Medical innovation for the next sexual revolution

Polari Group, a sexual health and wellness company dedicated to helping people enjoy more spontaneous and hassle-free anal sex, has announced it has secured $539K in pre-seed funding.

Polari Group has developed a proprietary innovation at the intersection of bioengineering and materials sciences, with a patent underway, that reduces preparation time for anal sex and provides an alternative to the current practice of anal douching, a process that is time-consuming and requires a toilet trip. The alternative that Polari has developed is a miniature ball-like device inserted in the anus before sex. The device prevents faeces appearing during sex and is designed to be safely removed after. This breakthrough helps individuals increase sexual spontaneity and alleviates the mental burden of lengthy preparation or faecal accidents.

Through its bioengineering and materials science solutions, Polari Group is set to revolutionise the way people approach and experience anal sex, promoting spontaneity, mental ease, and overall sexual wellbeing. Addressing an untapped $10.9 billion market, Polari Group aims to disrupt traditional practices while planning to partner with major sexual health organisations within the UK.

Despite the persisting misconception that anal sex is morally wrong and primarily associated with homosexual men, the practice is much more common than many realise, involving a diverse range of individuals, including heterosexual men and women. One study reports that 44% of heterosexual men and 36% of heterosexual women aged 18-44 in the USA, have tried anal sex, while more than a third of them practised it in the last year. Another study that interviewed 1,752 homosexual men in Belgium, reports 68% of the respondents engaged in anal sex.

With Polari’s estimation of 167.7 million people in the UK, US and Europe engaging in anal sex and approximately 2.8 billion anal sex acts occurring yearly in these regions, the company aims to address and reduce the stigma surrounding anal sex, often perpetuated by lingering homophobia. The stigma and the lack of sexual education around the topic prevents people from openly discussing their sexual practices with medical professionals when they encounter struggles. Polari Group's mission is to bring innovation to this overlooked field, enhancing sexual health and wellness for all and facilitating sexual education. Polari Group is also targeting a diverse demographic to reduce stigma and promote inclusive sexual wellness, including recent talks at Oxford University and Google UK.

In the future, Polari Group aims to offer the first anorectal health and pleasure platform, integrating medical innovation, education, and platform-based services. Stigma hinders research in the field of anal sex, with most research and funding to date focusing on the negative aspects of anal sex, such as spreading HIV, and much less on understanding the impact of anal douching, anal pain during sex, or anal pleasure. Therefore, Polari has set up the world’s first anal sex lab to study and improve anal health and pleasure. They collaborate with medical doctors and scientists to establish a better understanding of how anal sex works, how faecal accidents happen, and how to make this experience more comfortable. The goal is to expand to a larger line of proprietary products for anal health and pleasure in the future.

Polari Group was founded in 2023 by Anna Vybornova, an EPFL and MIT-trained bioengineer, and Dr Henry Blest, a chemist and immunologist with a PhD from the University of Oxford. The founders first met at Entrepreneur First and combined their expertise to start Polari Group. Anna was the first employee of Aktiia, a competitor to Apple Watch, where she contributed to developing and bringing to market a proprietary AI-driven wearable technology for hypertension management and monitoring. Henry is an expert in virology, having spent the past six years researching sexually transmitted infections, including herpes simplex virus and HIV. He discovered new ways in which these viruses evade the immune response during his time at Oxford University.

The investment round was supported by Ventures Together, Ada Ventures (Angel Program), Chasing Rainbows, and Little Green Bamboo Capital, as well as a series of international angel investors. The investment will enable Polari Group to advance on the regulatory pathway, expand the team, prepare for establishing the manufacturing line, and reach a larger community of users.

Anna Vybornova, Founder and CEO of Polari Group, said: “Shame lives in silence and so does the lack of innovation. My mission is to empower people to have the sexual lives they want with the best long-term outcomes for their health. Because of stigma, anal health and pleasure have not benefited from the cutting-edge innovation available in the 21st century and there are still millions of people whose sexual experiences have been marginalised and who must use DIY solutions. Polari aims to change that.”

Dr Henry Blest, Founder and CTO of Polari Group, said: “As a medical scientist and bottom, I find it shocking anorectal health is chronically under-researched. I believe this is due to the stigma associated with anal sex. My goal is to improve the life of anyone with an anus. This is why I have taken a vow to not stop talking about anal douching. I am commonly told ‘It is not the time or the place’ but frankly, these problems persist because it has never been the time or the place. If queer history has taught me anything, it is that no one is more effective than a pissed-off homosexual and I refuse to let LGBTQIA+ sexual health be overlooked.”

Christian Tooley, angel investor at Ada Ventures and founder of i3 investing, commented: “Polari Group isn’t just an investable startup with great prospective returns, but has the potential to be a movement that disrupts the entire queer community, revolutionising the Med/SexTech space. I only invest in impactful innovation – and that’s what Anna and Henry are wholeheartedly building.”

Carmen Fong, MD and colorectal surgeon, co-director of Haemorrhoids Center of America, commented: “I have patients that have tried all types of practices to prevent faecal contamination during receptive anal intercourse, including various forms of anal douching. Polari aims to provide an alternative to these practices, specifically, but on a larger scale, their work will open up the conversation about sexual health related to receptive anal intercourse and anorectal health in general, topics that still seem taboo and shouldn't be. The more we talk about it, the more people will be likely to find solutions and not have to struggle in silence.”

Tobias Rijken, Ventures Together: “Polari’s founders, Anna and Henry, have deeply impressed me with their bold vision and sheer passion for the problems in anorectal health. Their relentless energy has already led to breakthroughs in this overlooked field. The founders are my primary investment driver and if anyone can reimagine the world of anorectal health it is Anna and Henry!”

Ben Stokes, Chasing Rainbows: “As a fund, we’re deeply committed to ensuring that LGBTQIA+ founders get the access to capital they need to be successful. Henry and Anna are two examples of exemplary founders who are solving big problems (not just for the LGBTQIA+ community), and yet they faced discrimination when trying to access capital. It is a privilege to be one of their earliest investors, and beyond that, I look forward to the outsized returns they, along with other LGBTQIA+ founders will deliver.”

Yifei Wang, Little Green Bamboo: “At Little Green Bamboo, we strive to leave the world a bit better than the way we found it. We back Polari because Anna and Henry are working zealously to give people more choice, and thus more freedom. To us, choice is one of the greatest virtues available to humanity, particularly for underserved communities. Lastly, we have faith in the confluence of humility and ambition in Henry and Anna and are excited to watch them grow and pursue future opportunities.”