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My first boss: Chloe Macintosh, from Made.com to 'sextech' entrepreneur

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Chloe Macintosh hss waited 15 years for the right time to come to market with Kama. Photo: supplied
Chloe Macintosh has waited 15 years to market a product like Kama. Photo: Kama

French-born Chloe Macintosh started out as an architect at Norman Foster's London practice before moving into technology where she co-founded Made.com, one of the fastest-growing startups ever in the UK.

She became a venture partner with two VC funds in Europe, worked for the Soho House Group, before becoming CEO and founder of her new venture, Kama, a sexual wellness and educational platform.

When I first met Brent Hoberman, founder of Lastminute.com, I had been at Foster + Partners for nine years and really wanted to move away from architecture. We had met through friends and Brent took me out to lunch where he told me about a tech project he wanted to launch. I understood nothing.

Brent’s vision was to do what he had done for travel but for the homeware sector; to have a one-stop shop for furniture, decoration, inspiration and being able to design an entire home from one platform.

I was honest and told him I was pregnant with my second child. He said I should still come and join and this gave me a lot of reassurance that I was going to add value.

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Yet it was one of the few times in my life where I didn’t know what the opportunity was for me. But Brent knew he needed me as he didn’t have anyone from the design and interior sector. I gave him the credibility.

I said yes through the trust he had in me and left my career to the complete despair of my parents (I was the youngest associate partner at Foster + Partners).

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 19: Brent Hoberman and Chloe Mackintosh attend a party to celebrate 25 years of The Conran Shop on September 19, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Nick Harvey/WireImage)
Brent Hoberman and Chloe Mackintosh attend a party to celebrate 25 years of The Conran Shop in 2012. Photo: Nick Harvey/WireImage

Tech in 2007 was still not really understood by a lot of people. I was head of visualisation at mydeco.com, we built the business together and Brent was a mentor for the three years we worked together. When you do something as successful as Lastminute.com everyone is watching your next move. It was aspirational and I was like a sponge. He knew a lot of people and I ended up building up an entire network for myself.

He had a lot of ideas and we raised an initial £7m. Perhaps we were too ambitious but, after three years, the business never took off and Brent asked me to look into the interiors sector. There had been no real disruption in the supply chain and that’s ultimately what became the success of Made.com.

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Coming from architecture into tech, it was about understanding the language in the way people think. We were constantly meeting people and Brent had so much access to people. I would represent my background and he would be the entrepreneur trying to disrupt. I would be listening to how he got the deals and pitching the business. It is an attribute I use today to try and raise money in a sector — sex education — which no one understands yet.

In early stage tech you have to explain to people why and how it will be better. I am trying now to educate how we can do this in a modern and inclusive way.

I had initially been monitoring the intimacy and sexuality sectors for 15 years. I was trying to understand what my body was going through after birth and looking for information. A few years ago, the one thing that changed for Kama was sexual wellness being added as category in the wellness space.

Kama is a new sexual wellness and educational platform
Kama is a new sexual wellness and educational platform. Photo: Kama

It was crucial in the venture capital world in terms of sizing the opportunity. When I saw that capital could be raised, I left my role as chief creative officer at Soho House, travelled to the US and raised my seed capital for Kama, a sex education platform which is mindful, respectful and trying to make people happier and healthier.

I never set out to be a CEO. I don’t love being the boss as I have to tell people off and praise people which I may forget to do. It’s a big challenge to being an operational boss.

What I tell my children now is that the most important thing is the hustle. If you don’t know how to hustle you won’t get anything done. I value being a generalist more than a specialist; if you don’t have a handle on operations, finance, content, marketing, product and people, and you don't know how to do all these things at a high level, it’s very hard to be in my position today.

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During lockdown my 16-year-old son and I decided to create a first-time sex curriculum for boys for the app. It’s an important piece of education as there is nothing out there that is comprehensive and inclusive and which gives them practical guidance and educate them about pleasure.

Sexual wellness is still an empty space. The younger generation is more inquisitive about topics which were unspoken before, and they are looking for solutions that are novel, current and inclusive. Seeing this way my teenage boys and their friends are talking about sex, it’s clear that the timing to bring a new type of sex education is now.

It’s the first time in my career that I create something that is fully aligned with my beliefs and has a purpose that is beyond my own success or thus of my investors. Knowing that what we are doing can change people's lives means that we are focused on their wellbeing first, everything else needs to come second.

Kama, the sexual wellness and educational platform, has launched on Android and iOS

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