Zivity: Geeks Gone Wild
Posted on December 30, 2007
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |
TechCrunch has revealed that Zivity co-founder Cyan Banister, who apparently won some “Sexiest Geek Alive” award that nobody has heard of, plans to post topless photos of herself on Zivity next week and “may go completely nude in the future” to promote her startup. Wow. I’m sure the male species is holding its collective breath. Or not.
For those who are unfamiliar with Zivity, here’s how the company describes itself:
Zivity offers a reality media platform for sexy models and beautiful photography where members get to distribute royalties to the models and photos they find appealing via Zivity’s patent-pending dollar-backed voting system. With a $10 subscription, members receive five votes every month to cast for their favorite Zivity stars.
I named Zivity one the Dumbest Startups of 2007 but that hasn’t stopped the company from raising $1 million in a seed round of funding. Zivity was supposedly in the process of raising an even bigger round when TechCrunch first reported on the company in August.
Obviously, Zivity is getting lots of attention because it’s about the closest thing to an adult entertainment venture that has apparently publicly received funding from investors in Silicon Valley, a place that is alarmingly almost completely devoid of silicone and might just be one of the biggest known sausage fests in the world.
But is there anything to Zivity? Given my naming of Zivity as one of the Dumbest Startups of 2007, I obviously don’t believe so. Let me
- While there is still lots of money being made in the online adult entertainment business, the market is extremely saturated and it’s harder for upstarts to compete. Zivity is late to the orgy. While newcomers to the market can make money, it’s not nearly as easy as it once was because the market has matured significantly. In the late 90s and early 2000s, it was possible for hungry new entrants to stake out a profitable spot fairly quickly, especially by moving into underserved niches. Since that time, the number of websites has increased, the dominant players have grown stronger and there are fewer untapped niches (yes, even one-armed midget sex has been tapped). Differentiation is difficult.
- The real money is in hardcore, not softcore. Topless and fully nude model photographs are available all over the Internet, often for free. This is going to make it more difficult for Zivity to convince male visitors to whip out the benjamins when they whip out their johnsons. Even though Zivity only charges $10/month, which is low compared to the costs of most other adult entertainment sites, hardcore pornography (especially hardcore video pornography) is where the real money is at and a soft player like Zivity is going to have an uphill battle getting a piece of the action (pun intended).
- Zivity’s value proposition to models and photographers is not that compelling. With your $10/month Zivity subscription, you get 5 votes. Models and photographers collectively receive 80 cents from each one of your votes. This is not a whole lot and I doubt you’ll see many models and photographers relying on this as a solid revenue stream. If the number of models/photographers on Zivity increases once the service is out of beta, you’ll have a large number of models/photographers competing for what I expect to be a relatively small number of votes as well. Given the uncertainty around how much a model/photographer can expect to make, it’s unlikely that serious models/photographers are going to be producing content exclusively for Zivity. That probably means a large chunk of Zivity’s content will not be exclusive. Like in the mainstream world, exclusive content is worth its weight in gold in the adult world and the fact that Zivity probably won’t have the type of exclusive content other adult websites offer will further make the $10/month subscription fee uncompelling to the end user.
- Zivity is run by people who don’t know the porn business. While learning the trade isn’t exactly rocket science, the flaws in Zivity’s less-than-innovative concept coupled with the fact that Zivity seems to be hyping itself to the Web 2.0 crowd (not exactly the market a porn mogul would feel compelled to promote his offerings to) doesn’t give me much confidence in the Zivity team, which consists of executives from Internet security provider IronPort (acquired by Cisco). Clearly, experience at IronPort won’t be of much assistance in the adult entertainment business.
- Zivity has raised way too much money. While outside investments do occur in the online adult entertainment space, Zivity is unusual in that it has raised (at least) $1 million from traditional-style angel and VC-types. If somebody had told me that $1 million had been invested in an adult entertainment business, I would assume that the proceeds would be used primarily for content production. Since Zivity really isn’t in the content production business, I don’t see where the money is needed. Most of the successful online adult entertainment businesses run fairly modest operations compared to Silicon Valley startups that load up on employees, ping pong tables and Aeron chairs. That’s part of the reason they actually make money. And when it does come to spending money, they have a good time at Internext, not Web 2.0 conferences.
