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Ask HN: Are there any innovative startups in the porn/adult industry?
126 points by rblion on Oct 19, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments
Just curious. I am, like many men, a fan of quality porn and wonder if anyone is trying to solve problems in that industry. Or is too taboo?



Cindy Gallop's "Make Love Not Porn" (http://www.makelovenotporn.com) is trying to solve some of the issues around the rise of Internet pornography (addiction, detachment from intimacy, unrealistic/degrading portrayal of women, etc).

She's approaching it from a great, sex-positive way but is having issues whenever the company touches the "regular world" - hard to get funding, taken seriously by non-adult industry people, payment processing, etc.

The "problems" in Internet porn do not appear related to reducing barriers to access or better tech, but in solving issues with how people cope with sudden, instant access to a historically unprecedented amount of material.

Yet again, porn is trending ahead of regular tech use, which is also starting to deal with the same issues of addiction, information overload, how to monetize premium content in the face of a vast universe of free, tech saturation causing detachment and loss of intimacy (and the controversy over whether it does any of these in the first place).


I read a really enlightening article on the challenges that "adult" startups face when they try to do things the legitimate way[0] (as opposed to using underhanded, duplicitous, and/or legally questionable tactics).

It's rather sad that these startups are essentially punished for not wanting to deceive their business partners about what they do. It sheds a lot of light on why the adult industry ends up with a rather sleazy reputation - it's not because everyone who wants to go into the sex industry wants to be sleazy. If anything, it's that the ones who want to conduct business honestly are discouraged or driven out.

[0] http://modelviewculture.com/pieces/sextech-startups-in-a-hos...


Hey there! I'm the writer of that article. Thank you for sharing it and I'm glad you found it enlightening.

I like to call those of us in the industry that put out great tech, operate on open communication and transparency, and don't cheat systems or customers as next-generation adult companies. It is a difficult road to take given the obstacles in the way, but that's also why it's exciting as an entrepreneur. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. :)


Nailed it, Jen. I think there are enough sextech startups cropping up to prove that things can be done differently. The industry has a storied past. That doesn't have to remain the norm.


Exactly. Which is why the Daily Beast wrote this piece on us and other #sextech entrepreneurs on 'Silicon Valley's Soft Sex Ban: Why The Digital World Needs To Stop Failing Sex':

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/29/silicon-val...


Here's another data point confirming the "regular world" issues you mention: http://recode.net/2014/10/17/its-hard-out-there-for-a-sex-to...


Rybchin said she suspects it has something to do with tech being dominated by men, who might be nervous about working with a sex-toy startup: “All these companies are run by men, and they don’t appreciate a woman’s pleasure.”

I don't know whether this really is the underlying issue, but damn, it's unfortunate how plausible it is. And the reaction from Stripe to the reporter's request for comment all but confirms.


I think men are just wary of being seen as creeps. At a recent job search lecture at my uni we were told to never have a picture on your CV, with this as example of how it goes wrong: "Let's say you're a beautiful woman and you send a company your CV with pic on it. Now, the reviewer of your CV is male and if he asks you in for an interview the other employees at the company might suggest he did it because of the way you look. The reviewer will avoid this awkward situation by throwing your CV in the trash. Do not have a picture on your CV."

Basically, the expectations of a modern man's sexuality are pretty fucked up and contradictory and most prefer to avoid the entire thing in public.


Especially so with something as big and public as backing or working with a sex toy company. No matter what way you go with it, somebody's going to try to jump down your throat. Often several different groups, for contradictory reasons. Is it any wonder that most men, and anybody whose job involves making sure your company isn't the target of a negative media frenzy, doesn't want to touch this stuff with a 10-foot pole?


Interestingly, the public perception that you're tainted can make your company a good investment for the savvy (/thick-skinned) investor:

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/investing/investing-in-sin-s...

Since a lot of people wont touch sex (or tobacco, oil, military, etc.) investments, you can get these at a discount compared to other companies with similar numbers but in a more mainstream category.


You know, it just hit me that having an all-female company would be really advantageous in this way. The grass is always greener etc. but from this side of the fence it looks like it makes you bulletproof to this kind of things.


Alas no, but I can tell you that many of the entrepreneurs doing really interesting things in this space are female :)


IMHO the problem is not that men "don't appreciate a woman's pleasure" - that is some serious bullshit in my opinion. Most men love it when their SO enjoys sex.

The problem (to me) is the criminalization of porn and prostitution in the US. Just think about what kind of outrage it would cause if Stripe had a single prostitute or porn website use their service to receive payments. (For the sake of argument assume the prostitute is located in a jurisdiction that does not prohibit the practice, IIRC it is allowed in parts of Nevada)

Now Stripe gets flack for being overly cautious - there's just no way to do this without provoking a shit storm from one group.


As someone who is trying to a create a new, unique, non-janky, adult website I have learned a lot in the last 10 months. And I have never worked in this industry so it has been a serious learning experience.

The biggest issue for me has been the banks. My assumption is that Stripe and other players would be "ok" accepting payments from "High Risk" merchants. But they cannot, their partner bank will not allow it.

I later found an article by Cindy Gallop raging against this.

http://www.inc.com/welcome.html?destination=http://www.inc.c...

"A whole range of banks turned us down, including the startup banks, Silicon Valley Bank, Square 1 Bank. We finally got a banking account at CHASE, and we were extremely relieved, thrilled to get a check book that said Make Love Not Porn on it. And so, when... I began encountering enormous problems putting a payments infrastructure into place, because we are what the world deems adult content, we couldn't work with PayPal, couldn't work with Amazon, couldn't work with Google Checkout, couldn't work with any of the main merchant partner gateways. So, we thought, let's go back to CHASE, we have a business banking account there, let's apply for a commercial account. Unfortunately, that application surfaced the nature of our business within higher levels at CHASE. And it resulted in a meeting with a more senior guy, who essentially said to us, not only can we not give you a commercial account, but you now need to close your business bank account and take your business away, because we can't handle it."

