When the PayPal cofounder came for your period, I did not speak out enough. So I blame myself, really, for this waste of science. According to Inc. magazine, two male bio-hackers just "previewed plans for a new probiotic supplement that will enable women to change the way their vaginas smell."
It is called it Sweet Peach, which sounds like a C-list rom-com with a similarly retrograde view on the priorities of the contemporary human female. If there was any doubt whether Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome, the duo who presented the peachy probiotics, were trying to enhance the female body or fix it, consider their other olfactory targets:
And why stop at humans? The other product Heinz and Gome are partnering on is Petomics, a probiotic for dogs and cats that makes their feces smell like bananas.
In addition to myself, the blame for this travesty should be placed on the questionable standards of the crowd. Heinz told Inc. that Sweet Peach has a campaign on the crowdfunding platform Tilt:
"We got banned from Kickstarter."
Now, there's nothing objectionable about a peach. It tastes great and makes a useful emoji. Biohacking also has its benefits. As soon as they develop brain enhancing injections, I will volunteer my frontal lobe. Is frontal the right lobe? I wouldn't know, I'm not a cyborg yet. But as you can tell from the way Heinz and Gome describe it, they genuinely think that given the ability to alter their "code," women would choose to smell like a Bath & Body Works at an outlet mall:
Sweet Peach will have practical benefits, like preventing yeast infections and other health problems caused by microorganisms, Heinz said in his presentation. But the ambition behind it is a loftier one.
"The idea is personal empowerment," he said. "All your smells are not human. They're produced by the creatures that live on you."
"We think it's a fundamental human right to not only know your code and the code of the things that live on you but also to rewrite that code and personalize it," Gome chimed in.
The pair could not provide a satisfactory answer for why Sweet Peach is trying to iterate on your vagina, except that having sex organs that smell like fruit might help women better connect with their bodies, as though the way they smell pre-hacked is a malodorous barrier to body acceptance.
[Gome] also offered a little insight into why two men had seized on feminine odor as the target of their entrepreneurial energies. "It's a better idea than trying to hack the gut microbiome because it's less complicated and more stable," he said. "It only has one interference per month."
The pleasant scent is there "to connect you to yourself in a better way," but it also serves as a sort of indicator light to let users know the product is working.
If they are referring to your period as "interference," someone at the DEMO Conference where they debuted this idea may want to tell them about vaginal intercourse.
The recent rash of healthcare and biotech startups has not felt obliged, thus far, to involve the women they want to buy their product. The period tracker app Glow, founded by PayPal's Max Levchin, did not have a single woman on their executive team aside from Jennifer Tye, who is in charge for marketing and partnerships. No other female executives when I asked on October 2nd and no other women listed as part of the executive team on their website right now.
Glow has raised $23 million in venture financing, including money from Founders Fund, Peter Thiel's investment firm. Heinz and Gome have their own biotech startups. Heinz's is called Cambrian Genomics and Gome's is called Personalized Probiotics. Peter Thiel, who once bemoaned giving women the right to vote, has also invested in Cambrian Genomics.
Here is Heinz describing yet another scent that needs solving back in September:
"I don't know about you but I think poop smells not so great," Heinz told This Week in Start-Ups. "We think, on an airplane you're breathing 90 percent farts, right? So it'd be good if they were good smelling."
If Heinz needs help coming up with any other gross smells that need fixing, ask a lady. We have a few suggestions.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Heinz and Gome were the duo behind Sweet Peach Probiotics. Valleywag regrets the error. And apparently so does Heinz, who told Inc. magazine's Jeff Bercovici, whose article was the basis for this post, that he "screwed up," as Bercovici puts it.
In fact, Heinz owns 10 percent of Sweet Peach and Gome has no affiliation with the company. They took the liberty to present the concept at the DEMO conference without the approval of Audrey Hutchinson, Sweet Peach's 20-year-old female founder and CEO and they grossly misrepresented the product. When Hutchinson found out, she tells Inc. that she vomited twice.
A former college student at Bard, where she studied on a full-ride Distinguished Scientist Scholarship, she describes herself as an "ultrafeminist" who dropped out to pursue her vision of helping women manage their reproductive health without the need for doctors or clinics. "I don't think women should have vaginas that smell like peaches or anything like that," she says. [...]
"I'm obviously sort of appalled that it's been misconstrued like this because it was never the point of my company," she says. "I don't want to apologize for [Austen], but at the same time I want to apologize to every woman in the world who's heard about this and wants my head on a stake."
Heinz believes Hutchinson doesn't have to worry. It's his own head he's worried about.
In addition to misrepresenting her company, Heinz did not mention Hutchinson was the founder or include a photo of Hutchinson among his slides. So, yeah, he should be worried.
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