Jennifer McEwen: MiKandi, Tits & Glass and The Problems Faced By SexTech Startups

January 10, 2015
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Jennifer McEwen: MiKandi, Tits & Glass and The Problems Faced By SexTech Startups

Anyone who works or has worked in the adult biz will have similar stories surrounding the outrage, shock and, in some cases, outright hostility, they faced when choosing to ‘come out’ as cogs in the adult industry’s machine.

Jennifer McEwen, Co-Founder and VP of Product Development at MiKandi, the world’s first and largest mobile app store for adults, is no different to the rest of them. But like the majority of her adult-based contemporaries, Jennifer has allowed patience, intelligence and compromise to overrule the hastier and damaging emotions – the ones that cause us to lash out when we feel cornered.

The SexTech pioneer has endured the sneers of Apple, the murky assertions of those who think they know the biz and the steadfast reticence of investors to publicly back adult products to go on and position herself as one of the key players in this most modern of burgeoning industries.

Or indeed, as Jennifer herself puts it, she has endured so much ‘doubt, disbelief, dismissal and disdain’ throughout her career it would have seen a lesser person off; leaving them chewed up and spat out on the hard shoulder of the Commerce Freeway. At the very least it has the potential to leave you bitter, beaten and possibly facing financial ruin.

It’s a testament then to the sheer strength of willpower and a wholly unshakeable belief in the potential of the goal you are pursuing that Jennifer and her associates have not only firmly established themselves in the adult marketplace, but are continuing to expand rapidly.

MiKandi unique selling point is that it offers you a place to share and discover the largest selection of porn apps that truly please, tease and provoke you. We don’t just mean the usual smattering of videos, clips and pics either (although there is an exhaustive supply of all of that too!). We’re talking about apps designed with more than just a quick couple of minutes of masturbation in mind. We’re talking about apps that go right to edge of what we have right now to bring you ease of access for sharing, exploring and playing by yourself, with a partner or partners or with any number of anonymous and willing strangers across the globe.

But then that’s why we love SexTech so much here at BaDoink – it’s the true vision of a sexual utopia writ large. It’s like Aldous Huxley’s Soma and the World State’s officially-sanctioned promiscuity, but reaching ever further and wider into the hearts, minds and well, yes… underwear of its users!

As MiKandi themselves put it: “So no more hands tied behind your back (unless you’re into it). No more Big Brother shielding your eyes from the good stuff. And no more ear muffs to shelter you from those dirty four letter words. You are now sitting at the grown-ups table and we’re proudly serving the hottest apps around.”

http://youtu.be/Xxt24JoLlPE

As well as MiKandi, Jennifer also maintains Tits & Glass – a SexTech innovation riding the very cusp of the most up-to-date technology available. In this instance, Google Glass; seen by many as the next big step in full technological immersion.

“I’m proud to be part of small team who’ve created the largest app store for adults, who’ve built dev tools like in-app billing, content management and delivery, and geo-targeted promotions, played with new technology/services like Google Glass, third party Chrome apps, and media sticks, who’ve developed adult game creator software, comic and e-book readers, who contributes open source software, and more,” exclaims Jennifer. “We aren’t perfect, but we’re human, we’re curious, and we’re adventurous. Most importantly, we’re learning every day.

“I don’t believe that being shy about your accomplishments does anyone any favors, especially in our industry, where technical accomplishments are often dismissed or ignored. Considering the restrictions and lack of funding this industry is subject to, SexTech companies have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously.

“So if you’re doing something innovative in SexTech – whether software, hardware, or social – you owe it to yourself and other next generation adult companies to talk about it.”

MiKandi is one of the most solid components in the adult industry’s fight back against the heinously unfair restrictions mainstream app stores place on pornographic products. There will be thousands of untold stories from similarly budding entrepreneurs whose career trajectory did not match Jennifer’s and thus their dreams, ideas and wads of cash circle the drain on the oddly puritanical whims of a company who, while doing their best to ban porn, perhaps even the notion of sex itself, from their marketplace, have no qualms with instigating modern slavery to feed the world’s addiction to their products. But hey, who’s here to judge?

So let’s go back to basics, if we may. As BaDoink has touched upon in the past, investors display staunch resistance when it comes to pumping money into SexTech and other adult-oriented start-ups, or even acknowledging their existence. It’s the boot on the windpipe of progress for the industry, and there’s no doubt that this wishy-washy, pass-the-buck (instead of simply handing them over!) approach has sunk more than a few start-ups over the course of time. Quite simply, WHY are we still having to wait for the stiff-collars in boardrooms to pull their thumbs out of their asses, join the 21st century and publicly accept and back the adult biz?

