10 Questions with Pillow – Founders Kate Moyle & Ann Liu

Posted On: August 12, 2018

This is a five-part weekly series of Sextech founders by Relationship Counselor & Clinical Sexologist Dr. Martha Tara Lee of Eros Coaching. This is part 4 of 5.

1) What do you do?

Kate Moyle: Founding Partner / In-House Expert, 2 years

I work as a Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist in London so I’m working with couples experiencing difficulties and challenges everyday and so I can really understand how useful a tool can be, especially one that gives permission to people to try something new as we feel Pillow does. When Darren and I met in 2015 he spoke about how we could take his idea into the couple space and what the key problems facing modern couples today are and so initially my role was very much around crafting episode content and making sure that what we were providing for people was thoughtfully and ethically created. It involves looking at content and trying to think of how different people would approach it, for example some couples may be wanting to try Pillow to experience more intimacy but without a need or want for a sexual relationship, and so every episode is a self contained experience, rather than a pre-curser for sex and it’s important that’s respected. It’s also important for us to think about things like using no gender pronouns so that all couples can use the app – it’s completely necessary to be inclusive. My role has been focused around building relationships with the amazing experts that we have been working with, discussing their ideas for episodes and blog pieces with them, and working out how we can use such incredible talent and knowledge in the best way. I have also been on hand to offer couples recommendations based on their needs of what they are looking for from trying the app. I also do a lot of the media facing work so telling people about what we are up to keeping in touch with audiences via podcasts, interviews etc and helping people to understand what we can offer them and conveying our message – that we aren’t anti-screen we are just trying to use it in a different way to help people to connect. So my role is very much around the couple and intimacy side of things rather than the tech side.

Ann Liu: Producer, Founding Team – officially started in August of 2017

I work with the Kate and the rest of the team to create content for our social media. We work with Guest Experts and Pillow’s in-house writers for producing the episodes. We write the script or work with Experts to write the script which then becomes the Episode. From there, I produce our audio recordings (either with my own voice, voice actors, or the Experts themselves) and place them on the app.

2) Why do you do it? 

Ann: I’ve been in the tech industry for over 5 years, working in kids education tech and with small startups, designing learning experiences for teams. When I left that world, I started traveling and met Darren in Thailand. Our team is remotely distributed; we’re all around the world. Kate is based in the UK with her private practice. Darren and I lean towards the nomadic side.

Personally, I am recently divorced, and started traveling. I was intrigued with the whole concept of intimacy in relationships, as it felt like the center of everything we do. And we spend the majority of our lives talking about love, how to find love, how to sustain and heighten love. How to love and play truthfully. How to experience all that there is in the modern relationship.

We live in a digital age, where everyone is looking down into the palms of their hands, or at life through a screen. I lived a majority of my life like this. And I was getting more involved with authentic relationships, and left my old life for a life filled with true connection. So I started traveling and met Darren, along with a whole world of digital nomads and love/sex educators. From there everything naturally evolved. I went from giving personal insight for the app because I am the perfect Pillow user: I’ve been in a 11 year relationship, that struggled with intimacy. I am a survivor of assault and abuse. I’ve carried years and years of shame of my own sexuality. I am now wanting to get in touch with all the parts of intimacy (both sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual) and Pillow’s presence was and is, the perfect match.

Since joining, I’ve embodied all the parts of Pillow. When a new Episode appears, I see it woven into my own trials and tribulations of relationships. I find myself learning deeper ways to connect, checking in with my own desires/needs as well as my partner’s desires/needs. It’s fun, emotional and inspiring. It’s experiencing life!

Kate: Pillow went live as a product in early 2016, and our focus was really on helping couples to connect and find time for intimacy in their busy lives. We use our phones and technology for everything else in life, why wouldn’t we use it to help us with connection too?

We felt that there were so many products focused on helping to make couples but very few that were about helping to keep couples and maintaining relationships. It’s also really exciting to be involved in something that is helping people in a different and more modern way. I get to see the difference that something like therapy can make to people in my daily practice as a therapist, but it’s not for everyone and not everybody has access to therapy and Pillow is a way of us helping couples to get access to help from experts in an affordable and accessible way from the comfort of their own home, and that is really exciting.

I do it because I really believe that it can help relationships and bring people together, and I don’t just believe it – we know it works because our users tell us and we get amazing feedback and that’s just the best feeling. We need help in our relationships nowadays – you only have to look around you to see that everyone is constantly head down in their phones distracted and not paying attention to those around them, and this is going to continue to have a detrimental impact on our personal relationships. I believe we are going to see more products coming out to try and combat this problem as forms of communication such as eye contact and attention are essential parts of how we feel and are with those around us as humans.

3) What are some of the reactions to what you do?

Ann: People are intrigued! They think – oh it’s a “sex app,” but it really isn’t. It’s more than that. It’s got a life to it, it’s the way we do things everyday. It’s intimacy, which I feel is an overused term, so we hope to redefine intimacy by calling it something else. That will come soon, we’re currently working on what the next stage for Pillow will be. It’s growing as we are growing too.

Many are excited and actually refreshed to hear it exists. I think the people we speak to are more prepared and primed for re-calibrating the depths of their relationships.

