The Connection Between Female Orgasms and Health - Anna Lee, Co-Founder of Lioness
What if your vibrator not only brought you pleasure but also provided valuable health data? That's precisely what Anna Lee, co-founder of Lioness, is striving to achieve. In this episode of Raise the Line, our host Shiv Gaglani sits down with Anna to discuss her journey from being an engineer at Amazon to starting a company focused on women's sexual pleasure and health. Despite the stigma around female pleasure, Lioness is dedicated to serving an underserved community, and the data they've collected is shedding light on the importance of sexual wellness. As Anna puts it, "Orgasms are the canary in the coal mine for healthcare implications and overall health." Join us to hear Anna's inspiring story and learn about the challenges of creating a smart vibrator in a male-dominated industry. Mentioned in this episode: https://lioness.io/
Shiv Gaglani: Hi, I'm Shiv Gaglani. We've had some fascinating conversations on Raise the Line on a wide range of issues related to women's health, including menopause, fertility, birth control, incontinence and others. But today's conversation might be the most, shall we say, stimulating of all. I'm glad to welcome Anna Lee, who's the co-founder and head of engineering at Lioness, a woman-led sexual wellness company that built the world's only smart vibrator that improves understanding of sexual pleasure and orgasms through biofeedback data and science. Lioness also has a broader mission to expand understanding and research in sexual health and to destigmatize female sexuality.
Anna was previously a mechanical engineer at Amazon, launching the Amazon Dash buttons original concept and the Kindle Voyage page press technology. She's been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list -- which is how we met at a conference in Israel and in Detroit after that -- and has been covered in numerous national publications for her groundbreaking work. She's also a prominent creator or anti-influencer on TikTok with nearly 400,000 followers. Thanks so much for joining us.
Anna Lee: Thanks so much for having me. This is very exciting to kind of talk about the nerdier side of it all.
Shiv Gaglani: Totally, yeah, I mean, I think it's definitely a concept that ever since I saw what you were working on at the Forbes conference, I was like, our audience has to learn about this because it's one of those things that isn't talked about enough and it affects half the population directly. Before we get into that, tell us a bit more about yourself. You have a really interesting background. You became an engineer, you trained at Berkeley, but what got you into the space?
Anna Lee: Yeah, it's a good question, honestly. I grew up in Korea until I was about eight and then moved to the US, and my parents immigrated with the idea of the American dream. I grew up in an actually extremely conservative and religious family where we never talked about sex. So, I always have to tell people me doing this now -- where I can talk in interviews or talk about our company -- like this is all kind of a seven-year journey for me because I was scared of my own body to my mid-twenties. I never thought I would be an entrepreneur, one, and also especially in the sex toy industry.
But it's one of those kind of beautiful life moments where I was at Amazon, and as much as I loved it, I just realized that there's a superpower in being an engineer and a woman and having a perspective of how we design products or how do we build products that actually cater to serving the population you're building for, realizing how male dominated the sex toy industry was. Then, as we kind of started looking deeper into it, we saw what lack of research there is among female sexual function. So it just felt like a nice combination of things that came together of being like, “Oh, we need to build something that actually furthers the industry and also just be able to destigmatize the taboo around female sexuality.”
Shiv Gaglani: Totally, and I think over the past decade when Lioness has grown up, there's been so many medical devices that have become consumerized, right? We've talked in previous meetings about smartphone-based electrocardiograms, smartphone-based electroencephalograms. I'd love to hear more about how that trend has been. You guys are the first, I believe, and maybe the only smart vibrator, and I think you have like the largest data set too of sexual pleasure in women. So can you talk a bit about some of that?
Anna Lee: Yeah, so actually when we originally started the company, we came in with the idea that we wanted to make an AI vibrator, that it was gonna vibrate and move the more you got to learn about you and the data. So, one of the things we had to do was starting to look at the research around sexual function. How do we even measure what an orgasm looks like? What does arousal look like? How does research quantify that?
One of the things we realized is there's very, very, very few papers on it. The first paper that's still probably one of the most well-cited was led by Bohlen in 1982. It was a sample size, I believe, of eight women or something in the sub-twenty women range. So, he is charting out pelvic floor contractions as the orgasm, which is a really, really great starting point, but it's wild that we don't have any more research that's kind of charting those things out.
