SEXTECH STARTUPS: THE FUTURE OF WELLBEING
What seems to be the norm for one person may be unacceptable for another. Unfortunately, it also creates challenges for modern businesses. We use the same social media networks and banks, and all of us use Google for work and personal needs. The reality is that these platforms decide what’s acceptable and what’s not and what businesses can use them.
Sextech startups are related to the category banned from advertising, even if the products solve real problems associated with sexual wellbeing. But despite this, femtech is an industry related to female sexual health and is forecasted to increase to nearly 50 billion dollars by 2025.
Many investors also see market opportunities for sextech. For instance, Gerda Larsson, co-founder and managing director at The Case for Her, says she started investing in sextech “after identifying it as one of the solutions that could tackle the global taboo surrounding sex and female sexual pleasure. Tech gives people the opportunity to explore, nurture and innovate around pleasure and what that means to you.”
Angel investor Laura Behrens Wu says: “My investment in sextech shouldn’t be viewed any differently than investments in other types of healthcare, like Headspace or Calm — and that’s a huge, established market. Investors who insist on segmenting out one aspect of our bodies, just because it makes some people uncomfortable, may regret it in five years.”
Out of natural curiosity, we’ve decided to dig deeper and understand why on Earth, in 2021, we’re still talking about the stigmatization of information vital for one’s health and how we can help people who want to step on the path of making a sextech product.
THE BIGGEST BARRIERS FOR SEXTECH STARTUPS
Let’s start with the main barriers that prevent many entrepreneurs from entering the industry.
THE INDUSTRY IS NOT TAKEN SERIOUSLY
There’s still a massive corporate block regarding sextech; many people think of porn, robots, VR, and AR experiences. That’s not entirely true. Sextech encompasses any technology designed to enhance sexuality. This can be anything from Bluetooth-enabled vibrators and apps for addressing sexual and health concerns. But the industry continues to be ignored and perceived as taboo.
If you talk to a sextech expert or an entrepreneur, one of the main concerns they will name is the inability to advertise their products on social media.
Unbound CEO Polly Rodriguez told TechCrunch that sextech products had been silenced by Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
“Not being able to advertise on them is a big deal because, in addition to the policies being biased and gendered, it prevents those founders from being able to reach potential customers.”
Indeed, a phallic cactus advertising an erectile dysfunction medication – approved—a hand holding a vibrator – not approved. Sextech startups Dame Products and Unbound have launched a website, “Approved/Not Approved,” where you can also play a guessing game of sexual wellness products.
Finding a reliable payments provider is a vital initial step for any startup. But if your product is considered controversial to someone, things can get tricky. Our team has faced such an obstacle when developing a dating platform for our client. They’ve had to battle to integrate payment gateways into their website. It turns out, creating a software architecture was relatively uncomplicated while integrating a payment provider into a dating platform wasn’t.
When we talked with Ola Miedzynska, CEO & CO-Founder of S x Tech. She also named an HR process among all the mentioned obstacles for sextech startups. If you’re in the sextech business, recruiting a valuable content creator or an experienced salesperson can be a tough nut to crack. As it turned out, a lot of specialists don’t want to be associated with the industry. So, Ola’s advice is to be open to remote solutions, think global, and hire international professionals.
Every new business idea requires one vital thing: money. For young businesses to raise money – they have to be more reactive in what they do and how they do it. But we’re in sextech, and things are not typical here. Even when the idea is exceptional, many companies in sextech don’t receive investments because of the reputational risks. Fortunately, things start to change. There are a few crowdfunding platforms that already take sextech products: Crowdcube, Republic, Indiegogo.
For instance, in 2020, a $25 million Vice Ventures Fund was launched with a mission to “conquer stigmas and strive towards superior returns by investing in good companies operating in “bad” industries.” An Israel fund Intimate Capital plans to raise $20 million and invest in developing sextech solutions.
NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE SEXTECH INDUSTRY
If you have an idea of a sextech product and want to enter the industry, we’ve good news for you. Compared to such industries as fintech, healthcare, or retail, sextech is small, and almost everyone knows each other. So it’s easy to find the right people and network. You can easily pitch your idea and receive constructive feedback from the early voices of the sextech environment. What other industries can boast of such a tight-knit community?
Speaking about successful sextech startups, here are some products that come to mind first. Among them are apps that receive significant investments in the seed rounds (mostly run by female founders).
Coral is a pioneer in the sexual wellbeing market. It’s an interactive app for couples of all gender expressions and sexual orientations with lessons, guides, and real stories to improve sexual life. You can also read the story by Isharna Walsh, founder of Coral, and how she came up with the idea of a sexual wellness app.
Womanizer is a globally operating company with offices in Berlin, Hong Kong, and Ottawa. The patented Pleasure Air Technology provides women with new orgasmic sensations due to touchless clitoral stimulation. In 2020 British singer Lily Allen announced her partnership with Womanizer to raise awareness of self-love and care. This is an excellent example of a celebrity endorsement.
Ferly is an audio guide that brings together sessions, workshops, quizzes, and stories on one app to help users explore and understand how they feel about sex. It’s a London-based startup that raised £1.5 million in 2019 from top-tier investors, including Michael Acton Smith (co-founder of Calm) and Sophia Bendz (former Global Marketing Director at Spotify).
TIPS FOR SEXTECH STARTUPS TO TRY IN 2021
If you want to hear more about the future of sextech, watch our panel discussion. Our guests have been in the industry for a long time, and in this video, they give many handy tips on launching a sextech startup.
SPEAK TO PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY IN THE INDUSTRY
Network. Network. Network. And a little bit more networking. Sextech has a relatively small community. It’s easier to reach those who’ve been there for a while and expand your network. Follow sextech experts on LinkedIn as they usually post upcoming events and conferences, which we strongly recommend to attend (even online). It will give you a better understanding of ways to improve and promote your brand. Here are just a few big names in sextech to follow: Bryony Cole, Cindy Gallop, Calandra Balfour, Ola Miedzyńska, Dominnique Karetsos, and many more.
HAVE A PASSION FOR THE INDUSTRY
Don’t do it if you don’t have passion for your product or the sphere. If you concern about sex education, sexuality, wellbeing and have an idea of how technology can positively impact it, you’re in the right place. But be prepared to face the conservative realities of our world and prove that your product is worth a shot.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO PITCH
If you don’t have a product or a prototype in your hands yet, don’t be afraid to pitch it. Tell about your idea, including your vision, solution, market opportunity, business model, marketing plan, and the team behind your product. Even if you’re still a solopreneur, grab your audience’s attention and help them get a sense of who you are and how you will grow your team.
FIND YOURSELF A GUIDE PERSON
Sextech is all about the community. Get to know the industry and find yourself a mentor.
Create a community around your brand and educate at every step. It’s all about educating your customers about how sextech products can enhance their lives.
In the nearest future, the apps designed for sexual well-being and education, sex therapy will be regular for our everyday life. Breaking taboo in sextech is a slow process of teaching and putting products into our daily lives. Today you have every chance to disrupt this industry and become among the first to start a sextech revolution.
ON A FINAL NOTE
Sextech is gaining momentum, and you have all the chances to launch a successful product if you have a passion for it. So, summing up, if you are about to enter this space, don’t forget to:
✔️ Network and become a part of the community.
✔️ Pitch your products even if it’s still at the idea stage.
✔️ Consider an option to work with international teams, as not everyone will eagerly work with sextech.
✔️ Educate yourself and your customers on the importance of sexual well-being and how your product can improve their lives for the better.
✔️ Get to know the industry and find yourself a mentor.
Have an idea of a sextech product but don’t know how to start? Or maybe you lack designers and software engineers ready to grow your product? Tell us about your project, and our team will turn your idea into a viable product.