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Cindy Gallop of MakeLoveNotPorn – A guide to becoming a VC's wet dream Written by Elaine on 13. September 2012

cindy gallop makelovenotporn


Cindy Gallop

“Everyone wants to know what everybody else is really doing in bed, but nobody does. So, we’re showing you,” exclaims Cindy Gallop. And with that, recently launched in beta, embraced by the young and old, raising eyebrows from porn fanatics, and causing a stir in the media, not to mention bedrooms worldwide. On a mission to revolutionise the way we have sex, the 52-year old advertising veteran and tech entrepreneur knows all too well the qualms with sleeping with men half her age – their moves are drawn entirely from pornography. Because of easier access to online sex sites, younger generations, it seems, are trying to replicate hardcore pornography in the bedroom.

Looking to change all that, Gallop created in 2009 to create an open, public discussion about sex, ultimately leading to the birth of – a site for couples to submit and make money from home-made “real-world” sex videos, and for people to view it for a small fee. Simple. Yet Gallop’s journey to launch-day was anything but, as stated on her blog:

It’s been very, very difficult just getting to here. This is the startup the world didn’t want you to have. Because – shock horror! – we’re about SEX. And – cover your eyes! – we have ‘PORN’ in our name (even though we’re called MakeLoveNOTPorn)

We spoke to Gallop about her backbreaking march into acquainting with the world and its societal prejudices. Here, she gives us the hard lessons learned and her top gems of advice for becoming a startup success…

Passion = Motivation

Passion has to carry you through every obstacle that life, business and society can throw at you. There’s no point in even starting up if you’re not passionate about what you want to make happen. Starting anything is extraordinarily hard and difficult, and so it’s enomously important that if you start a business, you know exactly what that business is and what you want it to achieve.

love sex?I’ve created businesses around what I passionately believe in and that’s what keeps me going that, although it’s very, very, very difficult – I cannot put enough verys into that sentence. Both of my startups have particular barriers that separate them from usual obstacles that entrepreneurs encounter. I had no idea when I embarked on the project, that it was going to be so difficult to build and launch a business about sex.

In the three years since launching, I’ve had zero time, money and resources spent on it. It gets in lots of traffic with me doing zero promotion, but the most poignant thing is that I get emails literally every single day about it from young and old, male and female, straight and gay – around the world – who pour their hearts out to me on email. They tell me stuff about their sex life and porn-watching habits that they’ve never told anybody before and ask for my advice.It was through these emails over a long period of time that made me feel this huge personal reponsibility with having to take this venture forward to make it far reaching and effective.

On many occasions, trying to make happened where I felt utterly demoralised, utterly unmotivated and where I thought “I can’t go on with it, I can’t do this.” But then I get another one of those emails and I remember why I’m doing this and feel motivated to keep going.

Building something socially “rebellious”? Learn to jump those prejudicial hurdles

cindy gallop apartment

It’s not enough to have a wonderful idea and product that you feel passionate about. You have to be very clear-sighted about the way the world works currently and find ways to change the world around you so that it will take your product on board. It’s not enough to have a brilliant idea. You have to make them understand it enough.

One of my favourite quotes is by Alan Kay: “In order to predict the future, you have to invent it”. I’m all about inventing the future. Too many people think the future is something that happens without us, but let’s decide on what you want the future to be and make it happen.

That’s what we’re doing with I had not envisaged how difficult it’d be to deal with every possible obstacle society could fling at us. But in a way, those obstacles are exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing because our mission is to socialise real world sex and to make real world sex socially acceptable and therefore – socially sharable. Everything that we’re running up against demonstrates why it’s so important to do that.


How to get the VCs hot and bothered

It took me two years to get it funded which is very ironic because I should be every VCs wet dream. Literally. With I have an idea that enables technology – designed to disrupt a sector worth billions – in a way that is both socially beneficial and potentially very lucrative.

