Let’s Talk About Sex: Tech Startups Tackle the Taboo



Products and services related to sex are a huge business, and a growing number of startups are looking to get a piece of the action.

Whether its Bang with Friends, an app that pairs you with someone to “hook up” with, or Unboundbox, a subscription service that delivers sex toys and paraphernalia to customers, startups are leveraging technology to sell sex.

“There’s a lot of innovation going on, but nothing had been touched inside the bedroom. It’s considered so taboo, but it’s an untapped market, so we were really looking to create a product that would bring value to the space,” said Danny Wax, co-founder of Spreadsheet, a mobile app that tracks data related to your sex life.

Wax, a former professional golfer, launched the L.A.-based company about five months ago and said that since starting, the company has already seen a lot more players coming to the space.

“There’s really a barrier coming down,” Wax said. “Everyone sees the size of the opportunity because everyone knows how big the sex industry currently is.”

Investors are seeing the opportunity in “sex tech” as well, in both hardware and software.

For example, Diamond Products—an adult toy holdings company–along with private equity firm Brookstone Partners, purchased Jimmyjane, a company that specializes in developing high-tech sex toys.

Wax’s company, though, is trying to cash in on the opportunity by helping people “gamify” their sex lives. The app’s technology measures when you start and stop having sex and collects other data related to a user’s sexual performance. It utilizes the iPhone’s built in accelerometer and microphone to track the data.

While tracking that kind of data might sound creepy to some, Wax said that he’s seeing opportunity in helping people quantify their sex lives.

“I’ve always seen the trend in the quantified-self and self tracking in general. Numbers are always linked to help track your improvement,” he said. “So we saw the trend and thought to apply it to sex.”

So far the app has about 12,000 downloads in 89 countries worldwide.

As dating and hook-up apps—like Tinder and Bang With Friends—become more mainstream, so will other “sex tech” startups, Wax said.

“But people are just ready for changes in the adult entertainment industry,” said Kit Murray Maloney, CEO of the startup O’actually, an adult entertainment website that targets a female audience.

“People are not only ready for this industry to be changed, but they are eager for it,” Maloney said. “Once there’s an open and honest approach, people love talking about this. I mean, we are talking about pleasure and the enjoyable aspects of life,” she said.

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by jessicahtam

About the author: Cadie Thompson

Cadie Thompson is a technology editor at CNBC.  She is always plugged in and yet also wireless.

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