Want to spice up the bedroom without paying for pills or awkward visits to a sex therapist? A new app called Lover lets you take a sexual personality quiz, explore carnal knowledge tutorials and discretely figure out which turn-ons you share with your partner. Built by board-certified sexual medicine clinical psychologist Dr. Britney Blair, Lover launches today on iOS with $5 million in seed funding from Tinder founder Sean Rad and other investors.
“It is strange that there are such taboos around sex when it is something we all do…whether we enjoy ourselves or not. We think it is time to start the conversation around this important aspect of our health,” says Dr. Blair. “We believe Lover can help build confidence, facilitate communication, improve partner connection and just raise consciousness about sex and sexuality.”
A solid portion of Lover’s content is free for the first seven days, including audio guides to oral sex, video explainers on how to be generous in bed and multi-step “playlists” of content like “Getting Hard, Made Easy.” Lover charges $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year for continued access to themed educational materials like “Coreplay Not Foreplay” and “Fantasy To Reality” that are recommended based on the results of your sexual questionnaire.
“Almost 50% of women and 40% of men have a sexual complaint . . . [but] most people don’t realize how common and treatable their issues are,” Dr. Blair tells me. “In our [pre-launch tests] focused purely on erectile dysfunction, 62% of users reported improvements to their erections within three weeks of using the app. That’s pretty wild when you think Viagra’s efficacy rate is approximately 65% and it lasts only five hours.”
Startups like digital pharmacy Ro have scored $500 million valuations just 18 months after launch by prescribing and selling men’s health drugs like Viagra. Lover sees a market for education-based alternative approaches to sexual wellness.
Dr. Blair got interested in the space a decade ago after a Stanford grad school lecture illuminated how prevalent sexual problems are but how quickly they can be resolved with learning and communication. She teamed up with her CEO Jas Bagniewski, who’d been the manager of Europe’s largest e-commerce business, Zalando in the U.K., and a founder of City Deal that sold to Groupon. Bagniewski and fellow Lover co-founder Nick Pendle started European Casper mattress competitor Eve Sleep and brought it to IPO.
The plan is to combine Dr. Blair’s educational materials with Bagniewski and Pendle’s e-commerce chops to monetize Lover through subscriptions and eventually recommending products like sex toys for purchase. Now they have $5 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau, and joined by Manta Ray Ventures, Oliver Samwer’s Global Founders Capital, Fabrice Grinda and Jose Marin. The cash will go toward building out an Android app and adding games that partners can play together in bed.
There are plenty of random sex tip websites out there. Lover tries to differentiate itself by personalizing content based on the results of a Myers-Briggs-esque quiz. This asks you how adventurous, communicative and assertive you are. You then receive a classification like “The Muse” with a few pages of explanation, for example, revealing how you like to inspire others while being the center of attention.
From there, Lover can suggest guides for mastering your own sexual personality or branching out into new behavior patterns. There’s also a feature copied from another app called XConfessions for figuring out what you and your partner like. You connect your apps and then separately swipe yes or no on questions about whether you’d like “having your partner drip candle wax on you” or “your partner dressing as a strict cop.” If you and they match, the app tells you both so you can try it out.
Overall, Lover’s content is a lot higher quality and more compassionate than where most people learn about sex: pornography. Having a real sexual medicine doctor overseeing the app lends credibility to Lover. And the design and tone throughout make you feel empowered rather than sleazy.
Still, Dr. Blair admits that “it’s hard to motivate people into behavioral change, people already have subscription apps on their phones and we may run into ‘subscription fatigue.’ ” People might feel natural paying for Viagra because the impact is obvious. The value of a subscription to sex tips might seem too vague or redundant to what’s free online.
To get a lot of users opening their wallets, not just their pants, Lover will need to do a better job of previewing what’s behind the paywall, and offering more interactivity that online content lacks. But if it can give users one unforgettable night thanks to its advice, it may be able to seduce them for the long-run.