I had a conversation about this over on Reddit that was fairly interesting.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/2co0r6/anyone...


I know you've probably learned this already from your experience, but for other readers:

The (possibly) surprising thing here is that banks aren't moralizing here. You can walk into any adult bookstore and pay with a regular old credit card just fine, thank you. Visa and Mastercard are not averse to allowing you to pay for porn.

The reason why banks and credit card companies don't want to be involved with online porn because there's an incredibly high rate of chargebacks. People pay with stolen cards, and people pay with their own cards and then claim that they were "hacked" when their wife wonders why there's porn on their credit card bill.

All of this creates a certain amount of work for them, and it's unprofitable.

So in a sad way, the banks' distaste for dealing with online porn payments is a just sad reflection of our society's attitudes about porn. If we weren't a bunch of weirdos who caused a lot of chargebacks and, instead, paid for porn like actual grownups... banks would have no problem servicing this industry.


You're absolutely right there. You can purchase adult DVDs with Mastercard/Visa at brick and mortars. Once it's online, that's when you get hit with not only the higher rates but the strict yet frustratingly vague content restrictions. Which are applied inconsistently across industries and companies, might I add. For example, as an adult app store, my company can't sell any apps that reference drugs, but you can buy GTA on Play.

Banks are quick to penalize merchants for CB fraud. I wish they would take more action against the individuals who commit it.


A startup idea: create a "dynamic pricing" adult payment processor that would try to undercut the competition by adjusting the amount they charge merchants depending on their chargeback history. You know, sort of like the insurance companies do (insurance is cheaper for those without claims). This way you differentiate between the true high risk merchants and those that are labeled as such just because they are adult.

Undercut the competition which charges upwards of 15%, using that process. Make a killing.


As per my commment below, we get virtually no chargebacks at http://makelovenotporn.com/ because we are a different kind of business operating in a different kind of way - out in the open, socially acceptable/shareable - but the financial institutions' compliance departments won't even have that conversation. :(


yep--ditto for online gaming (eg, online poker, casino, sportsbook). The chargeback rate is outrageous--thought i put the decimal in the wrong place first time i prepared a monthly report. The credit card owner of course claims fraud--ie, someone stole his credit card data & played online poker and lost a fortune all on an account liked to the poor guy's visa. As anyone can guess, a large fraction of this cases are 'remorse fraud'--ie, the card holder had began losing, kept playing and kept losing and panicked at what his wife will do when she sees the $5,000 partypoker charge on his card, he does some research, learns that a "CNP" transaction has certain protections, and in this case means the he can blame someone else and the merchant has to prove otherwise.


The banks LOVE adult high risk. The discount rates, the volume, the transaction fees are very seductive. If the banks could wholly control their own destinies, they’d all be processing adult online transactions—with joy and abandon.

The big BUT is that they fear retribution from the card schemes (Visa & Mastercard). Either of them can and do impose enormous penalties on the banks when they exceed the card schemes’ chargeback thressholds. Worse, they can ban the banks from issuing cards with their logos. This would be catastrophic for any bank.

Parenthetically, I was contacted by a bank recently, requesting that I remove a hentai scene that referenced 'pointy ears' (think Mr. Spock) in the meta data. Pointy ears, they said, was a feature of a 'hybrid human'. Hybrid humans having sex with humans, they said, was bestiality. And Visa would not process payments for anything promoting bestiality. This is just one illustration of how paranoid they are.

So that’s the rub on the processing side, but there are many, many banks that will board adult online merchants, in both the US and the EU. As well, there are numerous IPSPs (Internet Payment Service Providers) for adult merchants, ideal for companies just starting out, or companies not interested in sacrificing time and energy managing a private merchant account.

On the settlement side, that’s a new issue.

Banks are less and less keen to open business checking accounts for adult online merchants. They’re nervous about these transactions settling to one of their accounts.

This is largely the result of paranoia about new banking regulations in the wake of the mortgage-backed securities debacle. They are now (rightfully) under a great deal of scrutiny from regulators which translates to onerous judgement calls from banks.


[dead]


I don't believe that BTC has enough market penetration to solve her problem. When I've interviewed potential users concerning my product, the response has been

"Isn't Bitcoin a scam? I saw on the news it is a scam" "I want to just use my CC" "What is Bitcoin?"

That said, I still will launch with BTC support. Because I believed the hype and coded the solution before doing interviews...sigh


We're keen to use bitcoin and have been talking to various people about this for years. Would you believe bitcoin merchants are also susceptible to 'No adult content'?!!


What merchants are those? I've read through many acceptable use policies and haven't seen "No Adult Content" yet.

Thanks!

edit:s/man/many/


I actually would prefer not to name names because am in discussions to get over that hump...but I've unfortunately encountered this in several.


First of all, sorry if I was really rude, I didn't mean that. "complaint" would be a better word instead of "cry". Sometimes my poor english embarrass me.

It's terrible, the philosophy behind the cryptocurrency would support your freedom to trade your values.


Fair enough. Thanks!


I've been in the crypto-currency scene for a year now and I can say definitively that early adopter passion is giving way to healthy (and normal) market skepticism as the market becomes more aware of the technologies. It's atypical of the way any market evolves and how it evolves over time. Not sure why we keep expecting Bitcoin to go from zero use to global use in a matter of a few years...

The porn industry has, time and time again, used new technologies to overcome limitations of the medium by which they do business. I do think crypto-currencies play a part in that, especially when considering the opportunities presented by a global marketplace. Better you can sell to anyone anywhere with no fees, instead of being locked to a given region because of credit card number, or cost structure because of higher risk transactions.


