Layoffs at Nortel have led to the launch of a new sex toy company in Ottawa.
Standard Innovation Corp.'s first product, the We-Vibe vibrator, has sold 55,000 units worldwide since it was released last spring.
Bruce and Melody Murison, both former Nortel employees, launched their "research and design" company after Murison was laid off from the now-struggling telecommunications technology giant five years ago.
Bruce Murison, who worked as a Nortel engineer for more than a decade, said the We-Vibe was designed from an engineer's perspective. The 60-gram silicone device is U-shaped and is the product of six years and $500,000 worth of research and development.
"This is, to me, not a sex toy. It's an electromechanical device," he said. "We truly look at it from a scientific point of view; in terms of plotting the x-y charts of power versus performance, versus the third dimension of the human dynamic: What frequencies do women like?"
The couple said they came up with the idea while on a long car trip in 2001. The topic of sex toys came up.
"And it was just an innocent idea — why isn't there a sex toy that fits between two people when they're making love?" Bruce said.
He jotted down the idea, did some searches and found that nothing similar had been patented.
In 2003, he was laid off from Nortel and had some time to pursue his new research.
"We had to go downtown to cruise the peeler joints and talk them into trying our device," he recalled, adding that they wanted it tested by people who had tried five or more devices for comparison.
The couple kept the idea a secret for years as they worked on it, due to the stigma associated with sex toys. Melody Murison said it took her until May 2008 to tell her parents.
"Dad was pretty quiet about it. Mom was — she absorbed what I was saying. I think she was glad to hear that we had income now."
Her husband said their company now has a new project on the go.
"I discovered some technology developed by NASA that has never been applied to the sex toy industry," he said. "So we've got a new technological platform we're going to be rolling out over the next two years."
Meanwhile, vendors taking part in Ottawa's annual sex show, Sexapalooza, this past weekend said the toy, which retails for $129.95, is flying off shelves.
"It's phenomenal," said Shelley Taylor, owner of the Venus Envy store in Centretown. "We've never, ever seen a toy sell like this."
Bonnie Hamilton, owner of Bonnie's Bedroom in Hamilton, Ont., said the product has been a boon for her business also.
"That's my livelihood, so I'm pleased."