So, it's interesting to come into the consumer side of one, kind of battling the stigma of everything, but then also the term “sex tech” wasn't actually coined as a term yet when we first started the company. It was a constant battle about people seeing us as a pornographic company. I think investors and banks were even seeing it as pornographic and not wanting to touch the space, but we were also bringing in all this biofeedback data and knowing that we can kind of track pelvic floor contractions and then kind of pitching it back to medical researchers and academic researchers, and they're also a little nervous to touch sex stuff.
So, it started out definitely on a kind of a belief that we just felt so passionate that we track everything else in our lives in terms of biofeedback on your sleep, your health, like all these aspects, but why are we not doing it for sex, especially for women? It really was a blind faith. Sometimes I'm like, wow, maybe we are starting a little bit too early because like now it's great that there's a term ‘sex tech’ and there's an industry and there's numbers behind that industry. But definitely when we started, I think it was such a novel concept and smart things were kind of talked about as like are too many things getting smart, like to what purpose, and so it was really like fighting for our space there.
Shiv Gaglani: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. There are often these innovations and then there's this hype cycle around them, but as a first mover, you're basically helping create the category. I remember even for Osmosis, in other fields of education, there were terms like “flipped classroom” and “active versus passive learning” but not in medical education as much. So it was very lonely in the beginning. There's a guy we had on the podcast named Burke Smith who said this great thing, which is “If you're able to stick around long enough, your timing is perfect.” And so it does feel like your timing is really good now, at least from the outside. Obviously your TikTok growth has been great.
I don't know much about the product and the sales and stuff, but we're gonna get into some of that. There has been a lot of interest in women's health, and some of the investors and people are recognizing that, yeah, half the world is women and we need to pay attention to issues -- ranging from menopause to contraception and things like that -- that could all be improved. So, tell us a bit about the actual product and how it works and about the data sets you're collecting and what kind of work you're doing with that data?
Anna Lee: Yeah, so we have a rabbit style vibrator. Part of it is inserted vaginally or anally, and then there's a little nub that's like the clitoral nub that vibrates. So, it looks just like a rabbit style vibrator, but what we've changed is basically, we've put in four sensors that are measuring your pelvic floor contractions, your involuntary pelvic floor contractions, which is one of the best indicators for arousal and orgasms.
When we define what an orgasm is, we're looking at rhythmic pelvic floor contractions. There are other physiological things that happen -- like increase in heart rate, your breath, your perspiration, pupils dilate, so there are all different types of things that people usually track in research -- but pelvic floor contractions are, I would say, just a very recognizable pattern that happens.
You would use the vibrator just like a normal vibrator, and then you can pair it to your phone and what you're getting is the biofeedback data that you've collected in terms of the involuntary pelvic floor contractions. We always tell people who ask, “What if I have a penis? Can I still use the product?” I'm always like, everybody has pelvic floor muscles. So, whether you insert it anally or vaginally, it completely works the same, you'll still get the same data.
Currently we have the world's largest data set on female physiological sexual function, which is really amazing, and it feels like a big responsibility of us being like, “Okay, so what can we learn from this?” Our hypothesis was always that in terms of people with penises and cis men, when they go into the doctor's office for erectile dysfunction the first thing they're checking for, especially in younger ages, is cardiovascular disease because they know there's a correlation between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, and there's different things you can know from sexual function.
But for women, we don't really have that and there's different papers that'll quote anything from like 30-80% of women experience female sexual dysfunction at some point in their life. I think it's, you know, the common thing we hear in movies and things, or, you know, the funny joke of like, women are so complicated. We don't understand women. We don't understand how they work, why they don't have orgasms, all of that. I think for us, we just know that it's because we don't know enough. Some of the really cool things we've been able to see with our data is one, just the patterns that happen...being able to collect exactly what patterns we're looking at, and what changes them. For example, different external factors -- whether it's things like caffeine or alcohol -- what impact those things have on the data side of the pelvic floor contractions, but then also actually seeing just general pelvic floor function, being able to see how they're contracting.
So, say they have any sort of pelvic floor dysfunction, seeing kind of what the baseline is, does vibration actually change that pelvic floor contraction or the strength of those muscles? I think Mount Sinai is working on how vibrations can help with urinary incontinence. So, it starts going into this big field of, well, what can vibrators do for people? And how do we actually track those measurements of success or changes in body?
