The dirty little not-so-secret is that one of the biggest cultural changes that has come about as a result of the advent of the internet is our relationship with porn. Once found only in magazines which were sold with concealed covers and then stashed under mattresses across the country, porn is now accessible anywhere you can find wifi which, let’s be honest, is pretty much everywhere at this point.
Gone are the days when I was shocked to see a homeless guy reading Playboy on the steps of the old Post Office near Penn Station in Manhattan. Now he’d probably be viewing his spanking sessions on a smartphone, while the businessman in a full suit sitting next to him is doing the same.
The internet hasn’t changed only our consumption of porn, however, it has also changed how porn is made: amateur porn sites are vastly popular. While some people just get their rocks off videotaping themselves and posting it online, what about those who want to make a few extra bucks from their cum shots and masturbation sessions? Enter Extra Lunch Money, the latest site from the guys over at Offbeatr.
On Extra Lunch Money, individuals can create their own porn and then interact directly with their customers. The consumers can request custom videos or choose from ones already made. Basically, these guys are cutting out the middle man and, as a result, a lot of the exploitation that goes along with the creation of porn.
Co-founder Ben Tao’s other project is Offbeatr, a crowdfunding site for the adult industry. He took some time to chat with Kink and Code about changing the porn industry, why the US government is kinda full of it, and what it’s like to have a porn startup.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Our company name is Extra Lunch Money. ExtraLunchMoney.com was our first site and we didn’t want to have a traditional “porny” kind of name. For us it was an marketplace where people can earn some extra spending money, so we decided to call it Extra LunchMoney. Later when we launched Offbeatr we wanted something that also wasn’t over-the-top porn infused (people have already suggested we call ourselves “pornstarter, cockstarter, etc…”). We knew our site was going to feature projects that were less traditional than the fare you find on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. We thought “offbeat” was the best way to describe these types of projects so we decided to go with “Offbeatr.”
What is one problem in the adult industry that you think needs to be addressed?
The Supreme Court should define what it exactly they consider obscenity versus free speech. The last ruling they had a justice stated with regards to what is pornography “I’ll know it when I see it.” Which is woefully subjective. It’s strange in this day in age that it’s OK to show a person’s head being shot off (violence is protected speech), but not OK to show two people having sex… Something of which all of us needed to happen to even exist. Just food for thought.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
We knew starting a marketplace would be difficult since it’s hard to get buyers to come if you don’t have any sellers, and vice versa, it’s hard to get sellers to join since we don’t have any buyers. To make matters even more difficult neither myself nor Eric (my co-founder) knew people who sold nude photos or videos. While many startup evangelists advocate “scratching your own itch” when launching a company, we were pretty sure there wasn’t a market for our nude photos. So to get started we started another website, ELM Avenue, where we started interviewing people in our industry to learn more about the adult world and as well to market our site to potential sellers. Some of our first few sellers came from our early interviews.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
I guess alright, though I can’t imagine any entrepreneur who enjoys being frustrated. In a moment of frustration I might be mad or upset in the back of my mind there’s the little voice of reason that urges me to relax. For me I try to focus my energies on the things I can change, and to move past the things I can’t… a lot of that is inspired from the Serenity Prayer (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”)
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
It’s pretty casual. There’s no dress code. We use a mix of standing desks, tables, and even a cot we’ve setup that doubles as a sofa/work station.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
A bunch of smart motivated people working together to bring innovation to not only the adult industry, but the larger tech industry as well.
Who or what inspires YOU?
Both Eric and I love learning about entrepreneurship and leadership. It’s hard to pinpoint one role model for us, but we can break it down by the category we most respect them for. For attention to product it’s Steve Jobs. For marketing and hustle it’s Gary Vaynerchuk. For tackling big problems its Elon Musk. While those names are of people who are already famous, we’re really inspired by any individual who takes their ideas and makes them a reality.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded?
It was all self funded. Before Eric and I got into the adult space we had some moderate success with affiliate websites. We took the money that we made from those websites and put it into Extra Lunch Money. We had thought about going the startup incubator route, but after a string of rejections we learned that incubators and venture capitalists don’t want to invest in the adult industry. It’s not so much the subject matter that they are opposed to, but the fact that there are not as many exit opportunities for adult companies.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Subway offers free cookies if you fill out their online survey (details on the back of your Subway receipt). Also, El Pollo Loco gives you a dollar off your next meal if you fill out their survey (details as well on the back)
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)
It’s nerdy and cliche, but I like to learn. I might take a trip for a few weeks, but then when I got back I’d want to take some classes: programming classes, graphic design, film editing, and even some Aikido.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
No, I don’t feel like a success, yet. I’m not sure what it’s going to take. At a minimum at least earning enough to pay rent without feeling the pain. At a maximum, sitting in my pure gold throne while I feed filet mignon to my two pet cheetahs. When that happens I’m pretty sure I feel that I’ve “made it.”
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Wikipedia. Even if some of it’s not completely accurate it’s a great resource for learning just about anything. I remember the days before there was “internet.” Going to the library to look up something in an encyclopedia only to find nothing was pretty frustrating. Having information at your finger tips is intoxicating.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Google Maps on Android. Hands down it’s one of the best turn-by-turn navigation systems I’ve used that not only gets you where you want to go, but also gives you real time traffic data. Not only that, when you get to your destination it even shows you a picture of the place.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
Iran. Curious to check out what it’s really like over there versus what you hear and see on the news.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
We give people who have a passion for sex and sexuality an outlet and opportunity to turn them into reality. This is something which hasn’t been available to this community of people.
Where can our readers get ahold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog? Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?
Photo by rkrichardson via CC License on Flickr