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News & Analysis

Sextech is a thing and a Valentine’s Day hackathon in Melbourne is spending the weekend figuring out where to next

- February 13, 2020 2 MIN READ
Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder's 1959 classic.

 

Two years after Sydney put on its best o-face for Australia’s first Sextech hackathon, it’s Melbourne’s turn to find its erogenous zones this Valentine’s Day.

Future of Sex entrepreneur Bryony Cole and Disruptors Co. founder Gavin Heaton are hosting a weekend-long hackathon at South Melbourne co-working site CreativeCubes.Co, running February 14-16.

Amid ongoing debate about how male-dominated the tech industry often is, the fact that women made up 85% of participants at the 2018 Sydney event tells you something about the problem that needs solving.

Bryony Cole is considered the world’s leading authority on sex tech and hosts the acclaimed podcast Future of Sex. She spent three years taking a deep dive into the industry researching the nexus between intimacy and technology, exploring beyond the perception that it’s all about sex with robots, remote control vibrators and VR porn.

So what is it? Cole defines sextech as any technology designed with the intention of enhancing human sexuality and the sexual experience, which includes sexual health and wellbeing, personal safety, choice of sexual experiences, personal dignity, games, entertainment and dating.

The industry is already worth of $30 billion in 2020 and is forecast to grow exponentially, hitting $122.6 billion by 2026.

Cole says the Sextech Hackathon is for anyone interested in changing the conversation around sex and technology to bring their ideas to life.

“Melbourne is the best place to be when looking for diverse, female-driven businesses and experts to lead critical conversations and education about sexual health and intimacy to shape global conversations,” she said.

Since the Sydney hackathon, Cole has take the idea global, with similar events in Singapore, Copenhagen and New York.

This weekend’s 48-hour competition combines with collaborative workshops, mentoring, and product development, overseen by a panel of  entrepreneurs and, um, sexperts.

The hackathon has set three challenges: firstly, to design sex toys with the elderly and physical limitations in mind, secondly, to remove the stigma around condoms, especially to improve sexual health, and finally, how to make sex education and expression more accessible for people with a disability.

Cole said that throughout the weekend, participants will workshop their ideas under the guidance of a mentor before taking part in a Shark Tank-style pitching and judging contest for a place in the 12-week SexTech Accelerator Program, powered by Disruptors Co.

The Hook Up’s presenter Nat Tencic is leading the judging panel, with Eliza Sorensen, co-founder of Assembly Four, the collective focused on improving sex workers’ lives through technology. Speakers include Bec Park, founder of vegan condom brand Jonny; Dr Judith Glover, director of the world’s first sex toy design course at RMIT; relationships counsellor Alex White; Lovehoney’s Rob Godwin and Bridgette Engeler, founder of Project GELdom.

If you’re keen to get along, there are a handful of tickets left, which you can get here.