My favorite thing I always tell people is about an athlete who has been a really longtime user of the Lioness. She came back and she was like, “Hey, something's wrong. The data's looking really odd. It's like flat lined and I think maybe the vibrator is broken.” So, she sent in, and we're like diagnosing...trying to look at the software, firmware, hardware. We couldn't find anything wrong with it, and then we're looking at her data and we're like, “Dude, did something happen on this date when the data started looking weird?” And she's like, “Oh yeah, I had a sports injury. I had a concussion.”
I remember all of us just sitting there being like, “I think the data is from maybe the concussion flat lining your orgasms and not that there’s something wrong with the sensors.” That was something we got to kind of look at deeper as a potential case study of traumatic brain injuries and what they have in terms of an effect on your orgasms or vice versa. So, I think what we're doing is we're finding that orgasms are the canary in the coal mine for healthcare implications and what that means for the rest of your overall health.
Shiv Gaglani: That is fascinating. I love that analogy to the circulatory health in men and, you know, obviously, erectile dysfunction is something that's been studied for decades because...
Anne Lee: ...with so much funding and research, it's wild. (laughs)
Shiv Gaglani: Yeah, I mean, exactly. Hopefully, we can talk about that. Are you seeing that change? Like, are you seeing a lot more interest now in women's health and the work you're doing because everything's been unleashed, or no?
Anne Lee: Yeah, I think there's definitely a growth. I know for a fact women's health is definitely understood as a really underserved and under-researched portion, right? Like, even if we're looking at clinical drug trials and what gender of animal they're using. A lot of times previously, it was always male mice versus using female mice as well. I think in general, we're seeing a huge trend and now there's funding and focus to make sure we understand women's health overall.
I would say sexual function -- especially when it comes to things like pleasure and arousal -- it's still, I would say, a privileged topic in terms of it's not the core of what's important to every person, and I think not seen as part of overall health and overall wellness. There's still a huge stigma and taboo in this space, specifically. So, when we say women's sexual health, when there is funding in that space, a lot of times it'll focus more on fertility or pelvic floor function. But when we bring in sexual pleasure, it’s still a little taboo. I think it's in the waves of it changing over time, but definitely still a challenge now.
Shiv Gaglani: Yeah, and that's one of the main reasons we're having you on, because we want to expose our audience to it because they're the ones who are going to be providers who have a lot of authority and respect, and if they can have those open conversations with their parents, I mean, with their patients, like for example, a...
Anne Lee: ...and parents. (laughs)
Shiv Gaglani: And parents, yeah, exactly. (laughs) Say somebody becomes a psychiatrist, a couples counselor. Clearly sex is one of the core things there. Maybe the work you're doing, the data that people are using from your company, could hopefully elucidate things psychiatrically and mental health wise, even what you mentioned here with maybe concussions and how that relates to just normal physiological function.
I will say the other piece that this reminds me of is another guest we had on the podcast, Rick Doblin, who since the 1980s has been working to legalize MDMA for various mental health conditions, but also just in general. He told us that they decided to focus on PTSD first. They've done two very successful Phase 3 clinical trials on combat veterans and people who've experienced sexual assault and they have found that about two thirds of the patients with severe PTSD are symptom-free of PTSD after therapy that was augmented with MDMA. And some of these people had PTSD for five, ten, fifteen years. He made the point that it was easy for people -- for Congress, for researchers, for NIH funders -- to get behind treating combat veterans and victims of rape for PTSD using these psychedelics. So, how do you get somebody from like, a pathological condition to normal?
The analogy here is incontinence, which I know a lot about -- not personally, but my mom is a physical therapist who has been treating incontinence for decades with biofeedback, pelvic floor therapy, Kegels, those kinds of things. How do you get people from incontinent to continent? And the next wave, though, and what Rick Doblin and others want to do in the psychedelic space, is how do you take somebody who's like normal or average and get them to flourish, get them to thrive? Your data set and device can obviously be used for the research from abnormal to normal, but also, I think it's a worthy goal for people to focus on the things that help people thrive and flourish. So, whether it’s psychedelics or sex tech -- these previously taboo subjects -- I think are extremely important for us to all invest in and work on, which is one reason I'm so excited about what you're working on.
