Los Angeles Startup: OffBeatr Is The Kickstarter For Porn INTERVIEW

Crowdfunding is a hot startup space. So hot in fact that Ben Tao and Eric Lai, two entrepreneurs in the adult business, have started Offbeatr.com which is a crowdfunding source for adult projects.

If you’re looking to create a new adult website, adult mobile app, adult movie, or other creative adult project, funding is usually a big obstacle. Lai and Tao are hoping that fans of these kinds of adult projects will kick in to help entrepreneurs develop them. Sure there will be projects that some may find unappealing or even sleazy but even artists and sculptors who dabble in erotic art, the kind you would find at museums in NY and Miami, can get their projects funded on Offbeatr as well.

OffBeatr is using the all or nothing Kickstarter model which means that entrepreneurs and artists that use Offbeatr would need to successfully raise all of the funds in their goal in order to receive funding. 

While it’s still too early to give funding or “ownership” away in the crowdfunding space, some may find it intriguing to help get the latest erotic art or full blown porn movie off the ground.

OffBeatr has projects vetted by the community before they go on to raise funds. Offbeatr requires a non-refundable deposit to start raising funds for your project on their platform. The “voting” process before a project goes live for funding, can help the project creator determine whether or not the project will be worth persuing on the platform. There’s no fee for the voting process. Once the project receives the required votes OffBeatr has final say on the projects, and only after that do you have to pay the listing fee/deposit.

Tao tells us in the interview below, that neither he nor his partner Lai set out to become adult industry entrepreneurs at first. Tao has a degree in Industrial Engineering but he’s never done any industrial engineering. He’s been a teacher, a circuit breaker salesman and a web designer. Lai has a real computer science degree (not the Scott Thompson kind), and has done work on top secret projects including some for Boeing.

This is their third venture in the adult industry and their are hoping that the community of adult entertainment and erotic art fans can come together to breathe new life into the industry. Check out the interview below:

What is offbeatr?
The official description: Offbeatr is a crowdfunding platform for adult projects. Project Creators who want to raise funds for their adult movie, game, toy, or other creative endeavor offer non-financial rewards in exchange for money.
The unofficial description the media has bestowed upon us: Kickstarter for porn. While we are honored to be lumped together with Kickstarter, we see ourselves much bigger than “porn.” While porn is part of our site the bigger picture is creating a place for projects that revolve around sex and sexuality. So Kickstarter for sexuality would be a more accurate description.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
There are two of us, myself and Eric Lai. Many years ago I studied Industrial Engineering at the University of Michigan, but haven’t industrially engineered anything since graduating. Instead I’ve taught English in Japan, sold circuit breakers around the country, and built a smattering of websites. Eric graduated from USC with a computer science degree and has worked on top secret projects for Boeing and runs his own technology consulting company.
Neither one of us has any background in the adult industry except consuming a video or two when it “accidentally” shows up on our screens. It wasn’t until we launched ExtraLunchMoney.com (marketplace for custom adult content) and ELMAveShow.com (an adult industry video interview show), that we started learning about the fun and exciting world of “adult.” It’s been eye opening to say the least.
Where are you based?
We’re in sunny southern California, Los Angeles.
What is the startup culture/scene like in Los Angeles?
People around here have nicknamed the startup scene “Silicon Beach.” When I first read the name I seriously thought they called it “Silicone Beach”, you know, because of all the plastic surgery that happens out here (as the reality show Dr. 90210 suggests).
Aside from the confusing nickname the startup scene is definitely healthy and growing. When I first started down the path of launching a tech startup some 7 years ago there wasn’t much information out there. I basically made it up as I went along and made a lot of mistakes in the process. But now there’s a wealth of information, events, and resources for startup people. There’s something like 6 incubators which have recently sprung up in the past year, several awesome tech focused co-working spaces like CoLoft and NextSpace, and countless mixers, meetups, fireside chats and co-founder datings to keep a founder more more than occupied.
Recently we’ve been fortunate to have joined the LA Startup Club which is a mastermind group for startup founders. We meet every 2 weeks to discuss and share challenges, issues, and tactics that affect each of our startups in order to make all of us more successful. It’s been awesome so far.
While Los Angeles might not have the most investment money when compared to other cities, the startup scene is extremely vibrant and continuously growing. We might not have all the investment money that Silicon Valley has, but at least we have the Silicone, I mean “Silicon”, Beach.
Do you have access to the resources you need in your area?
Thanks to the startup community and location here we are fortunate to have access to talent, mentors, investors that people in other locations might not have.
What problem does offbeatr solve?
We are both solving a problem and creating a new way to bring adult projects into the world. Raising money for projects that are adult in nature is difficult. If you have a great new iPad case design you can post your project on Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, etc… and raise money directly from the public. If you have a great new vibrator design, however, you aren’t allowed to post on those sites as they have a strict policy on “sexual” or “pornographic” projects. You might think that you could just use Paypal or Amazon Payments to solicit support, but again you’d be stopped as those payment services forbid adult related projects and content. ¬†Fundamentally it’s a simple problem we solve — giving people access to funding — but it’s an important one. We can’t and don’t guarantee people will raise the money they are looking for, but we feel they should have the same opportunities as others to explore their passions.
Who is your target user?
In general, people 18 years and older interested or curious about sex (which we think is probably everyone). More specifically we’re looking for project creators who not only have great ideas for adult projects they would like to create, but have the passion, drive, and tenacity to see them through.
What is your secret sauce?
Transparency and openness. If you look at most adult websites and try to find the people behind them you’ll hit a dead end. You’ll quickly come to realize that many of the creators of these sites don’t want to be found out. We’ve made a conscious choice to “come out of the shadows” and do things out in the open. It won’t lead to profits or fast money right away, but in the long run we think trust is the proper foundation to build a business upon which is something we think has been lacking in the adult world.
What is one dilemma you faced in the startup process?
It’s ironic considering we are building a platform to help people raise money for adult projects, but one dilemma we’ve faced is access to money to ¬†build our business. While many of our startup colleagues talk about their experiences pitching investors we have the difficulty of just getting our foot in the door. To date I’m pretty sure we’ve been rejected from all of the Los Angeles incubators. A lot of this stems from the nature of the business we’re in, namely, as much as sex is supposed to sell it doesn’t from a venture capital investment standpoint. VC’s are not only looking for companies big markets, but companies that can have big 100x returns on investment. You’d think this might make us bitter, but the silver lining is this had made us more lean and made us focus on how to make money tight from the outset.
What is one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
The biggest challenge in the beginning for us was getting sellers to our site ExtraLunchMoney.com. ExtraLunchMoney.com is a marketplace, but a marketplace is only as strong as the buyers and sellers that take part in it. Unfortunately when we launched neither Eric or myself knew people who created custom adult content so this meant our newly created marketplace was empty. Rather than give up we focused on networking and making connections in the industry. I started soliciting feedback on a popular forum for live webcam models and strippers called Stripper Web. In addition we decided to interview people in the industry and post those interviews for other people to watch. Some of our earliest sellers came about through those interviews. There was no flood of new sellers signing up to join, but over time we started getting more and more sellers.
Who are some of your business role models and mentors?
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. Closer to home and our industry we’re big fans of what Cindy Gallop is doing with her upcoming site MakeLoveNotPorn.tv. We love the fact that she’s taking on the adult industry with her own unique spin. And we also love the fact that to our knowledge she’s the only Ted speaker to use the words “come on my face” on a Ted stage.
What’s next for offbeatr?
Our biggest goal right now is to get the site launched. If all goes well we’re hoping within the next month.
Linkage:
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