How I Launched: Hot Octopuss

An illustrated interpretation of a bearded man in a yellow jumper with giant vibrating hands.

Sex-toy business cofounder Adam Lewis shares the story behind the bestselling Guybrator, and building a brand that’s breaking taboos while creating more orgasms

By Mikael Jack   Tuesday 7 January, 2020

The big idea:
‘As the managing director of a conference company, I always wanted a business I could commit to that was my own. I’d started different projects over the years, but they just didn’t work out. I was in bed after a party when an old idea resurfaced: to create a male
sex toy that specifically worked with vibrations. This was something I enjoyed and had played around with over the years, adapting sex aids made for women to use on myself.’

The plan:
‘I went online to see what was available and, to my amazement, nothing I had in mind
was there. Almost everything that vibrated was phallic, and the few aids that didn’t were trying to replicate real-life sex, such as fake silicone vaginas. I thought, “Am I a complete pervert? There must be a reason why this doesn’t exist.” But I decided that if I like vibrations down there, surely other men do. I didn’t want to [start the business] on my own, and my friend Julia was on maternity leave from her position as CEO of a charity at the time. When I asked if she’d consider being my business partner, her reply was, “Fuck, yeah!”. She got on board looking for design agencies, most of whom ran when they heard the concept, but one stuck and we began.’

The breakthrough:
‘Still searching online, I came across a report on penile vibratory stimulation, which described a medical device that helped men with spinal-cord injuries have children. Suddenly, my idea seemed less ridiculous – it was one that had been used for years to help men ejaculate who normally couldn’t. It was a huge milestone. I contacted the manufacturer of this big, loud device who – after convincing them that I wasn’t trying to create a rival product – licensed the technology. It took three years to redesign it into a small, waterproof, beautifully crafted item.’

Money matters:
‘There were many moments when Julia and I thought we’d never get the business over the line, financing it from our own pockets. It was only when the international patent bill arrived, and we discovered the amount needed to purchase the initial stock, that we realised we couldn’t continue to fully fund it ourselves. Then we found an angel investor,
who put in £250,000, and allowed us to launch.’

Launching to market:
‘We introduced Pulse, “the world’s first Guybrator”, in 2013 at The New International Lingerie Show in Las Vegas. It was a hard sell, with many guys thinking it was impossible that you could put your flaccid penis into this device, and its oscillations would make you reach orgasm without stroking. We had to give out loads of samples. People came back saying, “OK, not only does it work, but it’s incredible.” By the end of the first month, we’d filled the first 30 to 40 pages of Google for the search term “Hot Octopuss Pulse” and, in the first six months, sold 10,000 units.’

Building the brand:
‘Our direct-to-consumer business was always our number one focus, and we reinvested a lot into our marketing campaigns, making headlines for confronting stigmas in the sexual-health arena. It created a domino effect that eventually led to our wholesale and
distributor business growing, which juxtaposes the way brands usually launch in this field. Coming up with new products has been a natural evolution, thinking about how we can use different motors and materials. We currently have 10 products, but a catalogue of ideas that takes us way into the future. It’s just a case of figuring out which one we develop next.’

Dealing with challenges:
‘What isn’t a challenge? Starting a business presents you with things you’ve never thought about, like where the hell you get a barcode from. Obvious challenges come from the stigma around what we do, but that’s actually helped us identify marketing opportunities, where we want to change people’s perceptions.’

Staying motivated:
‘Being the founder of a business that pushes boundaries and does things that haven’t been done before, and working with people who like to stir the pot, is great fun and very rewarding. Quite early on, a man who had prostate cancer, and could no longer get an erection, told us he reached orgasm using Pulse. People with similar stories started telling us it had made a difference to their lives. It gave us a natural mission to be super inclusive of segments of society that had been left out. Everyone has a place in our brand.’
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