Cindy Gallop: The Michael Bay of Business. Liberty of thought
First of all, thank you so much Cindy Gallop. Talking with you was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I enjoyed a lot to have an interview with you and I am honored to share your wisdom with Creativida supporters.
Are you courageous enough to talk about SEX in the public? To some extent, you would be mindful about how other people think about you. Cindy Gallop is the founder of MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRunTheWorld and an official TED speaker. When I saw her speaking about her project, I was ecstatic because I found an exceptionally interesting person. I immediately reached out to her and got an opportunity to learn from how to embody your crazy ideas.
C: How did you become an entrepreneur?
CG: Everything in my life and career has been an accident. I never set out consciously to do anything. I believe that when over time you get a sense of who you are, what you believe in, and what you value, your mission finds you. Now, I have two particular areas that I’m pursuing. If We Ran the World reflects my professional side, which is redesigned the future of business. My start-up, Make Love Not Porn, reflects my personal side, which is redesigned the future of sex. Those two things are interrelated.
C: What drove you to actually make it happen?
CG: I’m a naturally action-oriented person. In the case of If We Ran the World, it is the culmination of my thirty years, working in marketing, advertising and brand building. I believe that the business model of the future is: shared values, shared action, and equals shared profit. When brands, businesses and companies co-act collectively and collaboratively on those values to turn them into shared action, it allows all of you to make things happen that will benefit consumers, society, and brand. If We Ran the World is co-action software that allows brands to integrate that into their marketing and business programs to co-act with their consumers. Make Love Not Porn, was triggered by personal experience. Through dating younger men I realized that today’s total freedom of access to hardcore porn online results in porn becoming by default the sex education of the day. When I realized this, I decided to do something about it. Six years ago I made a little website, at makelovenotporn.com.
The construct is the porn world versus the real world. I had the opportunity to launch it at TED in 2009. It went viral and drove an extraordinary global response to it. I saw the opportunity to do exactly what I talk about. To do well and make money simultaneously, I designed, makelovenotporn.tv, around the same business mode. Shared values plus shared action equals shared profit. Makelovenotporn.tv is a user generated crowd sourced video-sharing platform that celebrates real-world sex. Make Love Not Porn’s mission is to change the way the world has sex for the better. We operate a revenue-sharing business model. Anyone from anywhere in the world can submit videos of themselves having real-world sex.
We are creating a whole new category. We make sure that every video is real, authentic, and you pay to rent and stream real-world sex videos. Then we split that income fifty-fifty with our contributors.
C: What kind of process do you have in your mind, when you have some idea and try to make it a business?
CG: When it comes to innovating in business, I always speak about how important it is to redesign, restructure the way you do business and how important it is to redesign your business model. You cannot do new-world-order business from an old-world-order place. All companies are old-world-order places. Their systems, processes and structures are the process used to be linear. Today, everything has changed but the systems and processes, but the structures still have not. If you do not redesign the way you do business, you will get the same old-world-order crap.
That is why you have to redesign the way you do business. I observe that too many people think that there’s only one business model per industry. This is the way the industry’s always made money, whereas your business model can be anything you want it to be. You can design it around the way you would like to make money. I urge you to start by thinking, “How would I like to make money?”
C: What is the essence of raising the awareness for startups and middle-sized companies?
CG: Everything that is true in business is also true in life. Never waste your time banging your head against closed doors. Engineer yourself into a position where doors open automatically as you approach. Everything starts with you that are both you the person and you the company. This is at the core of everything I do and believe in. “What are my values?” Then act on those values. Too many people look at the sector they are embarking on. “What are the rules of the sector? We must play by those rules.” They end up making their company like everybody else’s. In other words, they drive the syndrome that I call “collaborative competition”; which is where everybody in the sector competes with everybody else in the sector by doing the exactly same thing everyone else in the sector is doing. Opposite of that is when you know who you are, and when you operate according to your beliefs and values. That is genuinely distinctive because there’s only one of you in your company. That is how you make people want what you have. “We don’t sell, we make people want to buy.” Entrepreneurs and businesses should not sell but make people want to buy. I have never done one single bit of PR outreach for my startups or myself.
The media coverage comes to us because we are doing interesting things. Other people are drawn to that and want to hear more. That’s how you promote yourself. On the other hand, competitive collaboration is, and this is not happening currently, when all of you in a sector come together and collaborate to make things better for all of you; on the premise of “a rising tide floats all boats”. It allows each of you to be uniquely competitive, Leveraging your own individual skills, talents, and standards.