So, you have the core product, you have the core data set. What are your main goals this year that you can share? Do you have any other products in development or research studies that you want to talk about, and then where do you see the company in five years?
Anne Lee: That's a good question. I think for us, one of the big things is that we kind of teeter on a really interesting line between being an e-commerce product where we're very consumer facing and then also doing the work behind the scenes, like empowering researchers to be able to do different studies and build understanding.
Last year, one really exciting thing that happened was an abstract led by Dr. Jim Pfaus was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that was using the Lioness vibrators with fifty-eight participants. It was a validation study to see if the Lioness vibrator enabled getting the same biofeedback pelvic floor contraction data that you would get at a lab facility. In that scenario, you go into a lab, you get this device -- it's like a photoplethysmogram -- that you insert vaginally and then you're basically sitting in this lab trying to have an orgasm so you can collect this data. The question is does our vibrator get the same exact data. It was a small study, but in the fifty-eight people, they were able to identify that orgasm in the same way.
So one of the things that makes us excited is now we're opening it up into this concept of getting this information in your home, in real time, using it in your daily life...like how that data looks versus you having to go into the lab. I think it also enables a larger group of people that is better representative than people who have the ability to go into a lab or live near a facility that can do that. So, for us now, it's really focusing on figuring out how to get these researchers to get funded and then have these understandings of studies on continuing with pelvic floor contractions. What do we know about orgasms? What do we know that could change and what factors will change it?
This year, our big focus is to continue just doing more research with the data and empower researchers to be able to use the Lioness and the data around it to get more information and research out there. The mission has always been to destigmatize female sexual pleasure through science and research. So, we want to continue to do that for our brand with the component of still being a consumer-facing company at the end of the day, and so we're always trying to continue to sell more products.
I think the next big thing for us is that we know that a rabbit style vibrator can be limiting. It doesn't fit for all body types or all form factors. Some people have different preferences. We've definitely gotten feedback from people who want to be able to use it in heterosexual sex, like paired sex relationships. How do you use something that is inserted but also get the data at the same time? It's continuing to build out products and working with researchers on the question of, well, if there was a measurement tool where you can actually get information on vaginal dryness and all of these different things. what does that actually look like? How can we help build those things out for you to help build a better understanding, more platforms for data and all of that? So, it's always an interesting challenge.
I would say this year, it's just homing in on the data that we currently have and being like, what can we tell people about the data? We know that right now, what we've seen is that there's unique patterns of orgasm. Everyone, almost, has a unique identifier. So, for example, my orgasm rhythmic pattern data will look different from my co-founder’s, and being able to distinguish the two. Historically, we've only seen that what has been defined as an orgasm is a rhythmic squeeze and relaxing of data. But we've seen some people have what we call a volcano type, which is like a huge explosion of force and then a huge drop down -- not much of a rhythmic contraction. Then some that we call an avalanche where it starts much higher in force and has the squeeze and relax, but it goes down in force over time.
It's interesting that we're seeing other patterns where people are like, “No, this is still an orgasm” and bringing it into the research world where maybe we need to increase what the definition of an orgasm looks like. The definition of what an orgasm is is actually a pretty hotly debated topic. So, again, this year is about focusing on the data that we have and seeing what we can continue to learn and expand from. How do we get people to learn more things about their body?
But in five years...I think one thing we know how to do, and my bread and butter, is to build products and understand exactly how to manufacture something or integrate sensors and then get it out into mass production. And so, we’ll be using our skillsets and our passion for de-stigmatizing female sexual wellness and continuing to help researchers and doctors really be able to do that in their fields.
Shiv Gaglani: That's so fascinating and really top of mind for me right now. We talked about this right before the podcast started. I'm back in Baltimore, restarting my third year of med school using Osmosis, and so I've been relearning ECGs and I just watched the entire electrocardiogram ECG series. This is, as you probably know, over a hundred-year-old technology and the amount of stuff you can tell about the heart and how it functions based on a twelve-lead ECG, is remarkable, right? In terms of deviation, in terms of bundle blocks, in terms of has somebody had an infarct or ischemia in the past. Similarly, the work that you're doing, the data set you're getting in from a more diverse and inclusive set of people than the eight people who could go into a lab and like somehow have an orgasm, (laughs) versus more natural settings, is why I think it's so exciting.
