Founders Seek to Disrupt $37 Billion Sex Wellness Industry

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  • The sexual wellness sector is a $37.2 billion dollar industry and is expected to reach $121 billion by 2030.
  • Diverse founders are developing products in SexTech focused on sexual wellness.
  • Industry experts and executives predict the SexTech sector will have unicorn companies in the coming years.

New technologies, increased venture capital investment and rising consumer demand have put the sexual wellness industry at a tipping point. Thus, hundreds of founders across the globe are building innovative products with a focus on sexual wellness and a goal of making a significant impact in a multi-billion dollar industry. 

The sexual wellness market is estimated to be roughly $37.2 billion and is expected to see explosive growth in the coming years, reaching $121 billion by 2030, according to research firm Acumen

The Plug spoke with industry experts and executives working at the intersection of sexual health and technology to better understand the challenges, market opportunities and where the sector is headed next. 

Emerging industry

“This is a $37 billion-dollar industry, and it is still in its infancy,” Glenise Kinard-Moore, founder and chief executive officer of SkiiMoo Tech, told The Plug

Founded in 2019, SkiiMoo Tech’s mission is to create technology products that improve human lives positively. Kinard-Moore, who identifies as an LGBTQ+ founder and tech inventor,  is focused on introducing products for the LGBTQ+ community. She has invested more than $300,000 from her retirement savings to help bring her ideas to fruition.

SkiiMoo Tech recently received some high-profile funding. The Atlanta-based company placed second in Pharrell’s Black Ambition Prize competition and was awarded $250,000 to help grow her business in November 2022. 

Today, the company is gearing up to sell its flagship product, called the VDOM, a prosthetic genital device that can go from flaccid to erect at the push of a button.

What makes it unique is that it can be controlled by a smartphone and can be worn comfortably throughout the day, said Kinard-Moore, stating that presales for its SexTech product will be made available for purchase by the second half of this year. 

“We leverage the discipline of prosthesis, technology and science to create human-inspired engineered prosthetics for individuals who suffer from lifestyle or anatomical restrictions of the genitals,” said Kinard-Moore. “The VDOM will hopefully be a catalyst for more development in this space.”

Growing competition

The SexTech industry has gained mainstream interest from consumers and investors in recent years, said Liz Klinger, co-founder and chief executive officer of Lioness, a pioneering sextech startup founded in 2013. 

As a “femtech” startup, Lioness aims to close the orgasm gap. This year, the company has seen its sales triple for its Lioness Vibrator 2.0, which uses AI-assisted guidance built on data from more than 30,000 reported orgasms, said Klinger adding that about one-third of the company’s sales come from social media platform, TikTok

An industry veteran and SexTech expert, Klinger believes there is a “transformational shift,” happening in the SexTech industry today. 

“In the late 2010s to now, there are now a lot of different sex toy brands out there that cater to a variety of different audiences,” Klinger told The Plug. In addition, several retailers are testing the waters by selling SexTech items online and at major retailers like Target. 

Though Klinger thinks there is more competition and saturation than before, she believes there is plenty of room for new sex-focused products with advanced engineering, as they can open up different possibilities for consumers. 

There is also the opportunity for the sexual wellness industry to become more inclusive. Jason Panda, the founder and chief executive of b condoms, is one of the few Black executives in the condom industry. 

“I started this company after speaking to my mother one day about the disproportionate impact HIV and AIDS has had on the Black community over the years,” Panda told The Plug. “There were no Black leaders in the contraception space.” 

Today, its products are sold in over 8,000 U.S. stores including Walmart, Target and CVS. Its primary rivals include Durex, Trojan and Lifestyles — businesses which are worth billions, and have vast budgets for advertising.

But funding for startups remains an issue. It is widely known that a large number of venture capital funds will never invest in SexTech due to “vice clauses” that contractually obligate them to pass on companies that offer products or services in categories like alcohol, adult entertainment and sexual wellness. 

But this sentiment is slowly shifting, according to Monique Woodard, founding partner and managing director at Cake Ventures, a venture capital fund dedicated to funding people of color, women, and other “underestimated” founders.

Woodard noted that women-led health companies will be even more important going forward. 

“You can tell that [women-led companies are] growing by the unicorn status of companies like Rent the Runway and Glossier,” Woodard told The Plug

Woodard added that while there has yet to be a unicorn startup in SexTech that is valued at over $1 billion, investors and founders are betting that will change within the next five years. 

“Nobody in this space has yet unlocked a scalable way to help people have better sex,” Lily Sparks, chief executive and founder of afterglow, an ethical porn platform offering guided masturbation and wellness exercises for women launched in 2020, told The Plug

Sparks also agreed there’s room for multiple unicorn solutions in this sector. 

“That’s what’s so exciting for me about SexTech. I always compare it to where mental health was ten years ago, except more people have sex than meditate,” she said. 

Fred Grier

Fred Grier is a technology journalist. He previously covered technology, startups, and venture capital at the San Diego Business Journal. He is an alumna of the University of California San Diego.