Investors have poured over $500M into these startups offering sex tech, recreational cannabis, gambling apps, and more.

Are investors willing to fund startups offering products focused on areas like sex, drugs, and alcohol that were once considered taboo? We used the CB Insights platform to look at startups working on these products and found that while the landscape is varied, investor participation remains mixed.

Some of the categories in our “vice” tech market map below, such as cannabis, are growing. More and more states have legalized medical and recreational use in recent years, and between 2014-2016 147 new cannabis startups were able to raise their first funding rounds. On the other hand, entrepreneurs say investors remain reluctant to back sex tech startups, pushing some in the field to turn toward bootstrapping rather than equity investment.

We designed our market map to focus on gambling, tobacco, cannabis (with a significant recreational, rather than medical, focus), sex tech (including condom startups, but excluding startups focused on healthcare), and nightlife-focused mobile apps.

Check out the full category descriptions and graphic below.

Planting Seeds: The Cannabis Revolution Webinar
Cannabis continues to be on consumers' minds as state after state continues to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana. This webinar dives into investment trends, acquisition activity, and the future of the cannabis industry. 

Market map

The market map includes only private companies that have received external funding (not companies that are self- or revenue-funded). The companies in this graphic have raised over $540M in total.

Click on the map to enlarge. This map is not meant to be exhaustive of companies in the space.

2.8 Vice Tech Market Map

Category breakdown

Consumer cannabis - These startups are growing and selling marijuana, edibles, and accessories with a focus on recreational use in areas where it’s legal. For example, Dixie Elixers, with $8M in funding from undisclosed investors, offers THC-infused sodas, chocolates, and other products. CannaKorp, which raised $7.5M from investors including Singularity Capital Management, is selling an at-home “Keurig for cannabis”-type machine, which vaporizes cannabis from single-use pods.

Sex tech - These startups offer sex toys, e-commerce platforms for erotic items, and more. Many of them focus on women, such as Nuelle ($23M in funding), offering a female sexual aid; Crave ($5M), which designs luxury sex toys; O’Actually ($250K), a platform for sexual content geared toward women. We also see two all-natural condom startups — Sustain, with $2.5M, and L., with $120K — and even one women-focused subscription box for erotic accessories, Unbound, with $90K.

At-home gambling - These startups offer apps and mobile games for consumer gambling, focusing on betting, lottery tickets, fantasy sports, and casino games. Playstudios, which partners with casinos and develops mobile apps for slots, blackjack, and other games with real-world prizes, leads in funding with $34M. Other business models include eSports betting website Unikrn; mobile app YouBetMe, which lets you make bets with friends; AutoLotto, which lets users play Powerball via mobile phone; and Jackpocket, a mobile app for playing the state lottery.

Casino tech - These startups produce gaming software for use inside brick-and-mortar casinos and gambling locations. Betgenius, which leads with $15M in funding, makes software that helps bookmakers and lottery operators improve performance. The other companies in the category generally produce actual games for casinos to offer. Second in funding with $12M, Gamblit Gaming makes poker and other games for casino consoles.

Alcohol tech - These startups use technology to improve consumers’ drinking experiences at home. Many are on-demand alcohol delivery services that promise to deliver alcohol within an hour or less: China-based Liquor Easy has raised $61M, for example, and Boston-based Drizly has raised $33M. We also see Bartesian and Somabar, which make automated kitchen appliances, comparable to coffee makers, for easy home cocktail preparation. Bartesian recently received a corporate minority investment from Beam Suntory.

Tobacco - These companies offer tobacco, e-cigarette, and vaping products. Pax, for example, has raised $54M to sell vaporizers and flavored tobacco.

Vice experiences - These startups provide experiences that cater to vices. Robb Vices (perhaps boasting the most direct company name on the list) sells a subscription box with luxury “vice” items such as liquors and chocolates. ManServants promises to send “chivalrous” men to perform (non-sexual) duties for women, and Bachweekend plans bachelor and bachelorette party experiences. Hooch offers a subscription membership platform for drinks and experiences at various bars.

Nightlife - These are mobile apps that promise to help users find the best clubs and nightlife events. The Stockholm-based Keyflow, for example, provides a platform for users to track nightlife events in their city. We don’t include the many apps that provide general recommendations for restaurants, tourist attractions, etc.