Anne Lee: I know. Thinking about the lab thing, there's another one. Rutgers University, led by Dr. Barry Komisaruk, does an fMRI brain scan during an orgasm to see what lights up in your brain and all of that. I love the concept. It's so cool, but it's so funny if you ever like Google the photos, they're wearing this Hannibal Lecter style mask...
Shiv Gaglani: (laughs)
Anna Lee: ...and they're basically going into this fMRI and you can't bring a vibrator, so they have to train to only use manual stimulation or you're able to bring your partner. But the whole thing is you can't move your head the whole time. You're hearing these like clicking sounds, and I was just like, it's just so cool and also just wild to think those are the things we have to do to understand anything about sex, you know? (laughs)
Shiv Gaglani: That's remarkable, that's so fun. I want to see those images later of how they did that. That's crazy. (laughs)
Anna Lee: (laughs)
Shiv Gaglani: So, okay, some product development, data sets, more research. By the way, on the research side, Osmosis is now part of Elsevier -- one of the largest publishers of health and scientific research -- and we're just launching a rare disease journal soon. So, something we can follow up on is could you immediately find all these researchers who've at some point published something about pelvic floor biofeedback for sexual wellness. It could be a cool thing to explore.
Anne Lee: That'd be really cool. Yeah, the pelvic floor stuff is such a great entrance point. We know vibrations can help urinary incontinence or the baseline of pelvic floor muscle strength. Before there's vibration to after an orgasm, they're seeing that there's a drop in pelvic floor contraction, the baseline of how strong or how tight the vaginal muscles are. And so there's some really cool things there. Anecdotally, I've heard so many great things from PTs and pelvic floor therapists and doctors and so now it's kind of bringing it all together. What if we can just get a handful of data and just seeing if there's anything there and then just continuing from that?
Shiv Gaglani: Totally, that was super exciting. Switching gears real quick, you mentioned this term anti-influencer and you’ve had incredible growth on TikTok and I'm sure other platforms. You are an educator at heart. You're educating hundreds of thousands or actually millions of people because only a subset of people who probably watch a video will subscribe if it's anything like Osmosis videos about these common topics.
So, tell us a bit about the journey of what got you into it? What content people are asking for? I know you answer a lot of these common questions. I'm looking at this from a frame of people listening to this are our current or will be future primary care doctors or nurses. Whether it's a fifteen-year-old coming into their clinic or a fifty-year-old asking them these questions, you're the one who's answering tons of these in a native format of TikTok and probably other things. What are some of the questions that you're getting asked? And, again, tell us about the content trajectory.
Anne Lee: I actually never meant to do TikTok. I'm definitely a millennial in the sense of I don't understand Gen Z humor half the time. When TikTok first came out, I was like, this is an unhinged platform, not for me. I tell this advice to anyone -- and especially brands or companies or people building personal brands about how we use social media as a platform, how do we grow on this platform -- I think one of the things is we just have to accept that we're in an older space. We're not funny. We're not trendy. Like, we shouldn't be following any of those things. But the one thing I think we can offer is whatever we've learned in our lifetime so far because what people want is to leave with knowing something else.
I have a friend who just pinged me all the time saying, “Hey, I have a sex question. What happens if X, Y, and Z.” Or even at a bar -- if someone knows what I do for a living -- they'll be like, “Okay, can I ask you like ten questions on sex advice and stuff like that?” So, I realized it was a shame that I read all of the latest research on sex but was not actually sharing that information. It really just became a thing where I was like, “Okay, I need to use this platform to just tell people things I've learned about sex” and I did it on a whim. I mainly did it for my friends so that they can have something there, like, “Oh, can you explain female ejaculation? What actually is that?” All of these things.
Then it just became a thing where people were so curious and just have so many questions. It's the same reason why we even built this company. It's the same questions we get now, and how I know that we have so much work left to do is that he underlying question is, “Am I normal?” Like, hey, this thing happens during sex, or I don't feel aroused, or my sex drive has changed, or I'm on antidepressants and it's really changed my sex drive, or I'm experiencing a difference sexually post-pregnancy. My pelvic floor muscles, my orgasms aren't strong enough. And the question is, “Am I normal? Is this a normal experience that everyone else experiences?
