Dirty Sexy Money: Cindy Gallop Smashes Another Glass Ceiling
Cindy Gallop is blowing the conversation about sex wide open. Here, she tells us why and how she’s turning sextech into the next trillion-dollar industry.
I date younger men.
This is how I know that society’s total reluctance to talk about sex has made hardcore pornography sexual education by default.
I regularly ask people, “What are your sexual values?” and no one can ever answer me. Nobody ever brings us up to behave well in bed. We’re just not brought up to think that way. The result? There is an entire generation which believes that what you see in hardcore pornography is the way that you [should] have sex.
At the 2009 TED Conference, I launched MakeLoveNotPorn.com as a response to this. Our mission: to make it easier for the world to discuss sex openly and honestly, both in the public domain and privately, in our intimate relationships. In 2013, we expanded our platform and launched MakeLoveNotPorn.tv. By applying the dynamics of social media, we created an entirely user-generated, crowdsourced site where anyone from anywhere in the world can share videos of themselves having #realworldsex. Social sex videos on MLNP are not porn and they aren’t about ‘performing for the camera’. They’re about doing what you do on every other social platform – capturing what goes on in the real world, as it happens, spontaneously, in all of its funny, messy, beautiful, silly, glorious, wonderful, ridiculous humanity.
Society’s total reluctance to talk about sex has made hardcore pornography sexual education by default.
I didn’t realize when I embarked on this venture that we [MakeLoveNotPorn] would be denied access to basic business infrastructure other startups take for granted. For example, it took me four years to find a bank that would allow me to open a business bank account. Paypal won’t work, nor does Stripe, the gold standard for taking credit cards online. We had to build our video sharing and streaming platform as proprietary technology from scratch because existing streaming services won’t stream ‘adult content’; we faced the same issue with hosting, encoding, and encrypting. Even finding an email partner to send our membership emails was problematic; Mailchimp won’t work with ‘adult content’, and we went through half a dozen others before we found Sendgrid, who would.
Despite all these challenges, we have over 400,000 members globally; over 200
MakeLoveNotPornstars; over 2,000 videos submitted; and nearly $1million in revenue to date — and that figure would be much higher if we didn’t have payment processing barriers because while nobody pays for porn, they do pay for social sex. We achieved all of this with only two full-time employees, one of whom is me, unpaid. Naturally, it made sense to scale, so I set out to raise $2M. I couldn’t.
I began speaking at tech conferences around the world on Why The Next Big Thing In Tech Is Disrupting Sex. I defined, pioneered, and championed my own category: sextech (any form of technology or tech venture designed to innovate, disrupt and enhance in any area of human sexuality and sexual experience). And as I began carving out and mapping this sector, I saw the huge potential in it. sextech founders began writing to me from around the world, all facing the same challenges, all asking for help, feedback, and advice. Access to these founders and deal flow spoke to the enormous, untapped opportunity of the category.
It took me four years to find a bank that would allow me to open a business bank account.
I’m now raising $200M to start the world’s first and only sextech fund, AllTheSky Holdings. Chairman Mao famously said many years ago in the interests of gender equality, ‘Women hold up half the sky’. I think that’s relatively unambitious. The most interesting things in sextech today are coming from female founders. Women challenge the status quo because we are never it. We are finally owning our sexuality and finding unique ways to leverage it; we get the enormous market that is women’s needs, wants and desires historically deemed too embarrassing, shameful and taboo to address in business. (Tap that huge primary market, and you tap a huge secondary market of extremely happy men.)
Our thesis is two-fold: focus on female-founded sextech, and in sextech infrastructure–the sextech full stack. The first involves both existing ventures and bringing new sextech applications to high-growth areas:
- Gaming: I don’t mean ‘sex in games’. I know female game designers and developers creating games that enable you to explore your sexuality and to interact in a way that improves your interactions in the real world.
- Messaging: we have our own plans for the MLNP safe social sexting app, ConSensual, that enables you not only to sext securely but is designed to improve the way you communicate about sex.
- Dating: the MLNP dating app matches people based on shared social and sexual values (not tastes, values – an important distinction that I began this piece with). Plus health, education (edtech) – so many areas with enormous potential for sextech applications.
I’m now raising $200M to start the world’s first and only sextech fund.
The second is unicorn territory: Payment processors, hosting providers, e-commerce platforms and general tech services that embrace legal, ethical, transparent sextech ventures. Our investment in the SexTech ecosystem will create a self-sustaining portfolio for AllTheSky, generating unprecedented revenue and building out the underlying ecosystem to turn sextech into the next trillion dollar category in tech.
It will also create social impact. The only way we end rape culture, and with it, the sexual harassment, abuse, and violence that inspired #metoo, is by inculcating in society an openly discussed, understood, operated and (importantly) aspired-to gold standard of what are good sexual values and good sexual behavior. The more we openly embrace, fund and scale sextech, especially female-founded through the female lens, the more openness and healthiness we drive around all of this, and the more we change the world through the Social Sex Revolution.
Cindy Gallop started up ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York in 1998 and in 2003 was named Advertising Woman of the Year. She is the founder of IfWeRanTheWorld, co-action software (and Harvard Business School case study) that enables brands and consumers to implement the business model of the future: Shared Values + Shared Action = Shared Profit (financial and social). She also founded MakeLoveNotPorn, launched at TED 2009 and in 2013 launched social sex videosharing platform MakeLoveNotPorn.tv. As a global sextech pioneer and champion, she is also raising the world’s first and only sextech fund, AllTheSky Holdings. She speaks at conferences around the world and consults, describing her consultancy approach as ‘I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.’ Follow her on Twitter @cindygallop.
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