It’s clear to me that the people behind Zivity are a little bit “wet” (behind the ears, not somewhere else you dirty bastard) when it comes to the adult entertainment business. If there’s any doubt, you need look no further than the company’s About page:
Zivity is an online social networking community for connoisseurs of pinup photography that offers a secure environment for adults only.
As a connoisseur myself, I take offense to the idea that you can be a connoisseur of pinup photography. Fine liquor, rare automobiles, cigars? Yes. Pinup photography? It’s not exactly the domain of a conoisseur. True conoisseurs tend to collect the women in the photographs, not the photographs themselves.
We celebrate sexuality and free markets by rewarding our models and photographers.
So Zivity is Playboy meets Milton Fiedman? Brilliant! Last time I checked, modeling and photography were careers some people earn money from so I don’t know see how this is anything revolutionary.
Cyan’s idea is a damn good one; that’s why Zivity is the first company in the “adult space” to be backed by Silicon Valley investment.
I want what whoever wrote this is smoking! The primary reason Zivity is the “first company in the ‘adult space’ to be backed by Silicon Valley investment” is because it’s probably one of the few companies in the adult space to actually seek it. I can’t say that I’ve ever personally met anybody in the adult entertainment industry who would be dumb enough to seek “Silicon Valley investment.” Not only is it undesirable, it’s unncessary (there are people outside of Silicon Valley who have a lot of money and they’re often far more pleasant to work with). Again, the naivety behind Zivity is apparent.
The puppet-master of Zivity, Vanessa handles ALL model and photographer recruiting…Vanessa holds a BFA from UC Berkeley and also comes to us from the IronPort family.
So the “Community Liaison & Ego-Wrangler” responsible for model and photographer recruiting went to UC Berkeley (where I hear some women still don’t shave their arm pits) and was last employed by an Internet security firm. Perhaps somebody a little more connected and experienced with models and photography would be a better fit for this role? Just an idea.
Michelle Laird is a PR pro with over 17 years experience helping companies tell their stories in a way that gets people talking…She offers a unique blend of consumer and technology background — she started out working for General Electric and Nissan Motor Corporation and then switched gears to represent a portfolio of software, Internet and wireless communications companies now under the corporate umbrellas of Akamai, AT&T Mobility, Openwave and SanDisk.
Zivity is selling tits and ass, not caching, mobile phones, software and data storage. Hiring a PR person who has sold those things to sell sex is about as smart as hiring a preacher to run a stripclub.
At the end of the day, I think Zivity is little more than an embarassment for a bunch of technology people who are under the impression that they’re getting into the adult space in a highbrow, dignified way (they’re not). Such a venture might seem fun and appealing, but I think watching this venture “grow” is going to be about as arousing as watching two virgins trying to have sex. The company’s nomination for the is probably its less-than-spectacular “climax.” In other words, I’m predicting that there isn’t going to be a “happy ending” worth telling friends about when Zivity has shot its “load” of Silicon Valley money.
Note: Please do not ask Drama 2.0 questions about his knowledge of the adult entertainment business.Print This Post
3 Responses to “Zivity: Geeks Gone Wild”
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[…] comparing the business of technology conferences to the business of advertising is like comparing Cyan Banister to my future ex-wife Viktoria Azovskaja. Second, while there are some niche publishers who can […]
[…] named Zivity one of the Dumbest Startups of 2007 and then provided some critical analysis of the company after it was announced that Zivity co-founder Cyan Banister […]
Your analysis is pretty thorough - until now I was convinced that zivity was the “startup most likely to succeed”. The reason : Silicon Valley nurtures innovation - above everything else. Innovation at all levels - right from the concept to the business model to design. In Zivity’s case, I thought it was more of a fascination of association with the highly lucrative adult entertainment industry. And I am sure zivity will get its 20000 members pretty easy - all the silicon valley jocks will sign up for sure! But I cant wait to see them get clobbered by the established players…..tht would be sweet…or salty. Whatever!
Btw, i am linking back to this site from by blog. And this site is now on my blogroll….