I think a lot of times when we go to a doctor -- including myself -- we realize a doctor is not particularly equipped to tell you anything about sexual function in terms of pleasure and orgasms, unless you happen to have a great doctor who's open and willing to have those conversations with you about what's out there in terms of knowledge. So, you're kind of left alone not even knowing any information. You’re left wondering, and you're left to Google, and Google is a battle of SEO. I think it just made people feel maybe comfortable.
I always have to preface that I'm not a doctor. I'm never giving medical advice. I'm really just telling what I know so far or what's out there in current research, what sex educators would tell you. I think just being able to give people even simple information has been really cool to see. People feel like they have a place where they can ask a question or they can learn something that is hard to answer. I've definitely had the times where I'm at my OBGYN and I'm like, “Hey, this happens. Do you think that's normal?” And it's hard when it's always chalked up to, “Oh, it might be your birth control or your hormones or everybody's body is different.” And then you're like, “But why?” And so I think it's fun to do that. It's also just fun because no one's ever really seen what orgasm data looks like, and so being able to show that has definitely been a cool experience for people. I think some people feel like it’s cool that someone's even doing something in this space.
Shiv Gaglani: That's awesome, and super cool. The core biofeedback data you're getting is itself valuable and interesting, but the engagement you're getting -- the comments, the questions-- is also very interesting because these are things that maybe people aren't bringing up to their primary care docs, nurses, and OBGYNs, or maybe they are, but not at the scale and volume that you have.
If COVID has taught us anything -- and one of the reasons Osmosis does what it does -- is the importance of education and helping people better understand their bodies and take more control because the more they understand their bodies, the more engaged they become generally with their own health. The more engaged the patient is, the better, generally. I mean, sure you get the hypochondriacs. I would much rather have somebody who takes so much care and attention for their health than someone who's totally disengaged and they show up at seventy having smoked for fifty-six years with Stage 4 lung cancer. It's much better to have the reverse problem, I think.
Anne Lee: Totally, totally. Before Lioness, I was actually not even a biohacker for myself. Half the time, I didn't know what the problem was I had, and I rarely went to doctors for checkups. But there is something very powerful about knowing about your own body because who else knows about it more on your daily, day-to-day function of what's changed, what makes it feel different? And so as much as I advocated for sexual wellness and sexual health, I'm like, “Dang, you should definitely do that for the rest of your body because no one else is going to advocate as hard as you will.”
Shiv Gaglani: Totally. That's a great message. I know we're coming up on time, so I did have just a couple of quick questions for you to wrap this up. The first is, Osmosis is obviously a teaching company. We have courses on ECG, on medical procedures, and endocrine disorders, et cetera. If you could snap your fingers and teach a course on something or make a video on anything to any audience, what would it be and why? Granted, I know you're already doing this, but say you wanted Osmosis to create something, what would it be and why?
Anne Lee: I really would just say everything to do with women's health and I think everything we don't know. Learning a little bit about every single thing, especially sexual pleasure. I think the question of why there's such a high percentage of female sexual dysfunction, and then what the definition of female sexual dysfunction is, what it's correlated to, and how we actually help people. I think right now there's so many supplements and different things out there, but is it really solving the main problem? So, yeah, something in that realm.
Shiv Gaglani: I think we're chipping away at it between what you're doing and what we're doing and what hundreds of other great people and companies are doing.
Anne Lee: Yeah. So maybe my answer was like anything and everything to do with women's health. (laughs)
Shiv Gaglani: (laughs)That's a good answer.
Anne Lee: Is that a big ask? (laughs)
Shiv Gaglani: I mean, again, that's pretty achievable. We'll have that to you in two weeks or so. (laughs)
Anne Lee: Okay, perfect. I'm very excited. I'm all for it. (laughs)
Shiv Gaglani: Awesome. Well, two last questions. We have a lot of early-stage professionals in our audience, again, many of them going into healthcare careers, but other digital health, other kind of careers. What advice would you give to them about approaching their careers?
Anne Lee: Oh, I think the one advice that I've kept throughout the years -- because it always changes with the more I learn about myself and the world and how I view the world -- but I think really the only thing that really carries in life is how passionate you are about something. The moment you're like, “Oh, I don't know. Maybe this is something interesting,” it's never going to carry, because there's going to be so many hard times in your life where things get so hard for your career or life decisions, and I think the one thing that will carry through is how passionate and how mission-driven are you about this specific thing.
