Lora DiCarlo Returns To CES With Three New Products And $7.5 Million In SexTech Sales
I doubt you will find a SexTech brand more often associated with CES than Lora DiCarlo and this is because in 2019, the Lora DiCarlo Osé personal massager was selected as a CES Innovation Awards Honoree in the Robotics and Drone product category. However, Lora DiCarlo was stripped of the award because the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) deemed the entry "to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA's image." Only after a great deal of public outcry that called out the role of gender-bias in the decision, was the award reinstated. Following the incident, Lora Haddock DiCarlo, the company founder, worked to enlighten the CTA on the role that SexTech can play in our overall wellbeing efforts that resulted in the CTA adding SexTech as a category in its own right in 2020.
A year from the launch of its flagship product Osé, Lora DiCarlo returns to CES with three new products, $7.5 million of sales and a new funding round of $3 million led by Republic Labs and including new and existing investors Romulus Capital, VU fund, River Bend Capital, Gaingels, and actress, model, and style icon, Cara Delevingne.
“SexTech is a fast-growing segment that has largely flown under the radar with investors. That's not going to be the case for long, especially as entrepreneurs like Lora DiCarlo increasingly destigmatize what was once a taboo space and introduce more technology-driven solutions," says Christian Sullivan, co-founder of Lora DiCarlo's lead investor, Republic Labs.
I could not agree more with Sullivan. The conversation around sex is changing. Younger generations are more in touch with their sexuality and identity than older generations have been. Data points to millennials being twice as likely to identify as LGBTQ as previous generations, and one-third of Gen-Zers know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns like they/them. For these generations, there is no place for shame-based views of sex and sexuality. Even older generations have been offered opportunities to grow both their knowledge and level of comfort with sex. The conversation might be more focused on wellness than pleasure, but it is a conversation that is happening more and more.
Lora DiCarlo addresses both these trends in its product design and go to market approach. In a conversation I had with Lora Haddock DiCarlo about the new products – Drift, Tilt and Sway – she says: "Now more than ever we want to make sure that Lora DiCarlo is an inclusive brand, that no matter what your gender, preference, identity is or the color of your skin, you feel welcome. We are also creating products that appeal to a wider and more diverse spectrum of sexual experience and pleasure profiles. These products don't fall into the binary world of being just for men or just for women. I want to create something that is for all people to create experiences."
Technology innovation is also at the core of the Lora DiCarlo brand. The Osé, its hero product of 2020, uses "biomimetic" engineering and design to go from machine vibration to a human-touch sensation. It was developed in collaboration with the robotics department at Oregon State University. The new line pushes that human-touch sensation to the next level by adding warmth to simulate body temperatures. The lineincludes a handheld bullet (Drift), P-Spot/G-Spot plug dual stimulation vibrator (Tilt), and a dual stimulation wand-like warming massager (Sway), all of which have ergonomic silhouettes and are approachable to a wide range of consumers, different anatomies, and various pleasure preferences. The three new products activate a new nylon-based thermal conductive polymer with a thermal conductivity coefficient of 15x to 20x of traditional injection-molded plastic, thereby providing quick and consistent internal heating. I had the opportunity to see some thermal images of the products and it was quite impressive to see how consistent and well distributed the heat was throughout the products. The added warmth provides a boost in blood flow to relieve muscle tension and increase overall sexual pleasure.
As a tech analyst, I look at Lora DiCarlo as a great example of what I wish many tech brands incorporated in their products and go to market. A one-size-does-not-fit-all attitude to products, coupled with judgment-free coaching. Of course, these are qualities that are much more important when one is buying a personal massager than a personal computer. Yet, no matter what product you are selling, investing in education, designing inclusive products and not talking down to your customers will result in a much stronger level of trust that a brand will be able to capitalize on for a very long time.
Lora Haddock DiCarlo's advocacy for sexual wellness did not stop with the CTA. The brand actually offers a wellness coaching service that helps customers, both current and potential, better understand the products and provides tips to get the best experience with the products. As is often the case, a lack of education is the biggest hurdle to purchase. This is why the brand is using its own customer-facing employees as coaches and having the team go through the process of getting a sex educator certification to take a more complete approach to how they speak to people about sexual wellness. "We take a very gentle approach to education, we leverage different people who bring their own personal experience to the conversation and we never look down on anyone for being curious," says Haddock.
The pandemic, per se, did not make it easier or harder to talk about sexual wellness, according to Haddock DiCarlo. Still, as we have seen in other tech segments, the pandemic did accelerate everything, including the level of interest in SexTech. The lock-down did mean that Haddock had to pitch remotely for the company’s latest funding round. "I definitely noticed a difference. This year just compared to even last year and the year before, there were more willingness and ability just to listen and talk about the subject. A palpable difference from then and now."
As I wrap up my time with Haddock DiCarlo, I ask her to give me her elevator pitch on why sexual wellness matters: "Based on personal experience and conversations with hundreds of people, I believe that sexuality is not just about pleasure. Sexuality is directly tied to how we identify in the world, how we show up. So, the more confident you are in your identity, the more you are going to show up confidently every day in everything that you do. Sexual exploration really feeds that identity and it feeds that confidence. That's the kind of competence that allows people to go out into the world and make great change. I had an orgasm and I started a company." I am no investor, but if I were, Haddock DiCarlo would have my money!
This article was originally published on Forbes
Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and consultancy firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this column