Shunned by CES, female sex tech company gets government grant

Women are driving technological and economic change in the sexual wellness industry, valued at more than $40 billion globally.

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It was a PR disaster for organizers of this year's CES. Shortly after the 2019 show opened in Vegas, Lora Haddock, founder and CEO of sex tech company Lora DiCarlo, published an open letter to the tech community in which she decried sexism after the CTA, the organization that administers CES, withdrew her company's 2019 Innovation Award. 

The reasons given were vague and CTA's response shifted, but it appeared that organizers thought the company's product, a robotic sex toy called Osé which is designed to mimic human touch, was vulgar. This is the same CES that gamely hosted a roomful of dudes watching VR porn.

Think the internet had anything to say about that? Reader, it did.

Now, a couple months after the small company landed international headlines and was turned into an unexpected symbol of the rampant sexism in tech culture, the state of Oregon is giving the startup a vote of confidence and a financial boost with nearly $100,000 via a business grant to aid in the commercialization of the Osé.

According to a rep for Lora DiCarlo, this is the first time that any state government has recognized sex tech with a grant like this.

"The State of Oregon's recognition is significant because it acknowledges the mainstream acceptance of sexual pleasure devices and the economic potential of female entrepreneurs," says founder Haddock. "The Oregon Innovation fund grant will help us as we commercialize Osé, while also generating more jobs in Oregon."

This is a business story as much as a cultural one. Sex tech in general is having a moment. Sex robots predominantly for men have stirred controversy but are seeing increased adoption. But women are driving much of the technological and economic change in the sexual wellness industry, which is valued at more than $40 billion globally.

"This state grant helps bring the topic of female sexual health out of the shadows by recognizing sex tech as a legitimate engine for economic growth," according to the Lora DiCarlo spokesperson. 

The Osé was developed in conjunction with a leading robotics lab at Oregon State.