“A lot of it boils down to sex shaming,” says Jennifer. “If you remove moral objections from the equation (a hard thing to do, I know), the risks SexTech ventures face are the same risks all ventures face. But since SexTech companies have to spend much of their time navigating through so many obstacles, they don’t have the opportunity to address those risks in an innovative way, something non-adult ventures have been able to do. Ironically, that’s what makes investing in SexTech so rewarding – it’s prime for the right company to create a long lasting competitive edge.”

Perhaps we’ve been missing the point all along, but here at BaDoink we firmly believe in harnessing the power and widespread availability of tech and, where best possible, combining it with the natural and… steady yourselves… totally normal sexual urges we feel as people. One of the adult industry’s greatest ‘secrets’ is that, above all other sectors, it remains one of the most liberal, inclusive and free-wheelin’ out there.

But that doesn’t seem to be enough for the big business cabal that runs the show from their WiFi-ready ivory towers. People like Jennifer, whether they be performers, deal breakers or simply conduits for the industry itself, are continually trampled down. And no, not in the good way either!

Jennifer McEwen: MiKandi, Tits & Glass and The Problems Faced By SexTech Startups

Jennifer takes immense pride in her company being a “gender, race, religion, and culturally-diverse startup of engineers and designers, with a concept-proven first-to-market, industry-disrupting viable product accompanied by a strong portfolio of tech systems and developer tools, with millions of installs and thousands of contributors worldwide.”

But as she points out immediately after: “We made a mistake. We built our product for adults.”

“The adult industry in general has a long history of diversity and acceptance. People tend to look at the content on ‘mainstream’ porn sites and assume it represents the entire industry and the people in it.

“In reality, I can’t think of another industry where you have people from all walks of life, genders, sexual identities, and kinks working together so openly and collaboratively. You can’t afford to be a bigot in an industry where you’re not only working closely with diverse groups of people, but also where your customers are just as diverse as your colleagues.

“From my personal experience as a female founder in SexTech, I’ve encountered far more sexism and bigotry in mainstream tech than I ever have in adult. In the adult industry, no one bats an eye when they meet women who are founders, tech leads, or who hold top-level positions in their companies. Nor do they assume she started her career as a performer.

“In fact, most of the career paths in adult work mirror career paths for someone at, say, Amazon or Google. That said, even if she did start her career performing, there’s no judgment on her path to success. It’s just another path. I don’t think the same can be said for mainstream tech.”

But here’s the rub: the tide is slowly but surely beginning to turn.

“The thing about these obstacles is that they’re not new. It’s only recently that others are taking notice, and that’s because people are more honest about watching porn. iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu are setting user expectations around online entertainment. So when adult sites don’t meet those expectations, people ask questions. As folks learn just how anti-adult the business climate is, they understand the unfairness of it all because it affects them, too.”

What Jennifer is telling us, if you’ve not realized yet, is that the problem very much lies deep in the cold hearts of Google, Apple, Amazon and all their other tax-loophole assisted friends. But it’s still something of a head-scratcher, isn’t it? These companies, Gods of the corporate world, focused primarily on high share prices and fat dividends, are flagrantly eschewing even bigger profits from an industry almost guaranteed to provide them. And for what? To spare the blushes of a few uptight sad sacks? It’s puzzling.

Jennifer, no doubt left more than a little wary by years of fighting the same battle from the front line, speaks with the authority that such experience brings. Unlike her mainstream contemporaries, she offers a well-rounded and fair view of the situation.

“Mainstream tech and finance institutions need to level the playing field so SexTech startups have a stronger chance of success. SexTech companies need to constantly challenge the way people think about the adult industry with an unrelenting commitment to great tech, accountability, and transparency. I’m optimistic that the business climate will change for the better. I see it happening now, albeit rather slowly.

“As MiKandi grows, more and more mainstream companies want to work with us. The caveat is they usually want to keep our relationship quiet. I understand the social risk of publicly associating yourself with the adult industry, and that’s why we work very hard at being a next generation adult company.

“I’m extremely grateful for the handful of mainstream companies who have opened their doors to adult startups because they’re encouraging this positive change.”

Last, but by no means least, what advice does somebody like Jennifer, whose fought not only false perceptions of the adult industry but the bullshit that comes from being a high-powered, ambitious and fearless businesswoman in tech, a sector once closed off to her kind, have for those looking to emulate her enviable career path in SexTech?

“Commit yourself to great tech, accountability, and transparency above all. I daydream that, one day, tech giants like Google, Amazon, or Yahoo, or VCs and banks will say, “Let’s open our doors to SexTech companies we can trust.” Operate everyday as if this is a possibility, because one day it will be.”

The future for SexTech in the mainstream arena is bright when we have torch-bearers like Jennifer leading the way. Heed her advice and be patient… because one day we may well be profiling you in such generous terms too.

Jennifer McEwen: MiKandi, Tits & Glass and The Problems Faced By SexTech Startups 5 votes

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