The sex cam industry has grown into a billion-dollar industry over the course of the past few years. Estimates peg the annual profit at up to 3 billion dollars, so the owners of these portals are certainly raking in money. However, not everybody is happy with the range of cam and chat sites on the web. Jacob Michalak was one of the people who felt that something was missing from the market. To establish a new platform for sex chats, he launched his own start-up, called TheSpotlive, going against the traditional concepts to offer a new, fresh, and better experience to the users. In our interview, Jacob tells us about his vision and what sets TheSpotlive.com apart from the current crop of sex chat sites.
Spotlive’s goal is to „reinvent the sex chat“. Why do you think sex chats are broken and in need of reinvention? Jacob Michalak: In the first place, the biggest issue that whole industry is facing nowadays is general forgery. In most cases, users have no idea what they are really paying for and where their money goes. On cam websites, it often turns out that the person you are talking to is not the person that you see on the screen. Sometimes you are paying for a re-looped video. Tricks like that have been lowering the standards of the industry for years.
Secondly, people are becoming more and more demanding in terms of products, services, and generally, their standards of life. We are constantly looking for a better banking services, better apps that help us take care of our lives, better dining places or everyday products. And we are making decisions based not only on the thing that we get in exchange for money but almost everything that’s around it – packaging, ads, customer service, places, designs. Looking around, it seems as if everyone understands that dependency – except the adult industry.
Thirdly, creators’ creativity is stifled and they are dependent on monopolists who don’t give them much opportunity to become better and cultivate an audience. And it’s the worst thing that can happen because creators are the core of the adult industry and constantly push it forward. If you are not putting them front and centre and provide them the best tools you can build and don’t give them enough space and resources to develop new ideas, you are killing innovation itself.
How will your chat be different from what is available right now?
Because of the problems that I’ve mentioned before, we’ve started Spotlive focussing on the most difficult thing – the truth. We want to give people real value and real experiences that are worth their money. To do that, we need to be fully transparent about what and how we do our business. That’s the biggest difference.
Beside that, we want to put a lot of attention on UX/UI. Thanks to a fixed business model, we can eliminate the problem of an excessive number of banners which will help us improve the overall look of the website and content. Through our products, we want to constantly cooperate with creators in terms of education, helping them build an audience and distribute their content further.
What can you tell us about the people behind Spotlive? How did you come up with the idea of creating a website like this?
I’m really glad you ask that because our team is what I’m particularly proud of. Even if there are only 4 of us, we are doing tons of work which breaks the pattern and constantly moves forward. It happens mainly thanks to the fact that all of us are from Generation Y and we have a lot of passion for what we are doing right now. This is our strength that can’t be copied and it is the reason I believe that we can change something.
Is a better UX design all that sex chats and cam sites need to attract a broader audience and change their image for the better?
Of course not. Our role in this game is the same as the one YouTube has in terms of being a media platform for third parties. Better UX is only part of a bigger concept which is the overall attractiveness of cam sites. Even more important is the quality of the content itself. Our goal is to help creators become more and more successful in their careers as cam models by giving them the best tools possible, providing them with knowledge, letting them cultivate a fan base, helping with hardware, distribution, and everything that would have an impact on their improvement. This is the core concept that attracts an audience. Better UI/UX is an addition that only elevates what is already the best thing about Spotlive – the creators.
Which features will thespotlive.com have, besides a contemporary look and no annoying ads?
Beside those two, we offer a lot of social integration to help create a community, cross platform content distribution for creators, alternative sources of making money from advertising, extended analysis tools to even more output devices on which you can use Spotlive.
Our end goal is to a build multi-platform system that will help create content, grow an audience, improve shows, and distribute them to mainstream media.
Will the chat itself be any different from what is available right now (e.g. extra information, social-networking etc.)?
When we started working on the chat side of the website, we reversed what is happening in the market right now. Meaning we are simplifying the chat itself and all things around it to bring the best experience that we possibly can provide with a minimum level of distraction. We use solutions that are already known from major social media communicators such as emojis and gifs. From the creator side, we naturally took care of social aspects to help grow an audience and extended statistics to analyse shows.
Also, we have a few aces to extend features but I can’t talk about them right now.
A lot of start-ups in the sex tech industry struggle with acquiring the needed capital to get their ideas off the ground. What were your experiences in this regard?
So far, we are going the standard way that start-ups should go in terms of investing. At the beginning, we invested our own money and time to learn and build the MVP. Then we found private investors that invested in Spotlive, $110,000 cash in seed rounds to move forward with the on-board team. At the same time, we were granted $120,000 from the Microsoft Startup Program which helped us with the backend side. After beta release, we are expecting to raise capital with an A round.
I agree that it’s harder to get funding in the adult industry but it’s not impossible. If I were to give advice to someone who is looking for capital (in few short words) I would say:
Forget about VC, none of them would invest in start-ups that don’t have “numbers” – look for Angels and private investors.
Crunchbase and LinkedIn are a basis for research, finding contacts, connections,
Don’t try to convince an investor that he can make a lot of money. If someone understand that there is money to be made in the adult industry, he gets it and will start talking about the idea. In other cases, you’re wasting your time and the other guy’ time as well.
Tell people around you what you are doing – you would be surprised how many people can help you in different ways.
Start-up/Investors conferences and start-up contests are very helpful.
Of course, there are a lot of other things that could be said but those are the most important.
Another problem, that often arises in this segment is the lack of advertising space to make your company and products known to the public. What are your plans to reach the right audience once the website is life?
In terms of marketing in general, we work along two guidelines, one: “break the pattern” and two “if you have to make a change, adapt”. What we have added to these two rules is being true and transparent and we’ve started coming up with ideas such as “Porn Kitchen” which is an online source for almost everyone who is interested in the business side of the adult industry and it’s published on Medium.
At the same time, we are using most of the mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to promote content that we produce. It took us over a year to adjust to their policies and have some space for us and our target group to make it work. We are still talking to representatives of all those platforms to find the sweet spot for advertising.
Right now, your website is in beta testing. When will your thespotlive.com be open to the public?