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Startups Shake Up the Sleepy Vibrator Market

The We-Vibe 3
The We-Vibe 3Photograph Courtesy Standard Innovation

This Valentine’s Day story starts with a little rejection. A few years ago, Michael Topolovac and Ti Chang set out to build a better vibrator: a dual-motor concept that uses a USB port to recharge. Unable to get approved to pitch the crowds on Kickstarter, they tapped one of its lesser-known counterparts, CKIE, ultimately raising just over $100,000—more than six times what they initially sought. “It completely blew us away,” says Topolovac, a 45-year-old serial entrepreneur. Adds Chang, a 33-year-old industrial designer: “It really indicated that people are ready and really wanting this.”

Today, their four-employee San Francisco business, Crave, is introducing a handful of devices, including a vibrator that looks like an eye mascara container, both online and at boutiques around the country. It’s one of a new breed of startups yearning to innovate in the relatively sleepy vibrator market, more than a century after Hamilton Beach patented the first electric unit available for retail sale. Like behemoth brands such as Trojan, which started Trojan Vibrators in 2010, these newcomers are willing to experiment.