Building a Porn Startup: An Interview With The Founders of The Worst Drug [MILDLY NSFW]

Jana & Nella

With the amount of startups getting built and covered by the media in this day and age, you’d think you’ve seen it all. Meet Raj, Chris, and Katie – the founders of The Worst Drug, a porn GIF site that is aiming to drive innovation in the adult entertainment industry.

The idea of the site was born when Raj built a web application to aggregate the most popular animated gifs from the web and showcase them one-by-one. Instead of kittens, he found that almost all the gifs were porn (surprised?). After sharing it with a few friends and seeing exceptional growth organically, he then recruited two of his other friends and The Worst Drug was born.

The founders do not like their company to be referred to as a “porn startup”. They feel that based on what they are doing, they are in the same realm to be referred to as a tech startup like everyone else in the industry.

Describing us as a porn startup is as dismissive as describing Google as an advertising company. We’re a tech startup, and we’re serious about our product.

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing the founders of the site via email. In this interview, the trio discusses branding themselves apart from other porn sites, whether business folks take them seriously, and how they plan to monetize the site.

Tell us about yourselves

Raj: I’m equal parts hacker and guitarist. I spend my days thinking about Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem and listening to Radiohead.

Chris: I’m a visual development artist obsessed with using design to tell a story.

Katie: I have a background in both mental health and the performing arts. I am grateful to be a student in one of the country’s top entrepreneurial business programs.

For the sake of our readers, tell us how this got all got started.

Chris says:

In order to stay sane, Raj would hack on side projects (mostly as jokes) and present them to us. This became my favorite part of the day. I felt like a prisoner given a chess board. One of these side projects turned into The Worst Drug.

Why is the site called The Worst Drug?

Raj says:

We see the world as designers. We constantly simplify. We look for the one line that we can draw that can serve the purpose of two lines. We wanted to come up with a name that could capture how we feel as well as how our users feel about the site. We’re as addicted to working on The Worst Drug as our users are to clicking through it. Plus, stronger brand names like YouPornRedHubTube were already taken. :-(

Did you guys have any hesitation in forming this company? Were any of you afraid of how you’d be viewed by your peers being associated with a porn startup?

Raj says:

Describing us as a porn startup is as dismissive as describing Google as an advertising company. We’re a tech startup, and we’re serious about our product.

It seems like you guys are visually branding your site differently from most adult sites by having a relatively clean and uncluttered look, is this an accurate assessment?

Raj says:

Yes. Design runs deep – it’s not just a visual thing. We apply our aesthetic principles to everything we do, from our data model, to our logo, to the way that we Tweet.

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 12.42.35 PM

Because you guys are doing a porn startup, have you guys had trouble getting business folks to take you seriously?

Raj says:

No. We don’t disclose the names of our advisors, but they’re higher-ups at tech companies whose devices you carry in your pockets.

How have you marketed the site? Have you guys seen good growth?

Katie says:

Phenomenal growth. Since becoming involved in an adult site I’ve learned that I can increase my penis size by nearly two inches. Jokes aside, we’ve grown organically, and we’re very happy with our traffic.

What are the biggest challenges so far in building your startup?

Katie says:

We’ve been innovative in terms of our tech. The challenge is to be as innovative in terms of marketing and business strategy. The old business models are crumbling, and our audience is tech savvy (which is a double-edge sword). The upside is that the adult industry is ripe for disruption, which makes it really fun for us.

In an interview with TechCrunch this past May, you guys noted that you have yet to create a business model for the site, has that changed since then?

Raj says:

Yes. At the time of our TechCrunch article, we were focused on building our product. We hit all of our product milestones, so now we’re focused on monetizing. We’re currently negotiating co-branding deals as well as implementing premium services. We’re open to inquiries from potential advertisers and investors (info@theworstdrug.com).

Where do you guys want this site to go long-term?

Katie says:

The adult industry used to be innovative. Adult companies pioneered streaming video as well as affiliate traffic models. However, the industry has grown stagnant and is no longer driving innovation. We want to once again push technology and new business models. Beyond that, we want to build the porn site that we want to use, and present sexuality as beautiful and humanistic.

Do you guys have any words of wisdom or advice for any aspiring entrepreneurs?

Raj: Do what you love, because you’ll never be paid what you’re worth.

Chris: Ramen gets old.

Katie:  Life is an improvisation. The first rule is to say “yes.”

Follow TheWorstDrug:

Twitter: @TheWorstDrug

Facebook: TheWorstDrug [WARNING: NSFW!]

Website: The Worst Drug [WARNING: EXTREMELY NSFW!]

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