My experience of accepting donations over 3 months on my site: a handful of donations via Paypal, zero donations with BTC.

UPD: doesn't matter though, I'd still implement BTC if I had to do it again. It didn't take much time and was a really interesting experiment. I do believe it's the future of Internet payments.


BTC is an investment pyramid scheme, but an entirely legit transaction technology. Just be sure to exchange the BTC back into normal money fairly quickly, as it's neither a secure nor stable store of value.


You are rare because most men don't understand the first thing about a woman's pleasure.

Regardless, as an adult retailer, we don't have anything to do with porn or prostitution. Stripe and their bank shouldn't put all adult businesses into 1 box.


> The problem (to me) is the criminalization of porn and prostitution in the US.

Porn is illegal in the US?


It's not ouright illegal, but it's becoming more and more onerous to work in the adult industry because of things like this: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/07/the-banks-w...


You are right. I should have said "stigmatization".


We at MakeLoveNotPorn are working to change that. My piece for the UK Independent on 'It's Not That Porn Degrades Women, It's That Business Degrades Porn':

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/its-not-that-por...


IANAL(hehehe), but prostitution is illegal, but if you film it and sell it for profit than it's legal.


I work at Stripe. Some details in the article aren't very accurate.

But, more broadly, we actually work hard to push against the rules in many cases. (Cindy Gallop, mentioned earlier in the thread, can attest to this -- we spent ages trying to figure out a way to accept payments for her startup.)


Absolutely - I am enormously grateful to Patrick and the team for doing everything you possibly could to persuade your bank to change their mind. Still gutted we couldn't make it work, and determined to generate as much social acceptability and revenue as we can to change their POV :)


In the end Stripe could not work with her or other startups that feature "a naked person" on the product they're selling (the article seems to claim), is that correct? I'm assuming then pay-for-porn sties are not permitted business with Stripe either?


They are not, anything classified as "High Risk" cannot be serviced by Stripe, Balanced, Braintree, etc.

Again, from my research, it is because the partner banks will not allow them to.


Hm, okay. Though, it's not clear to me why porn sites en masse would be classified as "High Risk"? Are you sure this is always the case? How are current popular porn sites doing this?

And, now that Stripe is quite big, don't they have some leverage over the banks to be able to say they do want porn sites et al. to be able to work with Stripe?


The porn sites are classified as "high risk" because the banks believe/know that type of business has above average chargebacks. Apparently banks want to keep their chargebacks to a minimum.


Irony: http://makelovenotporn.com/ wants to make sex and the discussion around it socially acceptable and socially shareable - our mission is to change the way the world has sex for the better, via socially-shared #realworldsex. As such, we operate completely openly, transparently, legally and ethically, and I can count the number of chargebacks we've had in 20 months of operating on the fingers of one hand (couples watch our videos together, our community isn't hiding etc etc). But the financial world refuses to even have a conversation about the fact we do business differently and don't encounter the same risks. Which is why people regularly tell me we need to find a politician/lobbyist who'll support us, a la bitcoin/Uber lobbying, to redefine what constitutes 'adult content' and the legislation around it.


It's not just porn sites that are classified as "high risk". Adult retailers are also put into that category.

We rarely get chargebacks. Maybe that's because we focus on a different kind of customer.


That makes two of us! Porn en masse shouldn't be, but it is.

As for Stripe's size, they are a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket compared to the world markets. Heck compared to a U.S based hedge fund they'd be tiny. I'm guessing they have very little leverage.


Hi Pc,

Do you think BTC or Stellar will help put downward pressure on the pricing model that Banks currently use for "High Risk" Merchants? My rate is essentially 15% because I'm a startup and my volume is so low.


What details in the article are you referring to?

Unfortunately, we didn't have the same Stripe experience as Cindy Gallop. We were never given the chancee to explain that we are a different type of business.


She's trying to fix the wrong problem.

The men in charge of those businesses don't care what you sell. They only care not to get in trouble with the businesses they work with up the line. She should make her business acceptable to the banks... and I guarantee the tech companies will be HAPPY to take her money.


Um - I've been battling the 'no adult content' clause for several years now, and unfortunately I can tell you that's not the case. I can't even open a business bank account for http://makelovenotporn.com/ - I've been turned down by everyone including the startup banks (I met with both Silicon Valley Bank and Square One Bank and they refused to let us bank with them).

This is the post I had to write to our members on 'Why We Make It So Hard For You To Give Us Your Money':

http://talkabout.makelovenotporn.tv/2013/07/30/why-we-make-i...


Thank you so much for referencing us! :) #realworldsex


The guys I know in the industry are mostly on the bleeding edge of stream tech both hardware and software. The sheer size of the industry in proportion to the entire internet means that some giant portion of all IT in the world work in the space.

The guys I know all communicate in private communities though, and not for the taboo reason but because the industry is overtly hostile and aggressive towards competitors. There are only 3-4 big players and they play dirty(no pun). They own the pay sites and free sites. They leak their competitors product on their own free site and pair it with upsale ads to their own sites. It is very dog eat dog and hard to innovate in because of the players not the taboo.


I think it's also about the taboo. You can't go to the police and say "Some site is stealing my porn!" without getting laughed at.


I agree that the taboo exist. But I would suggest that the AE industry is one of the most aggressive litigators in entertainment, I don't think they are afraid to use the courts.


My problem with modern porn as an industry is the low production values. Even big (ish) budget movies suffer from bad acting and ridiculous plots. Adult games only exist as a hobbyist past-time--they are few and far between and you have to be really "hard core" to be able to enjoy them.

So, I'm trying to solve the problem by creating adult games that have realistic plots. My goal is to try and create a niche and prove that adult games can be a profitable business, so that big players take interest and we see some major adult titles that are rated "A" not because of the gore and violence in them, but for the erotica/porn content.

