Lora Haddock: March 14 at SXSW

Scheduled March 8–16 in Austin, SXSWeek brings together hundreds of top industry experts from across the United States and around the world. Stay tuned to this space over the next few days as we interview and highlight some of the most interesting speakers on the 2019 schedule.

Today we connect with Lora Haddock (pictured above), who will speak about the “Double Standard In Sex Tech: It’s Time For Change” with Kate Clark of TechCrunch. This session occurs on Thursday, March 14 at 2:00 pm at the Congressional A Room in the Fairmont Hotel.

Haddock is the Founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, the sex tech company that made headlines in January when its award was revoked during CES. She launched this company in 2017 and began her journey towards launching new physiologically appropriate women’s health and wellness products.

UPDATE: Haddock will also speak on the “Can You Engineer (Sexual) Pleasure?” session on Wednesday, March 13 at 3:30 pm.

Can you give us a little more biographical background on yourself. How long have you been working in technology?
I started working in technology when I started Lora DiCarlo. I had worked in health care for a decade and saw a need in the market for a female anatomy-focused, physiologically appropriate sex tech product that could produce a blended orgasm. In order to create such a product I needed some serious tech and engineering know-how and an ability to tie in anatomical data with a mechanically sophisticated design utilizing microrobotics and biomimicry. With that in mind, I built the company from the ground up, and we built around the data. We built our team with the best engineers and professionals who also understood our vision and mission; folks that could get on board with our values of respect, empowerment, and integrity to help us cultivate a culture rooted in inclusivity.

Is Lora DiCarlo a tech startup — or do you view it as something else?
It certainly is a tech startup. The products that we create require intensive engineering and thought processes. The technology that we’re creating is new and innovative; we’ve developed tech that has gone into 8 patents and counting. We have an engineering lab outside of Oregon State University and our team of engineers works closely with our entire Lora DiCarlo team in product development and design utilizing rapid prototyping techniques in-house.

How surprised were you by CES’s decision to recant the Innovation Award?
We saw the win as a great turning point for CES and the CTA overall; we thought that the bestowal signified that they were looking forward and recognizing that innovation comes from all types of diverse places — so when they took it away it wasn’t so much a surprise as a disappointment that they were failing to be that voice of change within the tech space. They have such a huge platform that could be used to champion diversity and innovation but so far they haven’t done much to activate it. We still think there is space and time for them to turn it around and make a real effort to improve tech for women, LGBTQ+ folx, and people of color, and would be open to helping them achieve that goal.

Claiming a space in pleasure and tech is part of Lora DiCarlo’s mission. Has the injustice of having a prestigious reward revoked helped or hindered Lora DiCarlo mission’s?
CES just helped us shine a light on a much more widespread problem — this entire situation is just reflective of the problems in technology and business as a whole. This CES/CTA debacle really just showed us that the rest of the world is just as ready as we are to see a change in tech — the sheer outpouring of support we received from all types of people was astounding. This outpouring came from women and men, non-binary, gender non-conforming, LGBTQ+, and people of color. We had so many people writing in to say “we’re ready, let’s do this.”

Has what you call the double standard in sex technology plagued Lora DiCarlo throughout all stages of development?
Yes, of course, but we’re fortunate to have found some great allies along the way. People tend to look down their noses at something that they “just don’t get” or something that does not apply particularly to them. Through education and an unabashed fortitude around the conversation of pleasure, we have been able to find common ground across sex, gender, and preference and therein we have found boundless support among the trolls.

What can we expect from your fireside chat with Kate Clark of TechCrunch at SXSW 2019?
We’re very excited to be able to chat with Kate Clark from TechCrunch while we’re at SXSW. You can expect a lot of conversation around what the next steps are and how we translate all of this conversation about bias and double-standards into real change across the entire tech industry and how intersectional feminism can truly be a benefit to everyone. Our team is very committed to affecting real change, and at SXSW we’re going to be talking about how we make that happen, as well as how Lora DiCarlo, Osé, and pleasure tech fit into that more diverse and vibrant future.

What’s next for Lora DiCarlo? Any new products in development that you can mention?
Our Marketing and Sales Director, Sarah Brown, likes to describe our product roadmap as an interstate, rather than a road — so we have a huge amount of products in the pipeline. We’ll be officially launching Osé in fall of 2019, and we have several products focused on couples, we’re also really interested in VR, so lots and lots of wonderful things coming.

We often hear the line that sex-related technology pushes the needle for tech innovation in other sectors. Do you agree with that assessment?
Sex tech is absolutely a huge source of innovation across the board. The tech industry likes to pretend that it doesn’t exist but if you look at everything from VHS vs Betamax, to the development of payment platforms and internet encryption for online payments and content you can see the effect of pornography. And from the pleasure tech side — vibrators were the fifth consumer electronic device to be introduced into the home. And they revolutionized the miniaturization of motors, which gave rise to so many other devices in the future.

You are based in Portland. Is the Rose City really weirder than Austin?Well, I have lived in Portland for five years and it’s blissfully weird. I’ve only been to Austin once — so you’ll have to convince me. I would be impressed if Austin could come out on top, though. We Oregonians embrace weird, and particularly those of us at Lora DiCarlo; it’s just more fun that way.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

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Hugh Forrest

Hugh Forrest

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Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.