Meet the Founder



Faking it? Anna Lee has 50,000 anonymous orgasms and counting

Leah Montebello
January 25, 2024

In the world of sex tech, Anna Lee, co-founder of Lioness, pioneers a data-driven approach to understanding female orgasms. Through the innovative Lioness vibrator, equipped with force sensors and an app, users can track and analyze their pelvic floor movements, contributing to a broader conversation on sexual health and bridging the gap in research, despite the challenges faced by the sex tech industry in mainstream acceptance and advertising.

“I’ll have what she’s having”: perhaps one of the most iconic lines in rom-com history, from one of the most ridiculous scenes. However, with each rewatch of When Harry met Sally, and Meg Ryan’s infamous faux-climax, you start to question…is it really that ridiculous? The female orgasm has been given almost mythical status, and whilst many have tried to describe the enigma of it through literature and artistic expression, do any of us actually know the science behind it? Where’s the data? Where’s the research? And more interestingly, how can we even start to quantify it?

Born from a love of data (and pleasure, of course), the Lioness vibrator has two force sensors etched on its shaft, which measures pelvic floor movements and calculates the rhythmic squeezing and relaxing pattern of the vaginal muscles. Deemed as the best type of data to indicate levels of arousal and overall strength of orgasms, Lioness allows you to collect live information via an app, which in turn empowers people with vaginas to track patterns and spot trends in their climaxes.

This makes Lioness the first and only vibrator that uses biofeedback, precision sensors, and pleasure data to help people learn more about their own arousal and orgasms. It also makes Anna Lee, co-founder, a true pioneer in the sex tech space.

A personal journey

Having spent her early years in Korea, Anna grew up in a “very religious and conservative family, where nobody ever spoke about sex”. Confessing she hadn’t even owned a sex toy before working on Lioness, she laughs that it is still a mystery how she became a Forbes 30 Under 30 Founder of a sex toy company! Her parents had moved to the USA in pursuit of the American Dream and better opportunities for their children, and Anna’s UC Berkeley education and 2 years at Amazon is perhaps a testament to this dream rather than her own passions.

So, despite rising through the ranks in corporate America, Lee tells me, “although I loved working in the concept engineering team at Amazon, I wasn’t passionate about what I was building… in all honesty, it felt really daunting to realise that everything you were geared towards since you were a child was suddenly not what you wanted. So I made a huge leap.”

Turning this fear into a product (switching from Kindles to dildos!), the most obvious question that springs to mind is, why sex tech? She explains, “Before I was even involved with Lioness, I remember meeting a male founder of a female vibrator company and thinking to myself how he could understand the product he was creating. It’s funny because almost pre-empting my thoughts, he started to explain how the industry standard of what vibration on the clitoris feels like is comparative to the tip of your nose… and it was at this moment I realised how much Lioness, and a female-led team was needed!”

Sex on the mind

As an industry worth around $30 billion, Lioness’ place in the sex tech space is exciting – especially with its potential for research. Lee tells me, “A Lioness user had reported a strange pattern on her orgasm data via our app and couldn’t understand why her orgasm pattern had varied so much. We assumed this may have been a technical glitch from our side, but once the team started to dig deeper, we realised we could pinpoint the exact date that her orgasms started to change”. The beauty of the Lioness app is that it allows for a feedback loop between the users and the Lioness team: a learning experience for all involved, where orgasms are valued and invested in.

Lee told me, “After reconnecting with the user, it turned out that she was an athlete who had suffered from a concussion injury on that specific day that her orgasm pattern started to shift… and it was only once she started physical therapy that her pattern started to normalise! Not only did this show the power of our data, but also the connection between the brain and female orgasms – and ultimately how little research there was in this area.” This is just one of the many examples of how there are huge gaps in our understanding of sexual health and its link to physical and neurological health.

The privacy to be public

With the launch of the Lioness Sex Research Platform in late 2017, Anna and her co-founder, Liz Klinger, have been able to analyse more than 50,000 fully anonymised orgasms from thousands of users around the world. All their data is highly encrypted and the platform works as an opt-in system where the Lioness team can look at aggregated rather than individual data. This means they can still have a comprehensive understanding of the way orgasms work, without infringing on their users’ information. With sex tech being so nascent, the need for strong privacy feels essential: setting a precedent of protection.

“While on the one hand, we want to empower people to be open about their sexual behaviours, we also understand it is deeply private, and should always be on your own terms…”, Lee emphasises. By allowing women to share the data on their terms, Lioness frames collaboration as a choice and data as a vehicle for science rather than merely a revenue stream. This is also why Lee actively encourages other women to share their own data and orgasm patterns on social media. They want to demystify the orgasm, and whilst this may initially rely on the extroverts of the world, these are the people who are ultimately driving the data forward!

Playing catch up

The irony is that technology hasn’t caught up with its own advancements. For example, Anna and her team are blocked from traditional paths of growth that eCommerce companies would normally take, like Instagram ads, and are either shadow banned or blocked for talking about sexual pleasure: “We constantly fall into porn or sex work categories, and we even struggled to open a bank account or be taken seriously in the beginning.”

We also chat about Dame, a US-based sex toy company, who recently sued the MTA (New York’s subway system) for banning their subway ad campaign. They described the MTA’s reasoning as vague and sexist and drawing stark comparisons to the advertisement of erectile dysfunction drugs as being widely accepted. So despite all her success, Anna’s relationship with entrepreneurship remains a complex one:

“We [her and her other co-founder] always joke that we took that hardest route to entrepreneurship. Not only is it hard being female founders, but we also have hardware and sex tech being the cherry on top. It’s like a triple barrier to push through and we are really proud of our work so far!”

Chatting to Lee, it is clear that she is deeply passionate about the work Lioness is doing and it is really exciting to see what they uncover next. There is so much to learn about female sexual health and Lioness is hopefully the beginning of a more general movement to a more open and data-driven conversation about wellness.

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