Turned Off: Why Did Offbeatr, the Kickstarter for Porn, Fail?

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Crowdfunding has taken the internet by storm these past few years. Crowdfunding company Kickstarter has helped people raise over $8 million for various projects in 2019 alone. 

The site doesn’t have too many rules and regulations on the types of projects they allow. But one of the things on the blacklist is adult content. And everyone, especially Las Vegas, knows how much people love XXX stuff

Ben Tao and Eric Lai saw Kickstarter’s erotica restrictions as an opportunity. An idea struck. They should start a sort of Kickstarter for porn. They did. They called it Offbeatr.



The company was launched in 2012. It ran, with limited success, until it shut its doors indefinitely in August 2016. Keep reading to find out the story of the rise and fall of Offbeatr, and where people can now look for support on their XXX projects. 

The Back Story

Offbeatr was founded by Ben Tao and Eric Lai, two friends who started out on seemingly different career paths. Ben was working as a product manager for Yellow Pages, and Eric used to work for aircraft company Boeing. 

Neither of them had any direct experience working in the porn industry. But they still managed to stumble their way into it to start their first collaborative project, Extra Lunch Money

The initial idea for the site came when they realized how much money cam models make stripping for strangers online. They decided to get in on the action, and alas, Extra Lunch Money was created as a sort of sales system for amateur porn content.

Right away, the site experienced financial problems. Eric and Ben learned the hard way that PayPal, Amazon and most other big payment affiliates don’t support the sale or promotion of adult content.

Nor did crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. The challenge they faced with Extra Lunch Money gave them the idea to create a whole new fundraising platform. One focused entirely on the adult content industry. 

This lightbulb moment led to the birth of Offbeatr. Unfortunately, finding official investors for a porn-related project proved to be difficult. The two dug up their own personal savings and used it to launch the business. 

After being rejected by multiple startup incubators and investors in Los Angeles, they finally got involved with the LA Startup Club and started to gain some footing.

Eric and Ben pitched Offbeatr as the Kickstarter for porn. A place for creative people to produce alternative, adult and erotic content.

The platform was especially supportive of projects that were different from traditional porn, like video games and other creative forms of media.  

The Rise of Offbeatr

Offbeatr was launched in August of 2012 and had a bit of a rocky beginning. The company first faced challenges trying to find a payment processor that would allow payments for adult-related content.

They finally managed to get a merchant account, but the problems didn’t stop there. After it’s launch, the projects themselves were slow to get off the ground, possibly due to the nature of the project application process. 

While it was in many ways similar to Kickstarter, their business model was slightly different. Kickstarter allows anyone to create a campaign and start to get donations.

Offbeatr’s model required aspiring porn content producers to pitch their project ideas to the community for approval before becoming eligible for funding. This added an extra step for projects to start to secure funding, adding to the challenge. 

They felt this method added a sense of legitimacy to projects, unlike their competition. Competing sites like GoGoFantasy.com allowed anyone to upload a campaign and start asking for donations.

Once a project was approved by the community, it would go to the public for donations. Offbeatr would then take 20% of projects aiming for over $10,000 in funding and 25% of projects aiming for under $10,000. 

Furry Fandom

Offbeatr funded over $280,000 for porn-related projects in their first year of operation. Not quite on the Kickstarter level of success, but it was better than nothing. 

The limited success that did come in that first year was almost entirely attributed to the furry erotic artist community. What is a furry, you ask? Furries are a subculture of people who dress up in animal costumes and, sometimes, perform erotic acts.

Furry erotic art is often cartoon or hentai adult content consisting of cartoon animals having sex with cartoon humans, or each other.

These types of projects were the ones that achieved the most success on Offbeatr. Potentially because of the nature of the tight-knit community and their knowledge on how to effectively promote and market their niche projects. 

Another reason for furries’ success on Offbeatr could be attributed to the openness of the community. A lot of traditional porn content is seen to be shameful, and though it’s extremely popular, viewers don’t often talk openly about it. 

The furry community, however, is extremely open about their experiences with the subculture and are happy to share their experiences and projects with each other online. 

Types of Projects Funded

The projects that received the most success on Offbeatr weren’t your traditional porn videos. Furry erotic art and other alternative art, game film projects were the ones who managed to gain the most traction. 

One project, an erotic adventure game called Trials in Tainted Space managed to raise $200,000 for its production. It’s a game that allows players to travel through space and win rewards based on “abilities in combat and bed.”

An erotic take on My Little Pony called Poni Parade managed to reel in $60,000 for its comic book and pinup sketch series. 

It was the more creative, interactive and engaging projects who received the most success on the site. Probably because traditional porn is so accessible and not very share-worthy. 

Traditional porn is generally consumed in private, so much so that many payment processors won’t work with adult content simply because many will cancel and remove their credit card information for fear of their spouses finding out. 

The content being funded on Offbeatr didn’t have that problem. It was mostly fun, engaging content that sure, was erotic, but wasn’t viewed as shameful and didn’t suffer from the stigma around most traditional forms of porn. 

The Fall of Offbeatr

Many people in the adult industry saw Offbeatr as a positive trend. A way for talented, creative people in the more alternative scenes to get their projects made. Unfortunately, the site didn’t receive as much as success as they had hoped for.

A lot of the projects, even promising ones pitched by well-known and talented filmmakers and artists were stalling and not getting the support they needed. A lot of projects hit snags during the initial pre-funding voting period.

Even award-winning filmmaker Erika Lust wasn’t able to get enough votes to take the project she pitched, Come to Me When You Are Ready, past the first approval stage. The project only received 17% of the votes required for approval. 

Many people wondered why the company didn’t change their format, but Ben and Erin stuck to their guns. They were of the mindset that by requiring projects to be approved by the community, it would increase viability and accountability. 

And while they deserve respect for holding out, the site shut down for good in February of 2016. A vague post on the Offbeatr blog explained the reason for its shutdown was due to “changes in the corporate structure.”

The company left its reasons for closing down quite ambiguous, but it was no secret that the site wasn’t doing well financially. Ben and Eric bootstrapped the company out of their own pockets, and they could only keep it afloat for so long on their own. 

What it Meant for the Industry

Since the closure of Offbeatr in 2016, Indiegogo, another popular crowdfunding site has loosened their rules and regulations around adult content. They launched a platform for sexual wellness and adult-themed projects called Indiegogo After Dark

This is good news for the amateur erotica community, as it opens more doors for alternative creatives to pitch their ideas and get them funded. There are still stipulations, but the rules are a lot looser than they used to be. 

While Offbeatr didn’t work out in the long run, it’s considered by many in the industry to having paved the way for the encouragement for alternative creators to produce interesting and engaging adult content. 

Wrapping it Up

What does the story of Offbeatr say about the porn industry? The company was able to shine a light, if only for a while, on alternative subcultures and encourage people to create content that’s outside the boundaries posed by the mainstream.

Traditional porn will always be around, and it is what it is. But there is more to the industry than porn videos and Vegas strip clubs. Edgy adult-themed content doesn’t have to be a shameful thing that people only feel comfortable consuming in private. 

Erotic video games, comic books, art pieces, events, and other alternative projects have the power to open people’s minds, to delight, and surprise.

If you’re still feeling bummed out about the closure of Offbeatr, check out our Adult Entertainment Guide to get your fix. 

 



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