Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Lora Haddock has over a decade of experience in healthcare, and after an honorable discharge from the US Navy she enrolled in a pre-med program. As a self-described “anatomy geek”, Lora became fascinated with the psychological, physiological, and anatomical aspects of the female orgasm. She left med school to design functional product specifications determined to produce the perfect orgasm, drawing on years of research and anatomical data she had gathered from hundreds of women. She founded Lora DiCarlo in 2017 and began her journey towards launching new physiologically appropriate health and wellness products for women and people with vaginas. She is based in Bend, OR.
What is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it?
When I was 28 I experienced my first blended orgasm – and it literally put me on the floor, it was so good. The only thing that was going through my head at that point was “how do I do that again?” Blended orgasms are essentially the holy grail of orgasms and they can be extremely difficult to reach without juggling the perfect combination of toys or a really talented partner – and neither of those are easy to come by. Osé grew out of the desire to make a product that could give all people with vaginas that experience – whether they have a partner or not.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
I founded the company in October of 2017, so the speed at which we’ve been able to develop Osé is really astounding. We have an absolutely amazing team here at Lora DiCarlo.
Sarah Brown, our Director of Marketing
Lola Vars, Technical Director
Dr. Ada-Rhodes Short, PhD., Senior Mechatronic Design Engineer
Mark Hazelton, Director of Production
Avery Smith, Engineering Assistant
Mazie Houchens, Engineering Assistant
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
We’ve basically gone from concept to prototype in about a year and a half, thanks to some absolutely brilliant rapid prototyping methods our engineering team has developed. We’re able to make changes to our designs in the morning and have a 3D printed sample by the end of the day.
What was the biggest obstacle?
It’s likely the same obstacle anyone has as an entrepreneur. Scaling the business appropriately has been a little like drinking from a firehose while sitting on a rocketship and trying to make a cheese sandwich all at once. Something that was hard for me was understanding that failing isn’t really failing; it’s an opportunity and finding the perfect folks that really fit with the Lora DiCarlo culture to help me achieve this dream has been absolutely essential.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
MY TEAM! The fact that we have been able to get this many amazing brilliant folks in one cohesive space blows my mind every day.
Creation of a truly revolutionary piece of tech that is designed around female physiology
Miniaturization of incredibly complicated robotics that mimic human movement - NOT EASY
CES Innovations Award Winner, having people listen so that their story can help for change and empower other women/companies to speak up against injustice
IHS Markit Robotics and Drones Award Winner
$100 Business Oregon Phase 0 Grant Awardee
TIE Oregon Pitch Oregon Winner
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Challenges on both the engineering and marketing sides have been where we’ve needed the most particular expertise. Creating such a feat of engineered robotics within such a tiny package has required a wealth of knowledge, skill, and ingenuity that has not been easy to find and acquire and execute. Marketing and branding has really called for an expert in the space and we truly were fortunate enough to have found just the right talent who is thoroughly proficient in this space.
With regards to being a female entrepreneur - of course it has been hard. Sometimes folks look at you and seem to expect that you can’t do it because you’re just a woman. I’ve been called “cute” for having goals that I’ve pursued hotly, and when I’ve done well - out of sheer grit and hard work - people say, “You sure got lucky.” Luck has nothing to do with it.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Right now we are focusing on bringing Osé to the market and ensuring that it is the best product it can be. At the same time, we’re also working very hard on raising the conversation about diversity in tech and the exclusion of women’s sexuality.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
#WomenInTech is one of the most important movements happening right now. Tech is in every single area of our lives and we’ve already seen that diversity is essential to creating technology and products that are good for all people. Not just a privileged few. When tech is made primarily by one type of person (white cis-male), then your tech is increasingly out of touch with the majority of users. This goes for everything from algorithms to pleasure products. Your biases inform everything that you make, which is why diversity and representation of all types of people in tech is so crucial to a free and equal society.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
The only person that can stand in your way is yourself. People will try to deter you, sometimes distinctly, they may muddy your path, they may laugh at you for having dreams, and that’s when you push harder. That’s when you find allies and you surround yourself with them. That’s when you arm yourself with knowledge and determination. That’s when you stand your ground to fight the good fight because you belong here. Keep going because you never know when you’ll have an opportunity to change the world -- and I hope you take it.
What will be the key trends in the health tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I think we’re at the edge of the revolution in health tech and pleasure products, and a lot of that is specifically related to who is making them. Previously it was mostly male CEOs, designers, and engineers designing products for vaginas. Now we’re seeing a shift away from that model, with more women, gender-nonconforming, and LGBTQ+ people taking charge and designing products that actually work for us. So in 30 years I think we’re going to be in a completely new age of creativity and technology that is way more inclusive of what gives someone pleasure.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in health tech?
Honestly I wouldn’t even limit it to health tech, women have been doing amazing things in tech for all of history. Ada Lovelace was the world's first computer programer - not the first female programmer, but literally the first ever.
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This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.