Hacking Sex: Inside a Sextech Hackathon
Last month, I took the plunge and booked flights to Melbourne and a ticket to my first ever hackathon.
A hackathon is a problem-solving event. Generally, a whole bunch of strangers team up and design a solution to whatever their problem might be. Attendees usually include softwear developers, graphic designers, project managers and the like, but I knew that this one was going to be a little different. It was a sextech hackathon, hosted by Bryony Cole – sextech entrepreneur and judge of the Lovehoney Design A Sex Toy Competition.
Sextech is any technology or tool used in conjunction with any aspect of human sexuality. So, condoms, dating apps, toys, tools to aid with sexual dysfunctions, menstrual cycle tracking apps and even things like Facetime or Skype. The event invited all types of people who were interested in solving the problems we face in our sex lives.
It was an expensive commitment for me to go, but I knew that I would have serious FOMO if I didn’t attend and something told me that the people I would meet there would change my life. Spoiler, I was right.
Leading up to my arrival in Melbourne, Bryony was sharing the names of the judges, sponsors and mentors that would also be attending the event. They were the names of people and companies that I have looked up to for years.
I’ve been writing for Lovehoney for a while, but I’d never met anyone from the team face to face, so I was very happy to see that Lovehoney’s own Rob Goodwin would be attending the event as a judge.
Valentine’s Day rolled around, the first night of the event. I was really nervous but held onto any amount of confidence I had left in me. People arrived slowly, but in the end there were 57 participants and many more mentors and journalists. There were several tables lining the walls, some covered in snacks and kombucha and others covered in packs of vegan condoms and Lovehoney sex toys – the essentials.
That night we listened to speeches from all the guests, learned what types of problems we would be solving and listened to some brave participants pitching solutions. By the end of the first night, ideas and teams had already formed and everyone was buzzing. Saturday morning arrived very quickly, and we entered a freshly built co-working space. It felt so special to be one of the first teams of people to be working in there, a space where so many ideas were yet to be born. More idea pitching happened, and official teams were created.
To name a few solutions being worked on: a toy designed specifically for people going through menopause, sex ed apps, an AI porn library and my team's idea: a revolutionised physical adult store. My group had such a diverse skill set and worked together brilliantly. They are women that I may have never crossed paths with otherwise, but here I am now with five new friends who are passionate about all the same things that I am. Time flew by through Saturday and Sunday morning as we worked on our solutions, talking revenue, target markets, marketing, design and more.
Suddenly, it was pitch and judging time. The projects were incredible, the graphic design through to the presentations was flawless and everyone was just so excited to be a part of this event. Amazing teams won – first place went to a team working on revolutionising sex education through a school-camp-themed mobile app and second place went to a team who’d redesigned the dental dam, making it sexy and fun and everything I’ve always wanted them to be. Plus, an extra award went to my team for our excellent teamwork and collaboration!
There are so many takeaways from the event – new friends, new ideas, refreshed passion and a larger professional network. Most of all, I was so inspired to see all of the faces that are working on the future of sextech. Being at the event made me realise how many holes still exist in human sexuality. Sex toy design and health implements are very much the same as they always have been and aren’t accessible to everybody. Sex needs a shake-up, and it needs it now.
Also, if you’re thinking about going to an event and are worried about going alone – just go, you’ll meet some amazing people!
Eleni is a health communications student from Sydney. Her favourite topics to communicate are sexual health, gender and sexuality; she spends her time smashing taboo topics everywhere she goes.
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