Since I'm only one person, I have to start small, with sub-genres where it is possible for one person to make something worthwhile in a reasonable amount of time--currently it's illustrated interactive fiction. So far I've released one game that is more of a demo than a full featured game. I'm currently working on my second game which is much bigger.


> Even big (ish) budget movies suffer from bad acting and ridiculous plots.

Probably because most of the audience does not care about acting or the story.

So before you invest your time and money make sure the users actually want good acting and a story in porn.


I don't know of any other way of making sure other than putting out a pilot release and seeing how it does. So far the stats look pretty good: lots of people have played my pilot game and liked it. I've received a handful of donations, and since donations rarely work in general, I think there's an opportunity worth exploring.


I'd love to make XXX videogames. There aren't many serious players in that space, and I'd love to go after it. I can't do it alone, though, I need artists and a couple other capabilities besides software development. When I pitch the idea to people I'd like to work with on this, they don't want to participate in that space. So yes, there's definitely a stigma for a lot of people.

I've done a good amount of sex things in different venues ranging from phone sex systems to phone dating systems to sex robots in Second Life, so I've long ago lost my aversion to such things. But it surprised me how many people seem to be scared of participating in the industry.

It's easier to make high quality content now than ever before, and it's only going to get better from here.


I'm the co-founder of MiKandi, the adult app store. Adult games are a top search term in our store. If you're making adult Android or HTML5 games, I'd love to get in touch. We just made our first game, Fap Ninja. It was challenging but so much fun to make! If you're looking for artists, I recommend looking on deviantart, hentai foundry, furrafinity, and pixiv.


Would love you to do that. Huge opportunity. Email cindy@makelovenotporn.com.


Porn sites are janky, unpolished, often half-broken, and prone to suddenly disappearing as quickly as they appeared.

This is what innovation looks like.

I think they are the definition of innovation in online content delivery of any kind. Live video streams, monetizing content, creating minor internet celebrities who can live off of their online work, confronting head-on issues of privacy and censorship. All of these things and more came far earlier in internet porn than anywhere else, and theres a good chance that whatever edge they're struggling with will be where the rest of tech finds itself shortly thereafter.

It's like graffiti in the subway as a precursor to ads for HSBC. It may be grimy, but they have nothing to lose so there's a good chance what they're doing is a brilliant move.


Funnily enough, while that used to be true, it's no longer the case. The tech world has advanced to the point that it's outstripped the porn industry, which is struggling for the business reasons I outline here in my open letter in Wired, 'Don't Block Porn, Disrupt It':

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-08/14/cindy-gallop-...

That's what makes #sextech a huge, huge opportunity - including bringing everything that innovates, does well and makes money in every other sector online - including great design. This is my co-founders, Corey Innis (CTO) and Oonie Chase (UX Lead) talking to BusinessInsider about how you design and build a sex site that isn't a porn site:

http://www.businessinsider.com/designing-make-love-not-porn-...


I think it is still the case. The production of porn is democratizing and becoming a smaller and smaller economic blip as its production dissipates, so I agree that the economic model is hurting. I also think its serving a valuable social function which is exposing our expectations and fantasies of sex as the ludicrous oddities that they are, despite our protestations that we are mature and civilized.


At MakeLoveNotPorn we're entirely pro-porn - our tagline is 'Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference.' And we're utterly non-judgemental - #realworldsex is all-inclusive, of anything and everything anyone in the world likes doing. This is what we mean when we say we're not porn, not amateur, but #realworldsex:

http://talkabout.makelovenotporn.tv/2013/04/01/what-is-realw...

Porn in the abstract is absolutely, as you say, a valuable tool for exploring our sexuality, finding out what turns us on, learning there are other people with the same tastes out there. The issue isn't porn, but the absence of an open healthy dialogue around sex in the real world, which is what lies at the heart of the business problems this comment stream highlights, which in turn force the porn industry down worse and worse routes: when you force anything into the shadows and underground, you make it a lot easier for bad things to happen, and you make it a lot more difficult for good things to happen.

That same lack of open healthy discussion around sex is why these social problems exist - the ones that MakeLoveNotPorn is out to tackle:

http://www.ippr.org/assets/media/publications/attachments/yo...


And to answer your question even more specifically - here's a list of founders and ventures doing innovative things in this space:

Kit Maloney, Oactually http://oactually.com/

Cyan Banister, Zivity https://www.zivity.com/

Tina Gong, HappyPlaytime http://happyplaytime.com/

Sarah Jayne Kinney, UnboundBox https://unboundbox.com/

Dema Tio & Hermione Way, Vibease http://www.vibease.com/

Danny Wax & Tyler Elick, Spreadsheets http://spreadsheetsapp.com/

Akbar Dhanaliwala, MinnaLife http://www.minnalife.com/

Kathleen Funk & Alan Harris, XSync http://xsync.com/

Colin Hodge, Down https://www.downapp.com/

Ben Tao, Offbeatr http://offbeatr.com/

Kaitlin Prest & Mitra Kaboli, AudioSmut http://audiosmut.ca/

Roger McNulty, Gasm.org http://gasm.org/

Joe Nelson, TheyFit http://www.theyfit.co.uk/

Meika Hollender, Sustain http://sustaincondoms.com/

Sherif Maktabi, Glance http://www.glanceapp.info/

Cassie Robinson http://www.cassierobinson.net/

Kathy Harris, Slixa https://www.slixa.com/

Christian Thorn, Pinsex http://www.pinsex.com/


Hi. Alan with xSync here. We're a sex-positive sextech startup that synchronizes vibrators to adult videos. Our web service is built on some very innovative technology.

