This week's episode with Cindy Gallop, founder & CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn was recorded during TechBBQ 2023. A force to be reckoned with, Cindy shares her remarkable journey through and vision for the world of SexTech and marketing while also revealing her ambitious plans to revolutionize the industry.
The first of its kind: a social platform taking NSFW content to a whole new level, was originally conceived in entirely humble beginnings. Cindy shares how she didn't initially set out to create a business like MakeLoveNotPorn (MLNP). In this energetic discussion with Ben, Cindy shares how as a woman who dates younger men, over time she began to realize a common theme: people find it difficult to talk openly about sex and their expectations around it. Moreover: the lack of this communication has negative consequences on relationship. These expectations are developed, in part, by the consumption of sexual content that is typically not representative of real world sex: pornography, an industry notoriously designed for male-centered pleasure and a poor representation of reality in the bedroom.
Cindy decided to take action, launching a tiny website in 2009 that would eventually become a global social phenomenon. Her journey, initially unintentional, took a turn when she realized the profound social impact she could make.
"When we don't talk openly and honestly about sex, porn becomes sex education by default, and not in a good way."
Pioneering SexTech: Redefining an Industry
Cindy shares how she is not just building a business; she's creating a whole new category— SexTech. By defining and championing SexTech as a term which has now bloomed into an industry, she paved the way for innovation and disruption in human sexual and intellectual experiences. Her efforts have turned SexTech into a recognized category, attracting investors worldwide who are now starting to understand its potential.
"I've spent the past 14 years parallel pathing two things: working to build MakeLoveNotPorn and working to change the business and cultural context around it."
Listening to her detail her mission is nothing less than awe-inspiring. It is rare to meet a person whose conviction is contagious, and you can hear in her voice and attitude about MLNP that her success is inevitable.
The Battle to Survive: MakeLoveNotPorn's Resilience
In the episode, Cindy shares her 14-year battle to keep MakeLoveNotPorn alive and thriving. Unlike most tech startups, her platform faces numerous challenges, including funding restrictions, banking issues, and advertising bans due to the stigma around adult content and its related keywords. According to Cindy, "The very fact MakeLoveNotPorn survives as a business after 10 years is extraordinary." She emphasizes the miracle of MakeLoveNotPorn's ten-year survival on just $3 million of funding, and rightfully so. With very little opportunity in mainstream advertising, and with anything adult-content related being flagged on social media, scaling MLNP is an obstacle that Cindy is determined to overcome.
Securing Investment in a Challenging Environment
Not only is traditional advertising technology (AdTech) a barrier to marketing, but in the world of SexTech, finding investors who align with your vision is a unique challenge as well. Cindy explains that investors in this space often share a personal connection to the topic, making it challenging to target them effectively because such personal connections are unspoken and unknown. She shares in detail her unconventional investor-finding strategy, using opportunities to speak at tech conferences worldwide to actively promote her mission. She recommends that founders willing to break barriers should start by speaking at events, applying to speak on their topics, and leveraging video content to build their reputation. In her words, "Put yourself out there all the time... you want the places that record speakers, put them online because you can then... attract people to go, 'Ooh, I love what they said. You know, I'd like some of that as well.'"
The Future of MakeLoveNotPorn: Expanding Horizons
Cindy's ambitious vision extends beyond MakeLoveNotPorn. She outlines three innovative products she aims to develop:
- First, MakeLoveNotPorn.academy, a comprehensive sex education platform for all ages, addressing the gap in quality sex education. Or, as Cindy puts it, the "Khan-academy" of SexEd.
- Second, Cindy shares about another first-of-its-kind product: Consensual, a secure sexting app designed to improve communication and consent in intimate relationships. She details the app in this episode, explaining how it is different to anything else on the market, designed with the user's privacy and consent at the heart of all NSWF interactions.
- Finally, "Here for the Ads," a revolutionary AdTech product that serves engaging ads people actively want to watch. As Cindy describes it, "These are ads for products designed to help us all in these most intimate areas we're we're all desperate for help with"
Cindy Gallop's journey with MakeLoveNotPorn and her mission to redefine SexTech reveal the resilience and determination required to transform an industry. Her insights offer inspiration to founders facing unique challenges and a roadmap to success through innovation and perseverance. As the SexTech landscape evolves, we can expect to see MakeLoveNotPorn leading the way, revolutionizing how we think about and experience human intimacy. Creating an entirely new product category is not easy, and Cindy is an exemplary pioneer doing this exact work. Inspiring and motivating, her efforts are a fresh reminder to challenge the status quo. We'd do well to remember, as Cindy aptly puts it, when you want to build something that will change the world, you have to...
"Change the world to fit your vision, not the other way around."
Find Cindy on:
- LinkedIn: cindygallop
- Twitter: @cindygallop
- Instagram: @cindygallop + @makelovenotporn
- Substack: Dear Cindy
- Medium: Make Love Not Porn