Event Report: Singapore sextech Hackathon/SPARKFest

“I truly believe that there is a way that technology can help cultivate intimacy” said Future of Sex CEO, Bryony Cole whilst kicking off Asia’s first Sextech Hackathon in Singapore. The event was held as a part of SPARKFest, Asia’s first sexual wellness festival, which endeavoured to spark new conversations about sex, intimacy and love through informative and inspirational talks, educational experiences and art.

Teams prepare and pitch at Asia's first sextech hackathon in Singapore.

Teams prepare and pitch at Asia's first sextech hackathon in Singapore.

The hackathon continued the Future of Sex’s spree of international hackathons which kicked off in Sydney in late March and will be hitting New York later on this year. The hackathons are working towards catalysing new ideas, teams and solutions with the aim of growing not only new startup businesses, but a whole new industry.

Following on from the themes first introduced at the Sydney hackathon, the Singapore participants focused on those individuals who are often neglected in the conversations surrounding Sextech, such as people with disabilities and people living in isolation - the “invisibles”. Meeting the needs of these groups is a huge market presenting opportunities for forward-thinking entrepreneurs which are emerging in the sextech industry.

“When we reach beyond the obvious, we can see so much untapped potential,” explains Bryony Cole. This idea underpinned the entire hackathon with solutions delving into the possibilities surrounding creating better access to sexual education and sexual partners through immersive technologies like VR, voice enabled artificial intelligence or responsive chatbots, telehealth platforms for sex therapy and wellbeing, which all meet at the intersection of sexuality and technology - the very definition of “sextech”.

75% of the 65 hackathon participants had never been to a hackathon before, but with the help of roving mentors and FutureOfSex.org experts, they diligently worked through business models, pitch decks and prototypes based on the following three challenges:

  • How can we make advertising avenues more accessible for companies that sell adult products, in a society where this is made near to impossible? (Smile Makers)

  • How can we devise a creative, educational and open platform for both urban and rural areas to spread awareness and accessibility about these topics thus reducing the shame and taboos in a consistent manner keeping in mind that rural areas don’t have access to smartphones? (Fempeers Challenge)

  • Couples lead busy lives and want to stay connected. How can we bring couples closer together, encourage intimacy, through tech? (Future of Sex).

Lightning pitches and mentoring at Asia's first sextech hackathon in Singapore

Lightning pitches and mentoring at Asia's first sextech hackathon in Singapore

The first night of the hackathon pushed forward the idea of normalising sex as a regular part of maintaining overall personal health. The next 48 hours was an intense combination of ideation, collaboration and creation, which resulted in solutions including:

  • Closr: A couples wearable necklace that connects and can be activated by your lover to promote intimacy when you are apart. (!WINNERS!)

  • These(abilities): A game-based educational platform primarily for people with disabilities to better understand sexual wellness.

  • The V: Pocketable smart therapy for vaginismus, including a dilator, app with a community platform, and smart therapist

  • Get Closr: A media planning and advertising agency for sextech

  • The Answer: A digital resource for parents to help with explaining sex to their children, includes community and access to experts

  • The Cycle: Sexual education resources - educating women about sexual wellness in India for urban and rural markets

  • Emilie: AI oracle for sex education and moderated digital experience - internet safety for children

  • Cookie Books: An AI based erotica publishing and authoring platform

  • The Red Tent: A digital platform for menstruation that provides emotional support, education, products and cycle-tracking

One of the most important lessons from this Singapore sextech hackathon was the clear demand for more events like this. As the first sextech hackathon in Asia, we expected a lot of interest, but we were amazed at the lengths to which participants went to join us. Many travelled from all over the region to participate in this “first time”. Hackers, hipsters, hustlers and humanitarians flew from Beijing and Thailand. We even had a team of machine learning engineers flying in from Japan. This was also in part, driven by the women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) scholarships that were supported by We-Vibe and SoGal Ventures.  

The winners of the event and runners up of the hackathon will enter into the world’s first sextech accelerator facilitated by Disruptor’s Handbook and FutureOfSex.org. The aim of the FutureOfSex.org. sextech accelerator program is to rapidly develop and extend the hackathon concepts into more robust “minimum viable products” ready to test in market. We look forward to seeing these new sextech startups launch their products.

Bryony Cole