Falling into the sextech industry
Continuing on from our previous conversation with Bryony Cole, we decided to share with her how she fell into what some may consider a “taboo” industry.
Previously, Bryony worked at Microsoft as a community leader and thought leadership, where she came across technologists who were making all types of tech for social life, one of which was sextech.
From there, Bryony embarked on his own project of interviewing individuals on how sex intersects with technology and launched his hugely popular podcast, The future of sex.
The sextech industry is now a rapidly growing US $ 30 billion industry with female entrepreneurs at the forefront.
I did a bit of google research and everyone seems to have the same definition of what sextech is, but how would you define it?
“Sextech is any technology designed to improve sexuality. If we think of sexuality as something bigger than a simple orgasm. A lot of times when people think of sextech they just think of sex, but sex really encompasses everything from orgasms and pleasure and relationships to education, health, crime, assault reports, medicine. and gender identity.
That’s right, it’s definitely a lot bigger than most people think. So you have your own podcast, The Future of Sex, and you’re a leading authority on sextech, so how did you get into all of this?
“You’re right, I fell into it – you guessed right!” I think five years ago no one decided to make a career in monitoring the sextech industry! It really developed over the last five years as a career and choice that people have asked me, “Oh, how did you get into sextech? – that didn’t really exist before.
“I worked in technology and have always been fascinated by the impact of technology on our lives. Whether in an office space, when I worked at Microsoft and in startups, social situations to everything from the outing to the bedroom. I left a technical position at Microsoft, as a community leader and thought leadership, looking to the future of work, went to consult and helped Absolut Vodka design an innovation lab around the future of nightlife. From there I really met some interesting technologists who are designing all kinds of different tech for social life and one of them was sex tech.
“And that was the first time I heard this and thought it was the most interesting area of technology that nobody talks about. No one talks about it because it’s so taboo – sex is still so stigmatized everywhere we go in the world and yet has such a significant impact on our lives, it is a big part of our human experience and of life. how it intersects with technology.
“I then embarked on my own project of interviewing 100 people who I thought might get a feel for what’s going on between this intersection of sexuality and technology. I interviewed therapists, technologists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and everyday people about how sex and tech intersect in their lives and realized pretty quickly that it was all about ‘a much bigger industry than robots and that is obvious. I posted the podcast based on that and a few interviews and refined it to explain why it was a $ 30 billion industry and why we needed to pay attention to it.
Sure, and why do you think it’s such a fast growing industry?
“We started to feel comfortable talking about taboo subjects or vices. So partly thanks, I think, to other vice industries that are becoming mainstream, like the cannabis industry. And then on the other side, the fact that we’re talking about wellness, mental health in particular, we’ve seen this increase in wellness startups – we can cite meditation apps like Calm and Free space who have integrated the concept of well-being.
“Sexuality fits well between these two topics of the cannabis industry and wellness. We’ve seen this increase in sexual well-being, especially in women, with sexual pleasure no longer being presented as something odd, weird, or funny, which are typical representations we’ve seen over the years. 90 over Sex and the city. Women experienced pleasure and sex, but it was often always humorous and funny.
“Now we have this mainstream conversation as a result of Me too and Time is up that concerns female sexuality in all of these different dimensions – whether it’s owning your sexuality, reporting harassment, or other wellness concepts that I would say Gwyneth Paltrow has definitely incorporated through Goop and the sale of vaginal candles.
“I think it’s now at a really interesting point where it wasn’t previously a topic of conversation in pop culture. Cultural conversations are really important when we talk about cutting edge technology, otherwise you are largely left out.
For example, you recently organized the Sextech Hackathon in Melbourne, which had 90% women. Why is it so important to create a space like the sextech hackathon for women?
“Typically, the tech industry is largely concentrated in the hands of cis-straight Caucasian males, so it is very important to democratize a tech industry, especially sextech, to invite everyone to it. We wanted to see different minority groups represented – people with disabilities and of course for me women are a very big part of that group who need to have their voice heard and also meet their needs and who better to design for them. women than women?
“We had two presentations focused on postmenopausal women, which is a largely undeserved market and again, something we don’t talk about. So 90% is our highest ever percentage of women. It’s pretty amazing – I thought it was great and hackathons are usually male dominated events.
What are the obstacles for sextech startups, especially women who want to break into the industry?
“Oh my God, there are so many barriers to starting a sextech business that there are just so many obstacles to starting a small business or a tech company.
“The barriers sextech entrepreneurs face are above all to find financing. Investment opportunities are rare because it is a taboo subject. If you are speaking to investors, there are often morality clauses that deter investors from investing, although we are slowly seeing this change now and larger investments are being made from Silicon Valley into companies, but it’s a big obstacle. So, a lot of sextech companies go the crowdfunding route, which isn’t too bad if you want to prove that you have clients.
“The other biggest hurdle is advertising. Social media platforms censor heavily with #freethenipple but Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest – wherever your customers are for this type of product – in intimate and private spaces – which is also social media and where people consume their information, largely you are prohibited from advertising. Very often companies find that they are completely removed from [the platform]. Future of Sex’s Instagram profile has been deleted twice. Now we are verified to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it’s a really big hurdle – how do you reach customers if you can’t use social media?
“If you’re going to make a product, the manufacturing is a real hurdle. Some manufacturers just won’t work with you because you’re considered an adult product. Even if you’re a company that helps with pelvic pain or any other sex-related health issue, they’ll often see it as indecent or adult and won’t work with you – so that’s a big deal too.
“Another element that deserves to be highlighted is that of the payment process. They will often also group you into the adult category and will not work with you. It’s really painful – how do you first reach your audience and once you reach them how do you sell your product or service if you can’t use a payment processor? “