how i get it done

How a Sex-Tech Company CEO Gets It Done

Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

Lora Haddock DiCarlo believes in the power of sex toys — not merely as a means to an obvious end, but as a tool through which you can become “more confident in your identity through sexual exploration.” It’s among the guiding principles of her sex-tech company, Lora DiCarlo, which offers inclusive products, as well as a robust sexual-wellness coaching service. The company made quite the splash not long after arriving on the scene. In 2019, two years after DiCarlo founded the company, her Osé Robotic Massager took home an innovation award at the CES tech conference, only to have the organizers later rescind it after deeming the product “immoral” and “indecent.” In response, DiCarlo condemned the show for its “history of gender bias” in an open letter, and lobbied CES to allow sex toys in the show. Since then, DiCarlo’s profile and company have only grown. Last fall, Cara Delevingne joined as co-owner and creative adviser, and just this month, the company launched an equity crowdfunding campaign on the platform Republic, where users can invest in the company. DiCarlo currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her Pomeranian, Enzo. Here’s how she gets it done.

On a typical (pandemic) morning:
I get up around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. I have an alarm clock that basically makes me have to run across the house and scan a barcode so I get my butt out of bed. I know there are a lot of stereotypes around CEOs that get up early in the morning, but that’s when I’m at my most creative — when everything is flowing. First thing, I’ll journal and drink apple-cider vinegar and lemon water. Next, I’ll do yoga for about 20 minutes, and meditate for anywhere between five and 15 minutes. I’ll also work out for at least half an hour. I’m a Peloton addict and I lift a lot of weights. I’m not a little girl, that’s for sure. And then, I’ll sit down and bullet-journal to get ready for the day. By this time, it’s about 6:30 a.m. I’ll then go through my emails and take the dog for a walk. I have a little Pomeranian who’s excited all the time. What’s nice about all of this is that I’m able to get through all of my “me time” in the morning. If I try to do anything that’s just for me at any other time of the day, I feel really guilty.

On a standard work day:
I start working around 8 a.m. and won’t stop until 6 p.m. at the earliest — it’s often more 8 p.m. or even midnight; it just depends. I typically work both in and out of the office. If I go into the office, generally, I try to spend anywhere between one and three hours down in the lab with our engineers, just going over products and talking through prototypes. But for the most part, my job is not in operations. My job is really rooted in a couple of key things. First is PR — you know, being the spokesperson and really understanding our audience and communicating with them. The second is product. We talks products on the daily, and I want to make sure that we’re taking in outside influences and listening to our community — for example, what are the biggest problems that need to be solved within sex tech and sexual wellness? And I do creative work with my marketing team.

It’s a long day, but when you love what you do, you get super sucked into work. If I know I have a lot of back-to-back stuff, or a lot of projects that I need to be working on, I’ll use a Pomodoro timer. So, I’ll go nose to the grindstone with my headphones on for 25 minutes, and then I’ll take five minutes off to walk around, stretch, or do yoga. I sometimes play the timer during meetings because I have hardcore attention-deficit issues and just cannot focus. I also have a seltzer-and-lime habit.

On fighting for legitimacy in a male-dominated tech industry:
When we realized the Consumer Technology Association was taking our award away after winning at CES, and I was faced with the responsibility of pushing back and talking to them about their gender bias, I was terrified. I was looking at this big, patriarchal association, very likely calling me a whiny bitch. And I didn’t want to be called out for that. If I didn’t have the amazing team that I do, I don’t know if I could have responded on my own. They gave me the strength to do that, and then we moved forward and ended up launching an international awareness campaign around gender bias. I was empowered but also scared the entire time until it went live. My mom has been a huge influence on me, encouraging me to fight for what I believe in and my values, but my community and my team are what fuels that flame.

On bringing sexual health and wellness into the mainstream:
Our mission is rooted in the importance of sexual health and education, and allowing everyone to explore their sexuality with positivity and with confidence. The fact is, sexual education in the U.S. — and many other countries — is terrible. I’ve had both teens and people in their 70s contact me directly through social media, asking questions about orgasms. Owners of sex-tech companies know what we’re doing and can actually educate our community. I see that as a privilege, and it’s really important to us to be able to offer that education. It’s why we launched a sexual wellness and coaching program, which anyone can sign up for.

On using data to inform products and services:
We originally started doing studies to understand what kind of products people were buying and where they were buying them from. We realized how little brand recognition there was: Almost 40 percent of people misidentified the brand of their sex toy, and another 40 percent didn’t know the brand at all. So we have 80 percent of the general population that doesn’t know what brand their sex toy is, which made us realize there’s a lot of room for us to create a really wonderful connection with human beings through ours.

What we really want to know is how people are communicating with each other. We saw some interesting trends — the overarching thing being that LGBTQ folks were more likely to be better at communicating effectively with partners, being realistic about body expectations, and being knowledgeable about where their sexual pleasure points were.

We also looked into the data to figure out why people masturbate, and the top three reasons were to have better sleep, to destress, and for an overall sense of well-being. That just screams wellness to me. From there, we started creating products — not for men or women, but for body parts, because we don’t want to gender our products. At the end of the day, yes, we are a for-profit company, but this brand is absolutely driven with purpose.

On decompressing:
It depends on where I am and the time of year. I read a lot, and I love dance, music, and art. I also have a pole in my little gym out back for dancing, which I’ve been doing for probably 26 years or so. I love to garden. I’m also an adrenaline junkie — hardcore. I love to kiteboard, mountain bike, rock climb. I used to race motorcycles, which probably gave my mom several heart attacks.

On her night routine:
I normally have chamomile tea in the evening to wind down. I do a facial routine with cleansing and oil. Once in bed, I fall asleep either listening to a meditation podcast or reading, or listening to an audiobook and reading at the same time. Like I said, my focus is sometimes all over the place, and doing that helps me fall asleep. I actually sleep really well ever since I started wearing headphones to bed.

How a Sex-Tech Company CEO Gets It Done