Most entrepreneurs don’t look to the bedroom as a place ripe for disruption. But Toaster Labs, a new startup out of Seattle, thinks there’s one underserved need that represents a big opportunity.
In October, the company began taking pre-orders for its flagship product Pulse. It’s a motion-sensor lubricant warmer and dispenser that works with Pulse Pods, the company’s brand of personal lube. The lubricants are hypoallergenic and FDA approved.
With the push of a button, Pulse will begin warming the lube for several minutes, indicating its ready with a light. A motion sensor detects when there’s a hand ready to catch the lubricant and then Pulse will dispense a single-serving amount. The device uses a patent-pending induction heat process that works exclusively with the Pulse Pods.
Pulse boasts an impressive team of execs and advisors. The company was founded by Amy Buckalter, former president of the startup consultancy firm Pivot Ventures. In the past, Buckalter held leadership roles at Nike, K2 Sports, and Burton before taking the entrepreneurial plunge. She’s supported by Ken Pilcher, a former NASA scientist who helped invent and develop the Sonicare toothbrush and Clarisonic skin exfoliating device.
Pilcher isn’t the only ex-NASA scientist on the team.
Lilac Muller, an MIT Ph.D who began her career at NASA, plays a key role at Pulse. Like Pilcher, she helped develop the Clarisonic, which was sold to L’Oréal USA in November 2011. Other advisors include a naturopathic doctor, a sex and relationship sociologist, a futurist and a former design manager at Microsoft.
Buckalter got the idea for Pulse from her own experiences, as a woman approaching menopause. The lubricant experience left something to be desired.
“I thought, ‘oh my goodness, is there nothing that’s been modernized in this category since the beginning of time?’ Lubricant came into use a hundred years ago and it’s still the same old, messy, cold, inconvenient buzzkill,” she said.
She began conducting market research and, after surveying hundreds of women, discovered demand for a better lube experience extended far beyond women in their forties and fifties.
“The millennials and younger women are so comfortable in taking care of their own bodies, their futures, it’s a whole different world out there … it’s part of their accoutrement — I’ve got my lubricants, my toys and vibrators, my makeup, my hair products,” said Buckalter.
Her research tapped into a phenomenon among millennials — one that’s enabling the rapid rise of the sex-tech industry. Young people are more sexually emancipated than previous generations, allowing the pleasure industry to crawl out of the bedside table drawer and do business in broad daylight.
Pulse’s target customers are women and couples seeking lubricant for any reason — to offset the effects of menopause, other hormonal shifts like pregnancy, medical conditions, or simply for pleasure. Buckalter also believes the product will become a hit among gay men.
Toaster Labs has raised just shy of $7 million from private investors. Shipments of the Pulse warmer and Pulse Pods will begin in the spring of 2017. That summer, Toaster Labs plans to introduce a massage oil as well.
The Pulse package retails for $249 and comes with four Pulse Pods.