What Cindy said about how difficult it is for an adult startup is absolutely true. We're launching our pilot soon, but this technology would've reached market much more quickly if we were mainstream. We typically can't talk as openly about our ideas. Some adult startup founders run into trouble with family and friends. VC is also incredibly challenging because they nobody wants to be known as "the adult VC" in a financial world that patently discriminates against anything labeled adult.

At xSync we don't produce our own content or our own vibrators. Our website is completely clean, but because we have links to the videos on 3rd party adult sites where users can experience xSync, PayPal or your typical payment processors aren't willing to let us use their services.

We definitely encourage you to follow all of the innovative companies in this space, just know that, for the time, our products will take a little longer to reach market than you might expect.


We're in the process of launching our first product at Comingle(http://www.comingle.io), making Arduino-based, open source and hackable sex toys.

We're making a sex toy platform (our library is named OSSex of course) so that it won't matter if your sex toy is made by guys. You can reprogram it to your liking, attach sensors that respond to your feedback or even build your own.

It is super hard to find a payment processor, but I imagine that their hands are tied by the card networks. I bet Stripe would love to support adult payments if they could: lots of adult specific processors charge like 14%. Seems like that'd be some nice action to be a part of, even if only in the adult industries that are lower risk (the adult industry is huge and there's no way some dildo shop is as high risk as a cam site, even though every one treats them the same.)


WOW! Looks very interesting!

We are not denying that it's the banks that are the problem. Last I checked, the money that my company generates is as green as the money as an non-adult company makes. It's just a shame that banks and companies that work with those banks, like Stripe, are making blanket statements that all adult related businesses are risk.


Yes, Stripe would love to. It's their bank that refuses. Patrick Collison really went to bat for us but couldn't win.:(

Ben Milne of Dwolla supports adult ventures, and we work with them, but unfortunately as a startup themselves they only operate in the US currently - we're global and need global solutions.


What are you looking for, innovative content delivery, production style, search technology, payment schemes?

What problems for example?

All the main video sites you go to are startups that are trying to innovate and make money. Porn is a very competitive industry. Pornhub and redtube for example are innovative startups it's just hard to amit it to ourselves because they are peddling smut.


I just wanted a general picture of where the boundaries are being pushed in the industry. I have some ideas that came to me unexpectedly and now I want to realize them. I just need to learn about the industry from end-to-end.

I'm VERY familiar with all the tube sites, torrent sites, and most major studios. I was 13 when I got DSL, I'm 24 today. I think I've hit the 10,000 hour mark in fapping by now.


Their websites are horrible, though, and the content is pretty meh.


Their analytics is top notch though.

The whole thing is based on what pays, and from what I've heard from friends in the industry the last couple of years "If it's not gay it doesn't pay". There is simply so much free stuff around that there's not much to be made in the mainstream.


This is MakeLoveNotPorn's revenue-sharing business model (we're part of the sharing economy, just like Uber and Airbnb):

http://talkabout.makelovenotporn.tv/2012/09/20/how-makeloven...

Our business model is the opposite of the porn industry's, where pornstars, no matter how well-known, get paid by the scene, on a payscale that may range from a few hundred dollars and tops out at a thousand or two for a scene, even for the most famous and celebrated pornstars. That scene goes on to be viewed billions of times on Brazzers, Naughty America, whatever, but the pornstars never see a cent from any of that. There are no residuals in porn - if there were it would be a very different industry - which is why pornstars need to supplement their income with live camming, dancing, Fleshlights, hushed up escort work etc.

With our model, the more people who enjoy your videos, the more you stand to make. We're only 20 months old in public beta, tiny, bootstrapping and battling every day, but in a world where the received wisdom is 'Nobody pays for porn' they're paying for #realworldsex. Here's one of our members on 'Why I'm Happy To Pay $5 To Watch Real World Sex':

http://talkabout.makelovenotporn.tv/2013/05/02/why-im-happy-...

and a number of our MakeLoveNotPornstars are already making four figures at each payout. (We are the answer to the economy :))


Threshold of achieving minimum customer satisfaction is also very very low - for the most part you just need to show nakedness and the problem is solved :)

Tough industry. Hard to break out of a niche.


I see this argument a lot. I don't think it's true at all (at least, assuming you're not talking about teenage boys). Consumers of porn are picky and choosy about porn just like they are picky about anything else they consume. Better porn beats worse porn.

Nakedness is not sufficient at all. It's kinda hard to get off if you are doubled-over laughing at how lame the porn is.


Agreed. With so much free porn online, everyone has be come a connoisseur. What stands out is experience, quality/niche, and convenience. I found this reddit thread on who pays for porn and why an interesting read.

http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/2i5cf6/redditors_...


What's horrible about them? (I work there so I'm curious)


http://www.pornmd.com/ is a very interesting site.

For one, it scrapes all the top sites.

For another, you can see what people search for in which region. I.e. I am in Denmark and danish people apparently wants to see danish porn. I wasn't aware of that.

For a third, they have a live-search which is quite interesting. (and amusingly, read aloud by porn actors here: http://www.pornhub.com/view_video.php?viewkey=1025156889)

For a fourth, they also have a chrome extension, which if nothing else is curious as the adult industry has so far shied away from apps and such (I believe because of regulations).

Another interesting take is http://www.porniq.com The site speaks for itself.


Those are Pornhub/Mindgeek projects. We are hiring if anyone is interested.


There was an interesting discussion about technology stacks in porn here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6137087


My girlfriends company, https://zivity.com is testing out some waters on a few things. Zivity has been around for awhile, where you pay for votes and you vote on your favorite sets, and pays out pretty well to their artist. Right now they are testing a sexy crowdfunding site, where you vote for which theme you want to win. Live Preview/Beta (https://fund.okidokiokami.com/)


The adult industry isn't lack of innovation, it has pushed the wide implementations of VHS, Online payment, Virtual Reality, teledildonic, etc.

