Good vibrations

Sex sells, and many are buying.

Two men here have seen their sex toy start-up smash their expectations by raising over four times their crowd-funding target in just half their allotted time.

Vibease - a wearable, "smart" vibrator - is the creation of Mr Dema Tio and Mr Steven Kik, both 34.

After getting the idea of a remotely-controlled sex toy about two years ago, the two men went around the world - to places including China, the US and Europe - quizzing women about their sexual preferences.

Instead of slaps, the result has earned them a sex symbol status - of sorts.

The founders of the Singapore-based sex toy start-up have, as of today, raised about US$62,800 (S$78,964) in two weeks on the popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

Their original target was to raise $15,000 in a month.

But they were shocked to find they had raised $20,000 in just 24 hours of launching their campaign.

Now, with less than 18 days to go, they are hoping to raise at least $100,000, which will cover manufacturing costs and enable them to ship a larger-thanplanned quantity of the sex toy by October.

These bespectacled men, sporting unstyled hair and toothy grins tell The New Paper on Sunday that the positive reception caught them off-guard.

It has been a process of word-of-mouth, spread over the past year at start-up seminars and conferences, including the ones at San Francisco and Dublin.

Loud applause would follow each of their presentations followed by curious potential users wanting to find out more.

A handful of people even assumed the duo were from Japan.

Mr Tio, a Singaporean permanent resident from Indonesia, says with a laugh: "Just because we're Asian and selling a sex toy, they automatically thought we were Japanese."

But it hasn't always been smooth sailing.

Mr Tio says: "When we first conceived the idea two years ago, many people told us that it would not sell.

"A lot of people didn't think we could make it."

Vibease is a Bluetooth-enabled device that communicates with a smartphone app for hands-free or even remote-controlled use. It is both iPhone- and Android-compatible.

Billed as a solution for single women or for couples in long-distance relationships, it has features that enables one party to remotely control the vibrator.

The app can also play different erotic stories with corresponding vibrations.

Check out the QR video for more.

The device is the brainchild of Mr Tio, who was a software engineer with a Boston-based firm until he quit his job two years ago to work full-time on Vibease.

He has been married for five years and says, unabashedly: "I was posted overseas in 2011, but my wife stayed here. I realised her sexual needs were not being met.

"I was thinking about how I can fulfil them even from a distance."

When he thought of a vibrator that can be remotely controlled, he pitched it to his former colleague, Mr Kik, who has a background in software development. Mr Kik, a Malaysian, was immediately on board.

While the Vibease now looks like a 7.5cmlong neon pink banana, its former incarnation was not a hit.

Last year, it was presented as a palm-sized plastic rabbit-shaped vibrator wired to a control box.

But after feedback from thousands of women from all over the world, Mr Tio realised that women prefer a hands-free, easily wearable device.

They went back to the drawing board and replaced the plastic material with silicon, which is not only durable but easier to clean.

The change is clearly for the better. The new prototype has been tested by 16 of their friends and has received glowing reviews.

Others who have read about it are eagerly anticipating the shipment of the product.

While some have ordered for themselves, others order "for a friend", says Mr Tio with a smile.

They have also been inundated with requests from interested buyers as well as distributors from all over the world.

The men put the key to their success down to talking.

It is not always easy to approach topics like sex, orgasms and toys casually, but they found ways of working around it.

Mr Kik, who is also married with two young children, says: "When someone asks us what we do, we use that as an opening to talk about the vibrator and quiz these women about what they like - or don't like."

And they are straightforward when it comes to sex talk. There is no bashfulness, no salaciousness.

Mr Tio says that they know when to draw the line, adding: "Of course, body language tells us when some women are uncomfortable and we immediately switch to a safer topic."

But marketing Vibease has its challenges.

The duo say that it is difficult to sell such a product in Singapore's conservative environment, though they concede that the younger generation is more openminded.

To date, Singaporeans make up a mere five per cent of their crowd funding effort. Most contributors are from the US.

Says Mr Kik: "We have been thinking of appropriate ways to market this product."

Agrees Mr Tio: "We don't want this product to be seen as part of the porn industry. We want Vibease to be seen as a sexual wellness product."


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