A New Slate of Apps Aims to Disrupt the Lucrative Erotica Market
Can erotica apps stay weird and attract major investments?
For as long as humans have been writing, we’ve written erotica — stories, poems, and novels intended to titillate and arouse each other. And over the course of those millennia, the format of these erotic works has remained largely unchanged.
Now a collection of startup entrepreneurs is betting that erotica is due for an upgrade. Apps like Dipsea, Shades, and the upcoming Do You all give this classic genre a revamp, repackaging erotica into apps that offer immediate access to hot stories and built-in communities. The pitch behind these apps is compelling: You don’t listen to music, watch movies, or enjoy TV shows the way your parents did, so why should your erotica resemble theirs?
Despite a general reluctance among investors to go anywhere near sex-related content, erotica has long commanded a massive literary market, accounting for nearly a third of fiction market sales and 45% of all Kindle sales. That market is finally starting to attract attention from tech investors. This past February, for example, Bedrock and Thrive Capital co-led a $5.5 million seed investment round in Dipsea, which offers users access to a collection of erotic audio stories. But can romance and erotica fans be wooed away from the books they love and won over by apps?
Six months after closing on its seed round, Dipsea is available in the U.K., United States, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. The app has been downloaded more than 170,000 times. Gina Gutierrez, Dipsea’s co-founder and CEO, says technology can make erotica accessible to a wider public. Gutierrez — who credits the megapopular meditation app Headspace with inspiring Dipsea’s collection of short, audio-based erotic tales — notes that long-form erotica formats lack immediacy. With erotic books and romance novels, she says, “there really was a lot of search involved. You were digging through a lot to find anything that you like.” That process can be off-putting for people who don’t have a ton of time or who feel awkward and embarrassed about looking for erotica in the first place.
“Over half [of my book sales] are coming from…