The much needed disruption is how to bring positive impacts to the mainstream market by using sex technologies, without leaving the sex element. How to use sex technologies to help couples to stay intimate, increase safe sex awareness, help individuals to understand his/her sexuality, sexual wellness, help men to understand female orgasm (no, it's not about bigger dick), etc.

In the recent years, we started to see sex-positive startups stepped up to this challenge. From MakeLoveNotPorn, Jimmy Jane, Crave, RevelBody, HappyPlaytime, PerfectFit, DOWN (Bang With Friends) and many more. I'm the co-founder of www.vibease.com, the world's first wearable smart vibrator. I created Vibease because I was in a long distance relationship and I couldn't find any solutions that was easy to use and not invasive. Eventually we 'pivoted' to create immersive pleasure experience for women using audio erotica.

Cindy Gallop from www.makelovenotporn.com has been a great advocate to disrupt the old adult industry. She successfully brings the hard topic, porn to be discussed in the society. She takes the good parts of porn and leaves the bad ones behind, to encourage a healthy discussion about sex.

The challenge is that these startups always being treated like the old shady sex business, especially from the mainstream and holy (aka. hypocrite) institutions. The best way to overcome this problem is to pitch it boldly and hide nothing.


Hi guys, great discussion! @Striking, thanks for mentioning our company Faploid! Due to the overkill of free porn online these days, piracy and the overkill of scam websites, we decide to create http://www.faploid.com.

Faploid hasn’t officially launched, but has already build an active audience, is socially accepted and actively mentioned and promoted by various mainstream media outlets. Faploid’s users are as diverse as the content we serve. They are socially engaged, digitally equipped and searching for safe and quality adult content in an user friendly environment.

All content including movies, pictures, articles and more are based on our user's taste and interests. Faploid evaluates millions of new adult content every day and uses this information to match content to their personal interests and then delivers them automatically to their personal Faploid magazine.

Our users aim high and for that reason we only work directly together with the best publishers/content owners in a variety of niches from A to Z. For them Faploid isn't only a trusted partner in brand building, but also a quality partner in sending them traffic of people who are seriously interested in their content and willing to pay for safe and quality adult content.

After a long time of developing and deal making, we're in our run up to public launch. In the upcoming months, partly because of the enormous positive attention we´ve received from both (mainstream) business and consumer side, we will invite all the subscribers on our waitinglist step by step.

Cheers, Team Faploid


I'm someone making porn but trying my hardest to fund it without making it a business. It became important to create a model that wasn't reliant on profit. I try to treat it as a co-op.

Often it feels like the issue with the industry is that it's so uncertain financially that it's too scared to make content for anyone other than the assumed stereotype porn consumer (straight dudes mainly) so there's over saturation of very similar, repetative content which breeds a strange, one-upmanship quest for never ending novelty.

The ease of access to consistently good and cheaper video equipment (dslrs that support video etc) mean that the people making the most interesting work exist outside of the industry, uploading onto tumblr or sites like clips4sale. Basically they're Etsy of porn, allowing independence from selling the rights to your work to big companies. They take a bit of searching but they're like gold dust when you find them.

our work is: http://afourchamberedheart.com http://fourchambers.tumblr.com


It just surprises me that mainstream brands haven't embraced advertising on porn sites. There is no reason why there couldn't be a Hulu style high end porn site with real ads from like Budweiser, Old Spice, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Comedy Central. There might be backlash for the first company to advertise but after that I can't imagine people would care.


Porn sites have tried, but it's really tough. We want to help break down the social barriers that prevent that. However, here is one mainstream brand who wholeheartedly embraced that and wrote up the BEST.ADVERTISING.EFFECTIVENESS.CASESTUDY.EVER. This is Eat24's hilarious report on 'How To Advertise On A Porn Site':

http://blog.eat24hours.com/how-to-advertise-on-a-porn-websit...

and here's what we plan at MakeLoveNotPorn as our version of advertising - Forget Sex In Advertising, How About Advertising In #realworldsex?

http://talkabout.makelovenotporn.tv/2013/09/25/forget-sex-in...


Hey! We have a company called http://Enjora.com, which tries to give a whole new way of watching porn, and separate itself from the malicious and low-end porn tube sites by giving credit not just the actors and producers, but provide the users full-length adult movies. Enjora.com is a streaming service, like Netflix, where you can watch high quality porn videos from multiple productions companies for a low monthly fee. Although we are still in the development process, we already contacted a lot of producers, who realised that its win-win-win situation because the users get their movies in HD, without annoying ads, on a well designed easy to use website. You can follow channels, porn-stars, and multiple fetishes. Apart of the search engine, we are planning integrated payment methods like mobile, crypto-currencies, and Paypal which makes easier - and more trustable - to pay for our service.


We do pretty innovative and fun things at Pornhub. We're hiring too if you're interested.


I'm curious, assuming you are hiring tech staff, do you find any difference in the quantity or quality of applicants compared to other, non adult, tech companies?


Quantity and quality is the same. We are in Montreal though so there is not as much talent as other cities.


One thing I thought about was to have a reverse porn search(by using an image) See that reddit has an /r/tipofmypenis , where people are seeking the porn they once saw, or they have a picture of it.

It would be quite powerful if it work with publishers and has face recognition ability, so when people upload a screenshot, they can be directed to the porn video over at the publishers.

Also, it is strange how one cannot search by body type by specify a 3D model of the body... we can only use descriptive terms.


http://faploid.com has been in beta a long time but it's gotten awards. Hopefully it works out soon.