Especially, let's say, if you're starting a company. I would never wish that on anybody unless they're just so wild to be like, “This is the thing that I want to do and I'm so passionate about it” because that passion is the only thing that's going to truly carry through the hardest times. Because otherwise it's going to feel like a slog. So, I would say just be very, very, very honest about yourself about what you're passionate about, but also be flexible to know that passions and values can always change or reprioritize. But really, just be honest with yourself. Like, what's your number one passion and priority and how do you fulfill that for yourself?
Shiv Gaglani: That's awesome advice, and I would build up upon that, if you let me. You probably know Angela Duckworth who wrote the book, Grit. In that book, she talks about how to find your passion. A lot of people think like, “I'm born with a passion,” and clearly in your case and in my case, we both have started companies that have done pretty well and reached a lot of people. But it wasn't like we were born wanting to create Lioness and Osmosis. You just start trying something, and then over time that may develop into a passion and may not. When you realize that you're staying up to read literature on female sexuality -- or in my case, I was reading articles on how do you learn, how do you forget -- like, nobody could pay me to do it. I was just doing it, and so finding your passion is a little bit like the cart before the horse. Once you find the passion, boom.
The second thing is, if you’re so interested in it, then nobody can out-compete you at that because nobody's as passionate about that as you and that comes across when you create content or build a company. Yeah, there'll be hard times -- we've discussed this as entrepreneurs -- but because of that passion, you're going to go through it as you said.
Anne Lee: Totally, totally. Yeah, it really is like the intersection of skills is what makes you powerful, right? Like if you play the piano, there's going to be a billion people that are also good at the piano, and maybe probably better than you, but it's the intersections that I think make us so interesting. I was so horrified about being an influencer, like a TikToker, but then I was like, “Oh, but it gives me this power to be able to share the things that I've learned about this world and what I'm super passionate about.” It's just finding those intersections and being like, “Oh, I already like love talking to people. So this all just kind of works together, and I already love being really short and sweet and to the point. So it all kind of comes together.” So, yeah, I think just figuring out the passions between all the little interdisciplines and all of that.
Shiv Gaglani: Totally. My last question, is there anything else you want to get across to our audience before we let you go?
Anne Lee: Oh, I don't know. I appreciate you for giving me the platform to even talk about sexual function. I would still say orgasms and women's sexual pleasure and masturbation is such a taboo topic to this day. People are always surprised when I say the US has always been the most interesting place to have built the company. I think it's one of the hardest places to have built the company. There's so much taboo and red tape that's constantly being around for censorship and all of that. So, I think it's just being able to give people the seed of like, “Hey, what if we look at orgasms or sexual pleasure beyond just, it feels good. What if there is something measurable or there are overall health implications to it?” I think it's just cool to leave people with that. Like, the next time you have an orgasm of like feeling like, oh, what does that mean? Or like, how did that feel? And kind of giving yourself the time to reflect on it. I think it's kind of cool. It's a cool new way to think about pleasure.
Shiv Gaglani: I agree, 100 percent. I think the next wave we're gonna see -- especially with AI psychedelics, all these things coming out -- is human flourishing. I think that's gonna be the core term in the 2030s or 2040s, and clearly what you're doing is helping lay the foundation for a lot of that as well.
Anne Lee: Yeah. I'm excited. Thank you so much for having me. This is cool to be on something that's more in the health and education space. Yeah, it's fun.
Shiv Gaglani: Yeah, and we'd love to link out to Lioness and your LinkedIn stuff so people can contact you. Hopefully some of the people listening will dedicate their careers to research in this.
Anne Lee: Yes, we need more people in this space. So please, please come. It's a really, really interesting space and you learn so many funny things and every day you always have a funny story out of it. So, it's a good place.
Shiv Gaglani: 100%. Well, again, Anna, thanks for taking the time to be with us and more importantly, for the work that you've done to destigmatize and shed light on and understanding on female sexual health.
Anne Lee: Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Shiv Gaglani: And with that, I'm Shiv Gaglani. Thank you to our audience for checking out today's show, and remember to do your part to raise the line and strengthen our healthcare system. We're all in this together. Take care.