If you have a truly world-changing startup, you have to change the world to fit it. Not the other way around. For example, my team and I fight a battle every single day to build Make Love Not Porn because the small print always says, “No adult content.” This is a huge barrier to doing business. We find it very difficult to get funding. We cannot find a bank anywhere in the world that will allows us to open a business loan account, openly and transparently, for our business. We cannot put payment systems, like PayPal, in place. Online video-streaming services won’t host us. So, what I’m doing therefore is engaging in competitive collaboration. I’m fighting for publicly on behalf of every sex tech startup and everybody who wants to change the world through sex. My startup will benefit when I create a better environment for all of us. So I’m doing things that nobody else does in this way. I see competitive collaboration, which is the future.
C: What were the most difficult things to overcome, and how did you overcome it?
CG: The most difficult thing was fund raising. The biggest obstacle is the social dynamic that I call “fear of what other people will think.” It is always their fear of what they think other people will think. Fear of what other people will think is the single most paralyzing dynamic in business and in life. You will never own the future, if you care what other people think. This notion rules out two of the usual three routes that most tech startups go down for funding. First of all, it rules out institution investment, VCs. Interestingly, it also rules out crowd funding because successful crowd funding requires a very large number of people, willing to go publicly when they announce something and publicly invite lots of other people into it. People will publicly marry around a piece of hardware, a video game, a movie concept but not something about sex.
Also, crowd funding platforms like, Kickstarter; operate a no-adult-content policy. So, it leaves a third route, which is angel investors, for us. Angel investors currently are not putting their hand up going, “I want to invest in sex tech.” Sex is the one area where you cannot tell from the outside what anybody thinks on the inside. Finding angel investors for us is a long, slow process because what I have to do is put the word out there. The biggest challenge was finding seed funding to launch it. It took me two years of pitching to find one angel investor who got it. After two years in public beta, I am just setting out to raise another round of funding. I’m setting out to raise $2 million dollars to enable us to scale. The process is going to be very slow and very difficult because of fear of what other people will think. There is a huge financial money-making opportunity in the sex tech that the most hardheaded investors or business people don’t understand.
A recession-proof market never goes away. The huge financial money-making business opportunity that we are out to tap into is the huge money-making opportunity in socially acceptable sex. When you socialize sex and make it socially acceptable and shareable, you potentially double, triple, and quadruple your returns when you normalize people feeling okay about publicly buying into your goods and services. That is the huge trillion-dollar market we’re going after.
C: When you have an idea which is difficult for people to understand, how do you convince them to believe in you?
CG: First of all, I’m a very compelling salesperson. So I tell a very compelling story and pitch. Secondly, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it, and that’s fine. If I have to try too hard to convince you, you’re not the right person to work with. If you’re not with us, that’s fine, because there are other people who will be. I’m optimistic that I will find people who will. Finally, stay away from people and places that make you feel bad about yourself. I realized very early on that, Make Love Not Porn was not a VC-funding concept. So I don’t pitch VCs. When you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t need to have any more thoroughly depressing meetings than you absolutely have to. Those are really bad, because they make you question yourself. Stay away from things that make you feel bad about yourself. To be an entrepreneur and be successful, you have to be, to a certain degree, delusional. One of my favorite sayings is, “Those people who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those people doing it.”
C: Common notion should be altered sometimes.
CG: As you know, the tech world and the startup world are dominated by men. I mention that because people don’t realize this often enough. Fact of life, diversity drives innovation. True innovation is such that it is born out of many different mindsets, world views, and perspectives coming together in order to get to a better place, that none of us would’ve gotten to on our own.
C: If you can make a call to twenty-year-old Cindy Gallop, what kind of advice you would you give to her?
CG: Don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. Be yourself. You’re not trying to be the person that your parents want you to be, that your teachers want you to be, and that your boss wants you to be. When you are simply being yourself, you stand out naturally. Honesty is enormously endearing because so few people are. Telling the truth is very powerful in business and in life because so few people do. When you really identify who you are, what you believe, and what you value, that makes life so much easier. Life will still throw at you all the shit but you know exactly how to respond to that, in any given situation. In a way that is true to you. That is fundamentally the secret of being happy. Knowing you’re living life according to your values, the way you want to.