Because that sector is porn and the social benefit is sexuality, no VC wanted to know – so I had enormous trouble in finding funding. I couldn’t find a single bank here in America would allow me to open a business banking account because of the world “porn” in the name

In the three years that it’s taken to bring to life, I’ve came across very well-meaning pepole who have reached out and said: “Cindy why don’t you change the name of the brand so you don’t have the word Porn in it?” That’s the one thing that I’ve flatly refused to do. When you concept around biases and prejudices, you just reinforce the way society operates and I’m not prepared to do that. I believe that everybody should be open, honest and straightforward about sex. The fact that we’re not is the cause of massive human unhappiness.

Real-world sex is more innovative, more surprising, more amazing, more hot and more arousing than porn will ever be.

While I’m an entrepreneur, I’m pragmatic, I’m absolutely about rolling with the punches, working ways over and under obstacles, but the one thing I will not do is re-concept my venture in light of society’s current prejudices.

Think Global. Look at “hidden” markets

hiding bearIf it’s a global issue, then it’s a global platform.

So far on, traffic is 30 per cent from the US, and 50 per cent elsewhere in the world including Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Myanmar and Israel. Pakistan is the second highest consumer of porn after the US – which is also true for MakeLoveNotPorn. A few weeks ago, another country was rating high in traffic and that was Indonesia.

I was initally surprised, but when I thought of these places like India, boys and girls are kept apart from birth and the boys grow up watching porn. Marriage in India is arranged so the very first time the bride and groom meet eachother in person is on the wedding night, and well, I don’t want to think about it. What we’re doing is needed in the most repressed countries in the world, especially in the Middle East and parts of Asia.

Create a kick-ass business model and make money from Day One

Cindy Gallop (photographed by Kevin Abosch)

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in ventures designed around taking in money from day one. I believe very strongly that everyone should realise the value of what they create. And I feel that because my background is theatre and advertising – there are fewer industries where creativity are massively undervalued – even by the creators themselves.

I believe that if you create a product that gives people pleasure, you should absolutely see a financial return on it. And the more the pleasure it gives – the greater the financial returns should be.

When you submit your real-world sex videos, you pay a $5 submission fee – it’s non-refundable, whether we decide to publish your content or not. But we state very clearly the nature of what we’re with what it means by real-world sex. So if you pay for content, you’ve got what you’re looking for. We charge people $5 to view a real-world sex video that you can watch as many times as you like over a three-week period. We also revenue share – we give contributors 50 per cent of all revenue made on the site.

Which is, first of all, more incentive for you to promote and share it through your social networks. I have a huge issue with the term “amateur”. It implies that the only people allowed to do it are professionals and the rest of us are bubbling idiots. I couldn’t disagree more.

One of the obvious critiques we get from people who don’t understand the core value of it, is “why would I pay? I don’t pay for porn.” Well we’re not porn. We’re real-world sex. At the same time it’s very easy to watch content for free – all you have to do is contribute your own real-world sex videos and use the money others pay to view your videos – to watch content. It’s designed to feed on itself.

Since starting three weeks ago, we have 17,000 people on our beta sign-up and waiting list. People are joining, they’re paying and watching each video two-three times. We have a cold-hard cash-proof concept.

Women: Tech needs You. More of you.

All too often in the tech world today, I see pattern-matching – Male VCs funding male entrepreneurs with a very different model in mind of what a fundable tech startup looks like and what a fundable tech startup’s funder looks like.

the world needs you

I present the double whammy of un-fundability – I’m female and I’m older. If anyone finds what I’m doing really interesting, I would like them to think about the fact that this is what a startup concepted by a woman – looks like. I know so many brilliant women startup founders who have really interesting and different approaches that are disrupting different sectors.

People tend to believe more in male-concepted startups. I would like to say to all women out there – you could absolutely do it too, and to the tech world as a whole – really look at the ventures that women are building. There’s unique disruptive and innovative business models that women are creating and that’s where you should be focusing your attention.

For related posts, check out:

VIDEO – Where are all the women entrepreneurs?
How to Get More Women in Tech, from a female founder’s point of view
VIDEO – Berlin Geekettes – women in tech