Think you know sex-tech duo Brian and Suki Dunham? Well, if you’ve attended a trade show or large-scale product training sometime over the last decade, then without a doubt — yes, you probably do.
Brian and Suki of Ohmibod fame — which, for the rare and uninitiated, is the company that launched the Music Vibe and Club Vibe, some of the first sex toys to connect with mp3 players and speaker systems — are quite possibly the pleasure industry’s most definitive couple. This East Coast power team of things that go buzz in the night plays almost as hard as they work, and their user-friendly tech toys are almost as famous as their bright, smiley vibes whenever they’re out and about.
Suki and I both had fairly extensive careers prior to starting Ohmibod, we both started out in Germany on internships to support our dual finance/international degrees at Northeastern University.
The Dunhams have been hanging around the industry event scene long enough to have told their life stories several times over, so when it comes to re-hashing the history of Ohmibod, it’s no easy feat to entertain an audience that already knows the ending. Luckily for us at XBIZ, Team Dunham was ready to spill the beans on some of the backstories you (probably) haven’t heard yet.
This pair of parents/spouses/co-entrepreneurs are responsible for some of the most popular boutique sex toy lines to date, like Lovelife — a modern, femme-tech makeover of classic vibrator designs — and Bedroom Kandi, a home party company that makes sex-positive pleasure more accessible for women of color.
You more than likely know the Dunhams, but you might not know these pivotal stories that outlined their path from indie sex toy startup to household name. But please, stop me if you’ve heard this one.
Fact #1: The pair got their start in international business and tech in Germany.
“Suki and I both had fairly extensive careers prior to starting Ohmibod,” says Brian Dunham, CEO and co-founder of Ohmibod. “We both started out in Germany on internships to support our dual finance/international degrees at Northeastern University. Suki worked for Bain & Co. as an intern in the Munich office. I worked for a company called Raychem. When we graduated, we were offered jobs back in Munich. Suki worked for Compaq Computer and I continued on with Raychem. It was here that we began to learn the ropes in international business and also got our first taste of companies playing in the tech space. Since we sell Ohmibod globally, our experience in our early days provided a nice foundation for us to start our business.”
Fact #2: Suki and Brian’s Silicon Valley-honed skill sets are what keep Ohmibod running smoothly.
“We lived and worked in Europe for four years until we moved to San Francisco. There, I continued my career at Raychem’s HQ in Menlo Park and Suki started her eight-year stint at Apple in Cupertino,” continues Dunham. “During our San Francisco days, Suki polished her skills in Apple’s World Wide Product Marketing group where she learned the importance of pricing, positioning, packaging and branding. I worked more on the operational and supply chain side in Raychem. I think that’s why we’re a great team — we don’t compete with one another in our respective areas of expertise and draw crisp lines in decision-making. We trust one another’s decisions and have a great deal of respect for our areas of expertise.”
Fact #3: If you’re friends with the Dunhams, you can thank Sliquid CEO Dean Elliot.
“The turning point was when we attended one of the industry trade shows in L.A. in 2006. We went out to do some learning and myth-busting about the industry after we had received our prototypes,” recalls Brian. “The first person we met was Dean from Sliquid. He was like a one-man sex toy industry welcoming committee. We had some really amazing conversations with him and a bunch of other folks there. After the first day of the show, we looked at each other and said, ‘We can do this. These folks are cooler than any other trade show we’ve been to.’”
Fact #4: They’re those “cool parents” we always wanted as kids, and a shining example of sex-positive parenting at work.
“They think it’s pretty cool,” says Brian of what his pair of Gen Z offspring think about their parents’ choice of vocation. “They are amazingly mature, well-adjusted kids, so that helped when talking to them about what we do. We sat them each down when it was age appropriate and explained to them about the business at a high level. We talked about the importance of masturbation and self-pleasure and how it is proven to be both satisfying and healthy. Our son actually works part-time for us while he’s in college. When I told our daughter at around age 11 — after explaining everything in detail to her, including a ‘Google map’ of the female body, she asked me ‘Papa, what does the clitoris actually do?’ It was fun and funny from a parenting perspective. Looking back on it, I’m extremely thankful for being in the industry because it gave us an excuse to talk directly with our kids about things that most parents struggle with. Our open communication has been very liberating and healthy for our now young adults.”
Fact #5: Just when you thought sex tech couldn’t get any geekier, the Dunhams are going into full computer nerd mode for their next big releases.
“We’ve focused on the Ohmibod Remote app over the past few months to improve the technology, UI, connection stability and adding some really cool features like the Ludicrous Mode (of course, after our hero, Elon), Oh!Dometer, and the ability to turn your iPhone or Android into a Club Vibe,” says Brian, “where it will transmit music and sounds to a brand new version of our blueMotion NEX |1 with an updated BLE Bluetooth chip. You can even turn the vibe off remotely using the phone and block your ex from trying to connect! We’ve also made it compatible with our smart Kegel exerciser, Lovelife krush, Esca and Fuse — the super high-tech vibe we made in partnership with Kiiroo. So the app now supports everything from our Freestyle line to our products containing our latest custom designed chipsets.”
Fact #6: You still haven’t heard all of the Dunhams’ wild and hilarious road trip stories.
“OMG, there are too many,” says the pair of their laundry list of sex toy travel tales. “The trade shows, especially the ones in Europe, were always filled with amazing and new adventures. I remember I once fell on a performer who was teaching me to pole dance. We also had a hilarious cab ride in Vegas with Mathilde and Tonny from Sinful where we were asking our cab driver to tell us what he called his ‘junk.’ If my memory serves me correctly, it was something like Black Stallion.”
Fact #7: The Dunhams might know a thing or two about vibrators, but don’t trust them with your musical instruments.
“A very recent funny thing that just happened [was when] we received a 3D print in the mail and our designer used ‘guitar tuner’ in the description,” concludes an amused Brian Dunham, “since apparently there are some 3D printing companies who refuse to print sex toys.”