Prominent investors and entrepreneurs bet on consumers' desire for innovative, discreet and elevated sex toys
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., Sep. 19, 2013 / PRNewswire
Crave, a San Francisco-based startup specializing in the design and manufacture of discreet and elegant luxury sex toys, announced today that it closed a $2.4 million Series A investment from over 60 angel investors. The funding will be used to build inventory to meet growing consumer demand, develop new products and expand retail channels for continued growth.
The round comprises a broad range of Silicon Valley and international investors, including Rob Nail, Diego Canoso, Kate Schox, Andrew McCormack, Minnie Ingersoll, Can Serter, Alemşah Ozturk and Chaotic Ventures, among many others. At a time when independent investors are playing a larger role in financing startups, Crave serves as an example of a company leveraging the support of prominent angel investors and entrepreneurs, many of whom came through AngelList and its innovative Invest Online offering. Because of that program, Crave was able to reach a much wider pool of potential investors—and participation in the round was much more accessible.
"Crave is a consumer technology company, but it's hardly a traditional one," said Michael Topolovac, Co-Founder and CEO of Crave. "Having founded other more traditional technology companies in the past—and having funded the most recent one by raising significant venture capital—I knew that a traditional VC-centered funding approach wouldn't be the right fit for Crave at this point. We're tapping into a palpable desire to see an underserved market get the attention it deserves, and having broad-based financial backing to go after that goal is invaluable. Not only does it validate the widespread and growing sentiment that it's time for sex toys to go mainstream, but it also gives us a built-in network of evangelists that is far broader and deeper than what we could gain from a single large investor."
The first indicator of the strength of this shifting sentiment came in fall 2011, when the company introduced the Crave Duet, the world's first crowd-funded sex toy. The Duet secured over $100K from 900+ donors and has since become the company's flagship product. It's hailed for its design and performance and has been widely covered for the unique twist of being a vibrator merged with a USB memory drive.
"The opportunity for Crave is incredibly compelling. The stigma around the category has led to a collection of low-end novelty products, but represents a huge breakout opportunity as the space moves toward mainstream and the products evolve to the level of other heavily desired modern products in our lives," said investor Rob Nail. "The landscape looks like the music player market before Apple entered or the lingerie market before there was Victoria's Secret, suggesting a multi-billion dollar market is not very far off."
Since its successful crowd-funding debut, Crave has:
Launched a full line of products and added mainstream retailers. In February 2013, the company expanded its line of vibrators and introduced foreplay jewelry. These products can be found not only at traditional retailers such as Good Vibrations and Babeland, but leading lifestyle retailers like Fab.com.
Opened a San Francisco headquarters where products are designed and built. The company lives by a commitment to bringing quality design, materials and manufacturing practices to the industry. It does this by sourcing body-safe materials, designing and building its products from its San Francisco headquarters and being an active participant in the SFMade community of local manufacturers.
Built momentum and gotten in position to be profitable within the year. In an era when startups often depend on tens of millions of dollars in venture capital to see them through the early years, Crave has defied odds and is on track to be profitable by the end of its first year as a full-fledged company.
"The quality of design for women's most intimate products has long suffered—I think the stigma kept many great designers away. But this dearth of good design, coupled with the fact that the industry is dominated by men designing for women, is exactly why I began designing sex toys," said Ti Chang, Co-Founder and VP of Design at Crave. "The industry is shifting and women are demanding more from their toys. With our innovative approach to design, our commitment to local manufacturing and our focus on female sexuality, we're well-positioned to deliver the modern experience that women want."
Crave was founded in the fall of 2011 by seasoned entrepreneur and Stanford product designer Michael Topolovac, along with Ti Chang, an industrial designer from the Royal College of Art. First identifying a shifting sentiment and the need for sex toys that could shed their historical stigma, Crave launched a crowd-funding project for an innovative and elegant vibrator merged with a USB memory drive. The project ultimately secured over $100K from 900+ donors and further validated the company's belief that sensual products should look as good as they feel. Beyond beautiful and discreet design, Crave is among the few companies in the pleasure products industry that is led by a female product designer and builds its products in the U.S. Handling production in its San Francisco facility, the company maintains a commitment to designing and manufacturing high-quality, innovative and delightful products. Learn more about Crave at http://www.lovecrave.com.