I think Erika Lust's Xconfessions.com is one of the better approaches to rethinking pornography I've seen so far. Using the public’s own sex confessions, published on the site anonymously every day, Erika has established by far the most sophisticated and innovative crowdsourced erotic cinema ever seen. Each month, she picks two of the best submissions and turns them into beautiful, original and edgy adult short films.


There was a talk at SXSW this year that was called the "Relieving Frustration The UX of Porn" that showed insights on how the Porn industry was innovating in UX design and showed how mainstream sites were following in its footsteps it was a good talk.

http://www.slideshare.net/SteveJohnson35/relieving-frustrati...


VR porn is a new area with difficult problems to solve.


Given my new position at my workplace, I now have access to all sorts of gadgets and tech stuff.

One thing I've been playing with is a EEG headset with Oculus Rift. My initial idea is to utilize brain patterns with Oculus content to increase certain emotions.

For example, when one is playing Doom 3, the monsters come out closer and scarier when you are already frightened. Or if you're bored, nothing happens to try to increase suspense.

Of course, this could easily be taken to the adult industry. The same feelings of heightened sexual arousal could be coupled with more intense visual stimulation.


EEG is a mess of noise - it's easy to determine things like 'up', 'down', 'left', and 'right'. If you're really precise (user isn't moving very much and has one of those caps that uses electro-gel) you can infer activations of certain parts of the brain, however i don't know how correlated they'd be to non-strong emotions like boredom.


That sounds like some increbily cool work. I'd imagine you can/already use some backend algorithms used by these people. http://emotiv.com/. If you would be willing to mail me the company you work for.


90% of the audience at any Oculus Rift presentation/demo are thinking 'Sex' :)


I think that there's opportunity in teledildonics as well.

If it wasn't for it being, well, teledildonics, I'd be interested in pursuing it.


That's precisely why you should. :) Seriously, I and my team and every other #sextech entrepreneur are working to change the public attitude. For the people ahead of the curve - OH MY GOD THE MONEY TO BE MADE :)


I care about public attitude towards sex.

But that's not the reason that I'd be interested in teledildonics.

You hit the nail on the head with your second point - the money to be made.

Just think about how much money the online pornography, and camgirl, sites pull in.


I agree. Why not? It doesn't make you any less respectable or a bad person. You might be surprised as to how much you like it!


And on this topic - can I introduce Peiqi Su's fantastic ITP installation, the Penis Wall? :)

http://itp.nyu.edu/shows/thesis2014/peiqi-su/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJw-JUmjq0U


It doesn't make me any less respectable or a bad person in my own eyes... but other people's eyes count for a lot.


We're doing our part! www.frixion.me


From an engineering perspective that contraption is cool.

From a practical perspective... what would Steve Jobs say?


It seems that porn business pushed technology for e-payments and data storage/transfer:

http://www.enterprisefeatures.com/2011/06/ten-indispensable-...

I have no idea if now they are frontiers of innovation.



I don't know if they are a startup but the page of chaturbate feels linke one.

Like the idea of shared cams where all people can see even if just a few pay. Also That the people on the cam can do their own thing.

Most innovative idea I've seen in That sector for long.


I'm delighted you ask that question! I can tell you that there are plenty of us, but that as #sextech entrepreneurs we fight a battle every day to build our startups. Every piece of business infrastructure any other startup can at least take for granted, we can't, because the small print always says 'No adult content'. This is me and other #sextech founders interviewed about this by Fast Company:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3029634/bottom-line/the-difficult...

and the Daily Beast:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/29/silicon-val...

Silicon Valley welcomes innovation and disruption in every other area of our lives except this one - which is why I gave this short talk at New York Tech Meetup back in Feb on why the Next Big Thing in tech is disrupting sex, and intro-ed Colin Hodge of Down and Dema Tio of Vibease to demo their products (go to sex+tech in player):

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/player/entry.jsp?calendar_event_id=...

and why I organized a 'Changing The World Through Sex' track at Social Media Week New York also in Feb:

http://socialmediaweek.org/newyork/events/?id=139287#.UqhnJP...

You can get a sense of the various #sextech startups who demo-ed in 'Sex Tech Shark Tank' here :)

http://seen.co/event/social-media-week:-sextech-new-york-cit...

We welcome as many people as possible to join us in disrupting sex and porn - for anyone interested, this is my talk on 'The Future Of Porn' at SXSW last year:

http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/news/2013/cindy-gallop-celeb...

and I spell out the business opportunity in my open letter to David Cameron and Silicon Valley published by Wired last year - 'Don't Block Porn, Disrupt It':

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-08/14/cindy-gallop-...

One day I want to start the YCombinator for porn - who's in? :)

http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/15/makelovenotporn-founder-wa...


Thank you so much for all the information you've provided Cindy, I was not expecting this much of a response. I basically got nothing on Reddit.

I'm going to study everything in this thread and use it for my startup. I have some ideas of how human sexuality can be explored through using technology without losing our humanity. Hopefully, we can all change the perception of porn and the dynamics of the industry.

I will post again in due time. :)


I'd recommend connecting with a few amazing & sex-positive accounts on twitter.

@cindygallop @makelovenotporn @happyplaytime @mikandistore @oactually @simplysxy @missemmamcg @orgasmatronics @xSyncTech

There are so many more, but that should get you on track to surrounding yourself with people who want to positively effect change through sex tech.


Terrific! Do email cindy@makelovenotporn.com when you're ready to talk :)


Not really a start-up but a Django one-weekend project:

"isexdb is the biggest global directory of adult entertainment locations worldwide"

http://www.isexdb.com/

Programming mostly done by my buddy.


For your reference, http://www.gfy.com is the "HN" of the adult industry.


More of a board for adult affiliates.


Glad someone asked, its just the thing we need to innovate!


Exactly. The Next Big Thing in tech is disrupting sex. :) #sextech


Great stream of comments, I figured I would weigh in with our experience.