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Vice Tech Startups

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Company list

Vice Tech Market Map
Company Category All Investors
Castle Hill Gaming Casino Tech Undisclosed
Gamblit Gaming Casino Tech American Capital
GameCo Casino Tech Berylian Capital, Courtside Ventures, Javelin Venture Partners, OCP Capital, QB1 Ventures, Steel Partners Holdings
Lightning Gaming Casino Tech Cross Atlantic Capital Partners, Susquehanna Private Equity Investments
Open Wager Casino Tech Undisclosed
UrComped Casino Tech RevTech Accelerator
Baker Consumer Cannabis 500 Startups, Base Ventures, Poseidon Asset Management,  XG Ventures
Flow Kana Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Auntie Dolores (AD Remedies) Consumer Cannabis ArcView Group, MJIC
Grassp Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
GrassPass Consumer Cannabis CanopyBoulder
CannaKorp Consumer Cannabis Singularity Capital Management
Canndescent Consumer Cannabis Adam Cohen, Adrian Sedlin, Lee McPherson
Dixie Elixers Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Dynamic Harvest Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Eaze Solutions Consumer Cannabis 500 Startups, Casa Verde Capital, DCM Ventures, Slow Ventures, Tusk Ventures, Winklevoss Capital
Elevate Consumer Cannabis CanopyBoulder
Suncliff Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Goodship Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Jane West Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Leaf Consumer Cannabis Advanced Nutrients, CanopyBoulder, CJV Capital, Phyto Partners
Leafcart Consumer Cannabis CanopyBoulder
MiNDFUL Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Mirth Provisions Consumer Cannabis Undisclosed
Tokyo Smoke Consumer Cannabis Chuck Rifici, Globalive Capital
Tradiv Consumer Cannabis Anslinger Capital, CanopyBoulder, Poseidon Asset Management, TL Partners
Tournament1 At-Home Gambling Undisclosed
AutoLotto At-Home Gambling 500 Accelerator, 500 Startups, Aurum Partners
CashBet At-Home Gambling Undisclosed
Derby Games At-Home Gambling Alexis Ohanian, Andlinger & Company, Bullpen Capital
Huuuge Games At-Home Gambling Korea Investment Partners, Seoul Investment Partners
Jackpocket At-Home Gambling Digital Currency Group, Kima Ventures
Linq3 Technologies At-Home Gambling Undisclosed
LottoNet At-Home Gambling Undisclosed
Oddsium At-Home Gambling ADDinvest, Jacob Key, Jonas Siljemark, Victor & Victor
PlayStudios At-Home Gambling Icon Ventures, MGM Resorts International, Pascal Ventures
Playsino At-Home Gambling TomorrowVentures, Wavemaker Partner
RocketFrog Interactive At-Home Gambling Undisclosed
Unikrn At-Home Gambling 500 Startups, Advancit Capital, Binary Capital, Freelands Ventures, Indicator Ventures, Mark Cuban
YooLotto At-Home Gambling 7-Ventures, Roger Chang, Tech Wildcatters
YouBetMe At-Home Gambling Abingdon Capital Management, SierraMaya360
Crowdit Nightlife First Eastern Investment Group
DesignMyNight Nightlife Michael Murphy, Steve Pankhurst
InList Nightlife Moneta Group, STAR Capital Partners
Eve (PlatinumAxis) Nightlife Undisclosed
Keyflow Nightlife Alessandro Lindblad
Rooam Nightlife Undisclosed
Tablelist Nightlife Accomplice
Drizly Alcohol Tech Fairhaven Capital, Polaris Partners, First Beverage Group
Bartesian Alcohol Tech Beam Suntory, HAX
Drync Alcohol Tech Cross Link Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital
Liquor Easy Alcohol Tech Everbright Securities, Legend Capital
Minibar Alcohol Tech Female Founders Fund, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Winklevoss Capital
Saucey Alcohol Tech Altpoint Ventures, Blumberg Capital, HashTag One, Structure Capital
Thirstie Alcohol Tech Rakesh Gupta
Somabar Alcohol Tech Duke Angel Network, Harvard Angels, Tech Coast Angels
Uvee (Clean Light Laboratories) Sex Tech Undisclosed
Condomizer Sex Tech Undisclosed
Crave Innovations Sex Tech Chaotic Ventures, Schox Investments
Feeld (formerly 3nder) Sex Tech Undisclosed
L. Condoms Sex Tech Y Combinator
Nuelle Sex Tech NEA, Correlation Ventures
O’Actually Sex Tech Undisclosed
Ohlala Sex Tech Ben Kubota, Markus Ertler, Max Finger
Pillow Sex Tech Start-Up Chile
Sustain Sex Tech Heidi Zak, John Replogle, Justin Rosenstein
Taqu (Touch) Sex Tech China Securities International, Dingfeng Asset, Shenzhen Fortune Venture Capital
Thatspersonal.com Sex Tech Undisclosed
Unbound Sex Tech Undisclosed
Vibease Sex Tech HAX
Breazy Tobacco Undisclosed
PAX Labs Tobacco Fidelity Investments, Global Asset Capital, Sivia Capital, Tao Capital Partners
VMR Products Tobacco Huabao International Holdings
BachWeekend Vice Experiences Selous Venture Society
ManServants Vice Experiences Undisclosed
Hooch Vice Experiences Blue Scorpion Investments, Burch Creative Capital, Russell Simmons
Robb Vices Vice Experiences Undisclosed

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