• The growing market for sextech products that help users deal with all things intimate may emerge from the coronavirus crisis stronger than ever.
  • Sexual wellbeing, education and inclusion are seen as growth areas, particularly during the current period of forced and voluntary home confinement. 
  • Technology is the new reality for millions trying to navigate relationships amid social distancing.

As households worldwide are learning to navigate relationships and isolation amid the coronavirus lockdowns, startups that help people deal with all things sexual and intimate may emerge from this period of home quarantine stronger than ever.

Stress levels are rising, and that tension kills libido for about 85% of people, says Dr. Britney Blair, the founder of the Clinic, one of the largest sex therapy clinics on the West Coast. That’s a shame because sex is a great way to relieve anxieties as well as cultivate intimacy with a partner. Fortunately, Blair has a solution.

Last month, Blair rolled out a new app called Lover, a personalized digital platform that recommends exercises, tutorials and games designed to deal with sexual concerns, increase pleasure and improve skills in bed.

Lover is part of a sextech market that has been gaining momentum as more companies offer tools ranging from toys to erotic virtual reality and educational platforms focused on wellbeing and inclusion. With more people being forced to rely on technology for the majority of their connections and community, startups that adapt and cater to the present day’s realities are well-placed for a boom, says Bryony Cole, founder and producer of the podcast Future of Sex.

“There will be an increase in demand for offerings like Lover to help people work on cultivating intimacy, in times where we are either kept inside with loved ones and feeling frustrated, or trying to understand how to maintain intimacy while isolated,” Cole told Karma.

Investors who have shied away from the sextech space, citing concerns about growth limitations due to ad bans on Facebook and Instagram as well as regulatory uncertainty, are now paying closer attention. Last month, Lover raised $5 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau and Manta Ray Ventures. Then the streaming app Rosy, which offers access to a library of educational videos, erotic stories and guided classes, secured $1 million from angel and VC funds Joyance Partners and Social Starts.

“As other areas of wellbeing, like mental health, shake off their stigma and enter the mainstream dialogue, we believe sexual wellness is a natural extension of the conversation,” Lerer Hippeau, an early-stage venture capital fund based in New York City, wrote in a blog last month.

The global sexual wellness market is expected to grow to $123 billion by 2026 from $39.4 billion in 2017, according to estimates from Stratistics MRC.

‘Give Your Brains a Break’

The coronavirus outbreak, which has deepened the healthcare crisis and rocked the global stock markets, is taking a toll on millions of self-isolating families around the globe. An unprecedented number of couples requested divorce appointments in China as a result of being “bound with each other at home for over a month,” according to the Global Times.

Average weekly time spent on mental and fitness apps jumped more than 30% from December to March 1, according to tracking company App Annie.  Meditation and mindfulness app Headspace has seen a 90% increase in time spent on iPhones during the first week of March.

Dating sites have also experienced a spike in traffic despite the social-distancing orders. After the founder and CEO of Bumble urged users to date virtually, the platform that caters to millennials and Generation Z singles saw a significant increase in messages sent in cities under shelter-in-place mandates like Seattle, New York and San Francisco.

“People are still seeking that connection – because it’s crucial for nearly everyone – and are just adapting to different means of getting it,” said Amanda Gesselman, who studies dating behavior, sex and technology at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute. “Technology is the new reality.” 

Lover has gained 23,000 users since February with about a 3% subscription rate, said co-founder Jas Bagniewski, adding that it was too early to see the full impact from coronavirus pandemic.

The app, which features a Myers-Briggs-like test to pinpoint user’s sexual type and preferences, can recommend personalized daily activities and games to explore solo or with a partner. Lover offers a lot of free content and charges $9.99 per month for access to materials like Orgasmic Meditation and the Joy of Toys. 

And for those whose libido has gone through the floor due to stress, Blair recommends disconnecting from the constant stream of news and engaging with their partners.

“Share a sexy story or video with your partner and give your brains a break from the distress by dropping into your body,” she says.