2019. I’m sitting in my living room with a good friend, Esti, and we're talking about porn. We both agree that it’s not for us, too sexist, too violent, too misogynistic, not to mention the annoying ads and the fear of catching a virus on a porn site.
2023. Esti and I are standing in front of an intrigued audience, telling them why we founded the first matching platform for ethical porn – PORN BETTER - and why we believe that porn can be different, feminist, empowering, inclusive.
If your business idea is the answer to a problem you have experienced yourself, it may be a good indicator that others also have the same problem and would welcome a solution!
This is the story of everything that happened in between those two events. By the end, you’ll know how I became an entrepreneur and why I believe in the power of networking.
Let’s go back to 2019. I had already heard of “feminist porn” without knowing much about it. After my conversation with Esti I started to dig a little deeper. What does feminist porn actually mean? Where to find it? Could it be an alternative to the disturbing images you’d find on mainstream sites? The longer I searched, the more websites, producers and performers I discovered that created erotica in a completely different way. They didn’t confine themselves to video either. A fascinating world of text, audio, stills and moving images unfolded, and I realised that there was no lack of alternative, feminist, ethically produced erotica – there was just a huge lack of visibility.
And so, the idea for PORN BETTER was born: A platform that lists and reviews porn sites with high ethical standards both in the way they treat performers and in the way they present their content to the public. In retrospective, this is a learning I’d like to share:
So, I had this idea of creating an ethical porn matching platform and the luxury of having several friends, including Esti, willing to join me on the mission because they believed in it. A lot of research followed. At a digital networking event I met no-code expert Sarah Berger. She recommended an accelerator program for digital startups (VentureVilla) to us. We participated and won the audience award. That was in 2021 during one of the lockdowns. It was a tough year for me; the pandemic took its toll on my mental health, and I reacted to it by driving myself to the brink of burnout. I was working full time in a film company and full time on the development of PORN BETTER, so 80-hour-weeks were becoming normal for me. When I finally realized it was too much and spoke to my team at the film company, they were incredibly supportive. My boss was happy to keep me on with reduced hours, and so were the other women in the company (we are an all-female superstar team). I’m still working there and am very glad that I did not have to make an either-or decision. Which brings me to the second and third learning I’d like to share:
It’s not cool or necessary to work unhealthy amounts to achieve your goal. It doesn’t even result in a better outcome. If you’re overworked and stressed, it will have a negative impact on your output and it damages the most valuable resource you have: yourself.
You don’t have to sacrifice one job for another. If you love and can handle both, why not? It is also a matter of personality. I’ve always liked to work in different fields at the same time. Others feel the need to immerse in one single mission or vision, and this also has its benefits
Back to my founding journey. In January 2022, porn-better.com went online. We – that was Esti, Evi, Julez and me at the time – had bootstrapped everything so far. We decided against investors, and this has not changed to this day. Why? Because we wanted to be as independent as possible. Also a learning that is worth mentioning:
It is not mandatory to get investors on board ASAP for your startup. On the contrary, you may sell out shares or values at a stage that is too early to realize the consequences or setbacks. This, of course, depends on the financing needs of your company and your financial resources. There are also numerous governmental funding programs that you can benefit from, some of them do not even have to be paid back.
Now, 1,5 eventful years after PORN BETTER (porn-better.com) has launched, we have reached several important milestones. Like all other sex related businesses (from sex shops to sex educators), we are excluded from any regular type of marketing (social media, google ads, sponsored content, etc.). And regardless, our traffic is growing. We are no longer in the reds. We made headlines (and mainly positive ones!). We’re pursuing our goal of becoming the go-to place for information about ethical porn.
We have met amazing people along the way, across all industries. Some stood out, such as Aline Gómez-Acebo Finat. She became my mentor in 2022 after we connected on RolemodelRebels (rolemodelrebels.com), a platform I was invited to by founder Petra Arends-Paltzer. It is people like Aline that really inspire me. She’s full of life and passion, not only for her own projects but also for other women’s work. She’s handling several jobs while still taking the time to be a mentor to others. “Rise by lifting others” is a saying made to describe her.
And this is my last learning I want to share:
Use the power of the network! Even if you’re an introvert, reluctant, shy or not sure if your idea is worth sharing: The feedback and support you’ll get if you reach out to others is amazing and will help you develop your vision.
That being said, be conscious whose advise to take on board. I’ve had some questionable experiences with male entrepreneurs, and I’ve seen problematic behavior from established male entrepreneurs / mentors in the startup bubble towards young women (and also men). Toxicity, depreciative feedback culture that is disguised as “honesty”, sexism and arrogance are not a good base for any advice, personal or entrepreneurial growth. I'm not saying that such behavior is unique to men, and I’ve met amazing male entrepreneurs and mentors along the way! But the few negative experiences just show why safe spaces for women and genderqueer people are important: Networking events, mentoring, platforms (like this one, Hallo Sophia), you name it.
So, wherever your professional path leads you, I hope it will be a fulfilling one and that you’ll meet a lot of wonderful people along the way!