BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A passion for empowering women’s sexual experiences brought Alexandria Fine and Janet Lieberman together to launch Dame Products and create Eva — a couples’ toy that’s made history as the most highly crowd-funded adult product.
Recently profiled by Forbes, the twentysomething-year-old Brooklyn-based duo is credited with surpassing their “stretch” goal of $200,000 by 375 percent on Indiegogo and being the crowd-funding site’s most successful campaign ever run by an all-female team.
Fine is a graduate from Columbia University with a Masters in Clinical Psychology and a concentration on sex therapy, who chaired her undergraduate college’s Sex Week, and taught sexual education programs. She gained experience in the operation of a startup at a consumer packaged goods company.
Dame Products CTO Janet Lieberman graduated from MIT in 2007 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and honed her skills at various companies, including MakerBot — where she was the lead engineer of its Replicator Mini Compact Desktop 3D Printer, as well as 3D printing company Z Corporation, Quirky and MindsInSync.
“We were both pretty familiar with pleasure products prior to launching the Indiegogo campaign,” Fine told XBIZ. “Even before we deconstructed $1,000 worth of toys, we were both sex toy users.”
Eva was created to address the “Pleasure Gap,” a term that Dame Products developed to describe the disparity between men and women’s pleasure during sex.
“As much as 70 percent of women need clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm, but as couples who've tried know, providing that stimulation during vaginal intercourse is often awkward, tiring, or disruptive to one or both partners,” the company said.
And so Eva was created. The hands-free vibrator provides women clitoral stimulation during sex with unique flexible wings that keep the vibrator in place by tucking under a woman’s labia majora.
In this exclusive interview, Fine and Lieberman discuss their background, the development of Eva and being in the media spotlight.
XBIZ: How was Dame Products founded?
Lieberman: We were both young women starting sex toys companies in Brooklyn at the same time. We both were going to hardware and startup meet-ups, and people actually thought that Alex and I were the same person at first. The third time this came up, I decided I had to meet her. We both got into the business because we thought our skill sets seemed to be underrepresented in the industry, and that we could do some good. But we both had a half of starting the company that we felt less secure about. For me, I was confident in my ability to handle the product development and manufacturing side of things from past experience, and just hoping I could figure out the rest of running a company. Alex had experience in the operations/business side of a startup, but was hoping to either be able to figure out the product development side of things. It was a match made in heaven, so we decided to join forces.
XBIZ: Discuss the research and development that went into creating Eva.
Fine: I had spent years specializing in the study of sex and am a Columbia-educated expert who's incredibly passionate about the subject. Combining that with years of sex toy use, I was already pretty knowledgeable about the subject and able to research the psychology side before starting this project. But we also worked with some therapists during the development. They were either beta testers themselves, or gave prototypes to patients to try out, and gave feedback, which we incorporated into the product.
Lieberman: Because we’re self-funded we took a pretty lean model to the actual development process. We knew that the feature that became the “wings” was going to be the most challenging aspect, so we developed that separately to start. Material properties were going to be crucial to function for the wings, so we knew that ordering machined versions (one of the easiest ways to prototype in production materials) was going to be expensive. That’s where 3D printing comes in — we probably went through 30-40 3D printed versions of that part alone, and then we only had to order the most likely candidates in material. We could then use the same machined wings with different 3D printed bodies, which let us do function tests while also exploring different industrial design directions. Although we got some informal feedback throughout the process, we’ve had five more official rounds of testing with outside subjects evaluating. Those rounds of testing involved about 50 women or couples, some of whom tested multiple rounds.
XBIZ: Did you expect all the publicity you’ve received?
Fine: Our story has many different components, which I think has made media coverage in several different outlets possible. I must say, though — while we obviously really believed deeply in the product, we didn't expect such an overwhelmingly positive response from the press. Our goal was to develop the best product possible by really listening to the needs of the consumer, and the fact that we've been able to gain so much publicity for doing that is a wonderful added bonus.
XBIZ: What do think makes Eva so appealing to mainstream?
Lieberman: There really isn't anything else quite like Eva on the market. It's something people want, and, to a certain degree, it's that simple. Alex and I are the consumer, and that makes us incredibly passionate about our work. But I also think that, as a society, we’re ready to talk plainly about sex. Without sterilizing or sensationalizing it, we've been able to bring the conversation to the forefront.
XBIZ: Will Dame Products be producing additional toys in the future?
Fine: We will continue to engineer phenomenal tools for vaginas.
XBIZ: Will it be available for wholesale/retailers?
Yes, Eva should be available for retailers starting in July. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.