pain but that pain can be an indicator that you are probably on the right track.
Q: Do you have any other role models or companies that have inspired you, either prior to or during your time in RAP?
A: It’s definitely a cliche, but Steve Jobs is a role model for me. His work paved the way for a new era of IoT inventions that use data collection to help people become healthier. He knows how to use his words to move people to change the way they behave. Ironically- Steve Jobs started in a garage. When I moved to the States, I had to start working out of my garage as well. And I thought, it’s probably destiny. Everything has to start with a garage here.
Q: Any advice for entrepreneurs?
A: One word. One word that can change the world. Persistence. If Thomas Edison didn’t persist through his 1,000 “failed” attempts, he would never have succeeded. Persistence + belief makes things happen.