Ryan and Jenn Cmich want you to know they’re not “some freaks.” They’ve been married, happily, for 15 years. They have their own careers, Ryan as a mechanical engineer, Jenn as a marriage and family counselor. And yeah, about a year ago, the two began developing what the internet has since dubbed “the Horny Buttons.”
As the creators of LoveSync, a sexual intimacy tool that operates on Ryan’s patented “anonymous consensus” concept, the Cmich’s have been put through the social media wringer after launching their Kickstarter on Monday. Their product, a pair of buttons that each member of a couple can furtively tap when they’re ~ready to go~, has taken flack for its claims of anonymity (how, folks have asked, can it be anonymous if it’s just two people?), its perceived erasure of verbal communication, and its $72 price tag.
But Ryan and Jenn have been here before, “here” being in a bit of a corner, defending their product from mischaracterizations and gleeful dunks. A favorite analogy is comparing the use of LoveSync to the emergence of texting.
“We remember when texting was first introduced and everyone thought it was so dumb,” Jenn told Inverse. “‘Why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call?’ Well, now just about everyone texts, but there’s still a time and a place for a phone call, too.”
LoveSync, argue the Cmich’s, isn’t replacing talking. And it’s not operating under the traditional definition of “anonymous.” The buttons are designed to help couples, especially long-term, busy couples who have matured out of the passionate early stages of a relationship, navigate that middle ground between acutely horny and not at all interested, when you don’t want to say “Wanna bang?” — but you don’t not want to say it, either.
“It’s meant to help you maximize the times that you want to be intimate,” said Jenn.
“Really? You’ve never been in the mood and let the moment pass?” Ryan added. “This is meant to act on those impulses.”
Once one member of the couple quietly hits their LoveSync button, the other partner has a preset amount of time — between 15 minutes and a full 24 hours — to tap their button, too. A swirling green light then appears, signaling that the time may be right for some afternoon delight. Or evening delight, whatever. There’s no horny alarm (yes, I asked). No robotic voice whining, “But you promised!” if the two decide it’s a non-starter. The actual concept is so simple that when Ryan first began tossing around the idea for LoveSync, he couldn’t believe something similar hadn’t already been invented.
That window of opportunity, though, proved to be one of the few breaks the Cmich’s would get while pursuing LoveSync. First, there was the creation of the prototype, which took a bit of, uh, explaining for the engineering contractors.
“It took a while to really communicate what we were looking for,” said Ryan.
Then there was the initial focus group, with four couples they knew from their community of friends and family in Cleveland, Ohio. At that point, LoveSync only had one ten minute window for both couples to smash their respective buttons. One pair of testers said the wife often watched TV downstairs for an hour after the husband heads to bed. Another duo was sleeping in different rooms, a result of snoring.
“It wasn’t as encouraging as we had hoped.”
The beta LoveSyncs that the Cmich’s wanted to send to reviewers were massively expensive to produce, about $200 each. Finessing the messaging was a struggle, too. But when they turned to a simple online poll, and asked participants if they would use a device that let them know when their partner was interested in sex, roughly 60 percent of the 130 respondents said yes, say the Cmich’s. And throughout all of this, LoveSync was working in one, albeit small arena — the Cmich’s own bedroom.
“It wasn’t like we had some awful relationship before,” said Jenn. “And yet, still, it’s helped a lot.”
Ultimately, the Cmich’s believe a product like LoveSync can be used in tandem with couples therapy. Jenn, in particular, has spent her career helping couples sort through the wreckage of failed marriages; often, a decline in sexual intimacy was an early sign of deeper problems. Using LoveSync — something fun, casual and even a little silly — could help couples otherwise unwilling to acknowledge that a few cracks have formed in their relationship. Ryan, meanwhile, hopes to capitalize on the analytics side of LoveSync. Look at the progress that’s been made within health and fitness spheres, he says. Think of the lessons we could learn from gathering data about our sexual health.
The saga of LoveSync illustrates the messaging challenge entrepreneurs angling to break into the murky sex tech industry can face. Too niche, and your prospective customer base will shrink. Too mainstream, and you run the risk of being mocked for selling a horny product.
As for the online criticism, well, it’s been hard for the Cmich’s to read some of the more scathing reviews. “Our names will be in it and we’ll think, ‘What did we do to ourselves?’” said Jenn. “‘Did we really want it this bad?’”
“But then we think, ‘No, we’re on the right side of this,’” said Ryan. “We’ll keep pushing.”
And so far, they have. We finished our interview, and hung up. I refreshed the Kickstarter page. And just then, a mere 48 hours after going live, they hit their fundraising goal.