It’s been extremely rewarding to see their enthusiasm. And it’s from both men and women. This speaks alot, because it’s a clear sign we are losing touch with authentic connection.

Kate: I couldn’t agree with Ann more – there is always an intrigue around the taboo which sadly sex is still considered. The pity with that is that we really are so much more than just a ‘sex app’ we fall under the remit of sex tech but probably are more ‘love-tech’ although the sex tech space has some incredible innovations and people working in it that we are so lucky to know and work alongside. The sad thing about that reaction is that often people are too scared to try something new, and for us it means it makes a different set of challenges and limitations for how and where we can be listed on the AppStore for example and seeking funding.

4) What do you wish people who knew about your work?

Ann: That this is a labor of love. The creation, the evolution, the growth – are all artifacts of the team’s relationships. As we grow and learn about getting deeper with our partners, we see how the app could also listen to our users and serve them even better. We’re a small team and we do everything for this app. I’ve never felt so rewarded in the work I do, in a long time, until I met Pillow.

Kate: How much we actually care about what we have created and how much we believe in it. Obviously everyone is going to think that about something they have created as if they didn’t feel that way they wouldn’t put so much work, time and effort into it. The thing I would like to tell everyone is that the first and perhaps biggest barrier is to trying it for the first time, and suggesting it to your partner but the reward of taking that risk would be so worth it.

5) Would you consider what you do sex tech?

Ann: We believe we are love tech. Sex tech is a by-product of love tech. If sex happens, bonus! That’s not what we want to focus on though, it’s not exclusive to sex tech. If sex is involved, we have Episodes that definitely support that space.

Kate: Sex-Tech is such an exciting and new space and the people in it are essentially all on the same mission, to educate and help people to experience more pleasure in their intimate lives and using technology as the vehicle to do that. At Pillow We aren’t doing anything different it’s just that our focus is slightly shifted from sex to intimacy. It’s also important to appreciate that you can have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex.

6) Do you see a trend in this industry?

Kate: Not so much a trend in the products and how people are trying to do it, but the trend is in what we are all trying to achieve which is better sex for everyone. There is also a lot of focus currently on women’s pleasure which has not been part of the mainstream conversation until recent years, and there are a lot of women in sextech who want to focus on this. I am lucky enough to be a part of the London Womens Sextech Collective and the conversations are just incredible and very empowering.

7) What makes your product unusual?

Ann: We work with experts from around the world, and growing our episodes every month featuring a new expert each month.
Our exercises come from accredited therapists, coaches, and tantra teachers…. and we’re overflowing with new Experts wanting to share their passion to help couples relate. We work with the grain of handheld devices to help couples see and feel each other. Imagine that!

Kate: also the way that we are using the technology. Yes it’s an app, but the focus is on the people using it rather than the tech itself. The app is a tool to promote couples offering each other their full and undivided attention. In a way it’s slightly ironic – screens so often distract us and get in the way of our relationships, and we want to use the problem as the solution.

We also offer access to the content of experts who are working with couples around the world every day, and that’s pretty exciting, we’re taking expert knowledge from behind the closed doors of therapy rooms, workshops etc and making it completely accessible.

8) What are some of the unique features you’re proud of?

Ann: We keep it simple, so that you can review the basics of the episode and pick the one(s) that suit your needs. We’re working on creating more features for the episodes, but more to come soon on that.

9) What would it take for somebody to do what you do?

Ann: Trusting the heart, and following the intuition of “how does this work serve my well-being and my own personal growth? Would I use this for my self? Would I trust what is being created is good for me too?”

Also some will power on how to devote a schedule and ritual to work around the world, and learning about the diverse culture of sex and intimacy. If it’s something we care for and trust it will help the people in the world, then the devotion to keep at it runs strong. There have been times when I thought maybe this is all crazy, to do this for Love. But we see results, feedback, growth in our existence in relationships, and then we know we’re doing the right thing.

Kate: To be prepared to challenge. Working in this space is by nature going to push up against resistance, and we are in many ways finding opportunity in the taboo, but that’s what makes it so important. Sex, relationships and intimacy education is key and most of us have very little of it which is a real pity. The challenges of working for any start-up or building of your own product is that there are highs and lows and days and it’s being able to ride that out and see the potential and believing in what you are doing even when you are really struggling. I also think being open minded is key, to exploring as what we are working with is human nature and humans and we have to see where that takes us and how we can work with it in the best way.

10) How do people contact you?

http://pillow.io/

https://www.facebook.com/ThePillowApp/

https://www.instagram.com/trypillow/

https://twitter.com/TryPillow

Disclaimer: Dr. Martha Tara Lee has neither vested interest, investment in Pillow nor did she receive any monetary exchange or incentive in doing this interview series. Pillow did not influence or tell Dr. Martha Tara Lee what to ask above either.

About Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.

She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and completed her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling. In practice for more than nine years, she is the only certified sexuality educator by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore.

Often cited in the local media, Dr. Lee is the appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She is the host of weekly radio show Eros Evolution on the OMTimes Radio Network.  She has published three books: Love, Sex and Everything In-BetweenOrgasmic Yoga and From Princess to Queen.

Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.

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