A businessman who co-founded a £1 billion sex toy company is tee-ed up for more success with a new golf venture.
Richard Longhurst, 53, helped to create the world’s biggest sexual wellness firm by starting Lovehoney with £4,500 savings after leaving his job as a magazine editor at Future Publishing in 2002.
Longhurst quit Lovehoney in 2019 with co-founder Neal Slateford after they sold their majority stake to Swiss venture capitalists.
Now he has invented Pocket Timer, an easy-to-use golf gadget that could save players’ scores and is already a hit on courses across the UK.
He talked about his business journey from sex toys to golf gadgets on Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 podcast.
Shaped like a coin and roughly the size of a poker chip, the lightweight, bright red Pocket Timer is designed to help players find lost balls using the full three minutes they are entitled to under the current Rules of Golf.
Golfers simply click the timer in their pocket and it buzzes every 30 seconds, ending with a double buzz when the three minutes have elapsed.
Longhurst, who is golf mad and plays off a handicap of two at Bath Golf Club, said: “I first had the idea when the rules changed in 2019 and you went from having five minutes to find a lost ball to three, incurring a one shot penalty if you cannot locate it.
“Not everybody likes wearing a watch when they play golf, so the only other way you’d be able to keep time is by using your phone. But most golfers keep that in their golf bag and it’s unlikely anybody is going to pull it out before they go traipsing off into the rough to look for their ball.
“I figured having a little thing in your pocket that keeps time and vibrates – of course – when your three minutes is up would be a simple, efficient solution.
“Most golfers were giving up too soon because they were worried about holding up play and needlessly conceding a shot.”
Longhurst shared his vision with the owners of Joy Factory, a Chinese company he had used in his Lovehoney days. Using the mould for a sex toy remote control, Pocket Timer was born.
He believes it fills an important gap in the market and, having helped improve people’s performance and pleasure in the bedroom, he is hoping to do the same on the golf course.
Using his ecommerce experience, he set up a new website selling Pocket Timer and he is now sending out the gadgets all over the world because the rules of golf are the same wherever it is played.
Longhurst, who lives in Bath, still attends Lovehoney board meetings and has a 10% stake in the firm which merged with German sex toy giant WOW Tech in 2021.
Lovehoney Group is forecast to deliver more than £300 million in revenue per year and it has blossomed into a global business worth £1 billion.
The sexual wellness category is growing so rapidly that sales are expected to exceed £40 billion globally by 2028.
Lovehoney won two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise during Longhurst’s time and he met the late monarch at a reception for winners at Buckingham Palace.
Longhurst told the L50 podcast that the key to Lovehoney’s success were fun ideas such as the Rabbit Amnesty which allowed customers to recycle their old sex toys and amazing customer service – something he wants to repeat with Pocket Timer.
While Longhurst keeps a close eye on his old industry, his focus these days is on golf.
He said: “You never know – there might be more money to be made from Pocket Timer than from selling sex toys.”
* Richard Longhurst talks about his business journey from sex toys to golf gadgets on Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 Podcast