I founded Revel Body (www.revelbody.com) with the goal of using our new vibration motors to build better vibrators. We have been working on increasing the sensation and versatility of our products (more power and a broader range of vibrations than existing products) and removing the drawbacks of noise, reliability, numbness, etc. Right now we build and sell the most powerful, quiet and reliable battery-powered vibrator on the market. It is strong enough for muscle massage and can do things like create underwater suction and vibration (using the backside).

Unlike a lot of brands in the 'sex toy' world, our branding and design aesthetic are purposely designed to be clean, healthy and accessible. We focus on health and wellness as a way to enable consumers to buy and try our product. We want to remove barriers from people trying our products. We believe that the industry could double in size if people we not embarrassed to buy these products, so we are focusing on enabling that. We need to remove stigma, give people permission, etc. Focusing on the many almost endless medical benefits of regular orgasm is our focus right now.

These products are about as intimate a product as anyone can use, but they tend to be called 'sex toys'. This does not do justice to some of the better products our there, but probably is good for cheaper/mass market items. Toys are cheap and do not do anything important, and these are not just for sex in the traditional sense. Some brands are starting to use 'pleasure product', but we are looking for a new name for a high quality category of products like we build. Personal Appliance is too bulky. I would love if someone could put together a new for this category of product which really captures what these products can do.

We launched on Indiegogo, because the biggest crowd funding site would not allow 'sexual' related products. We blew past our goals nicely, but do not think kickstarter will come around and allow other sexual related products.

Unlike other sexual products, we have had good success at raising equity capital. We have done three small rounds which closed very fast and we ended up leaving many investors on the outside. I think our experience was different because we had a technology disruption story that made sense as well as being able to point out the many ways in which the industry is mainstreaming and growing rapidly. These points create a path for a company that can disrupt and industry as well as lead the charge to make it mainstream, which will lead to a great exit when a big consumer product is looking to enter this industry (they will want the best brand and technology). Other companies like Crave (raised $2.4M to angels), and Pipedream and Peekay show that mainstream PE money is entering this space.

There are ways to position companies for investment if you understand how investors view these kinds of investments; they are looking for an exit based return and to be part of something cool. Think of what kind of company would be bought (build versus buy decision). On being part of a cool startup, I think it is difficult to imagine better cocktail party talk than being part of a disruptive vibrator company. Companies in this space will probably do better with angel investors than with VCs, many VCs are funded by institutional funds which limit investment into 'morally questionable' activities (think fun stuff like sex, drugs, tobacco, rock and roll).

Like other sexual start-ups, we have had a lot of issues with other companies not wanting to do business with us because our sexual nature or association/proximity to porn start-ups. This includes banks, merchant accounts, advertisers (Facebook included), retargeting ads, etc. It is ridiculous but if you plan for it, you can work around it.

Lots of interesting things going on here...


Oh man, you've just opened the floodgates. I just love to geek out on this topic. :)

I've been in the adult industry for almost a decade- both in "hardware" (sex toys) and software (mobile app store, video streaming). What sort of innovations are you looking for? Content, social, tech?

A sex toy company I find innovative is Revel Body. Most vibrators use a rotary motor that spins an off-kilter weight to create the vibration. Revel Body developed their own patented linear motor that uses magnetic fields of alternating polarity to slide a weight back and forth in a linear motion. It's super quiet, more powerful and last longer than the older motors. They also designed their own chip to give the user precise control of the frequency and speed. I would have loved to have used RB's motor in the toys I designed.

Lovepalz has the Zeus and Hera toys that couple hardware with software for long distance partners. Minna toys have pressure sensitive control panels.

The folks at Utherverse created an immersive adults-only virtual world. I believe they launched a major overhaul to their platform last month. They've also built a VR compatible platform specifically for the Oculus Rift universe. In terms of VR porn, Utherverse is at the forefront.

For software, I think we tend to look at consumer-facing sites and products, but there's a wealth of tech innovation happening behind the scenes. SendFaster, while not an adult company (but a tech co that powers a number of adult sites, mine included) has amazing TCP acceleration and image compression software.

While not a startup, Streamates developed their own live streaming technology that's used by millions of visitors daily.

Speaking of my company, I co-founded the MiKandi Adult App Store. We launched almost 5 years ago as the first adults only app store, before Android really hit it big. Being early adopters of Android and one of the few third party Android app stores at the time, we really dove head first into it. Under our belt today, we've got app distribution, mobile video streaming, in-app billing, notifications, DRM and content management, and soon-to-launch an ebook reader, mobile game creator, and comic reader and creator. We've tried to push other tech forward but are usually shot down soon after launching them- our Google Glass adult app, Tits & Glass, and our third party Chrome app store, MiKandi Mint.

As far as the problem we're trying to solve, it's less about a problem in the adult industry as much as it's a problem in the mainstream tech and banking industries, which is being discussed a lot here. I wrote about the hostile business world here: http://modelviewculture.com/pieces/sextech-startups-in-a-hos...


[dead]


Not quite :)

Sex Tech Is Untapped: These 11 Players Are Trying To Change That

http://blog.referralcandy.com/2014/06/03/sex-tech-is-untappe...


I have not the competences to do something like that but in my opinion this is original hacking. In a small town of Sicily (near where I live) some guys are making incredible stuff with retro - computing. They have restore hold computers like PDP11, apple one with all original components.

http://museo.freaknet.org/en


Sorry for this comment, I wanted comment another article( iphone issue)



I don't think you know what "taboo" means. It doesn't mean it's not harmful.


Wiki says: "A taboo is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment."

This clearly does not describe pornography, not even the Pope thinks this.


I'm not sure if you're a native English speaker or not, but the meaning of taboo extends farther than this. A simple definition would be something like "something prohibited to do/mention in respectable company"




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