Q&A with Leah Callon-Butler
Co-Founder & Chief Impact Officer of intimate.io
Please join Family Office Insights for this luncheon on Tuesday, March 27th at 12PM. If you care to join us, please email email@example.com.
Family Office Insights sits down with Leah Callon-Butler to discuss intimate, a pseudonymous reputation framework for a decentralized market, specifically targeting the adult industry. In short, intimate aims to deliver a platform that allows safe transactions between two parties, providing a level of anonymity with the benefits of safety and security never seen before. intimate targets the adult industry to solve the issues that the industry has long faced due to institutional bias from the banks. intimate will support providers of adult goods, content, interactive content and in-person interactions. intimate has a pre-sale at a 30% discount which is finishing March 28, 2018 5:00pm GMT.
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Tell us about your background and your company, intimate.io.
My career has been a lot of fun. I delivered a sustainability award-winning community bulk-buy project that saw $6.5mil worth of solar technologies installed in regional Australia; I transformed a ‘scratch and sniff’ startup into an international sensory advertising agency; I’ve been involved with a number of female empowerment initiatives including a movement which mobilized leading Australian CEOs to commit themselves to building the pipeline for young women in senior leadership roles; and I started a company which provided bootstrapped startups access to top-notch sales talent on commission-only terms.
While studying for my MBA, I became extremely passionate about social enterprise models. So much more than the standard box-ticking practices of many Corporate Social Responsibility charters, these are business models that treat the financial bottom-line inline with the importance of driving ROI on social and environmental initiatives. This led me to work on some insanely cool research projects, like the time I was sent to Philadelphia with a group of six other Executive MBA students to conduct a research project on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) with the goal to align the profit interests of the global reinsurance industry with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Perhaps ironically, my start in the renewable energy sector is what got me into blockchain many years later. Over a casual coffee catch up, one of my mentors showed me a case study on the Brooklyn Microgrid, a ConsenSys project between LO3 Energy and Transgrid, which was the first-ever proof of concept for energy P2P trading on the blockchain - and I immediately became enamored with the phenomenal application potential for distributed ledger technologies. I really believed that blockchain had the power to reimagine the world as we know it - and from that moment - I knew I wanted to pivot my career into that space.
intimate was launched in October 2017 when Nathan Smale and I joined Reuben Coppa as co-founders. Reuben has deep experience in both crypto and adult, having been involved with a company that introduced the first Bitcoin ATMs to Australia, as well as being the founder of an app called Rendevu which facilitates on-demand bookings for escort services. Nathan has over 15 years experience in mobile product development and has extensive experience in the gambling arena (a sector which experiences many of the same challenges as adult). Since then our team has grown to 15 people across the world, of which seven are women). We have capabilities across crypto, tech development, sales, marketing, community, finance and legal.
intimate is a cryptocurrency facilitating trust and safety for the Adult Industry. Currently, there is a trade-off between people’s desire to keep their personal data anonymous while also wanting the sense of trust and safety that comes with data disclosure and transparency. We solve this problem by:
● Providing a payments solution to address industry-wide difficulties with accessing basic banking products and merchant services due to moral bias;
● Enabling a pseudonymous reputation system which affords users the right to transact - both online and in the physical world - with privacy and trust;
● Partnering with industry to develop a clear framework which differentiates between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ actors on the network, to protect human rights, define industry best practice and support ethical conduct;
● Partnering with oracles for off-chain verification of information such as personal ID and Sexually Transmitted Infection health checks.
I was attracted to intimate because it is a use-case where decentralization is absolutely needed in order to address the institutional bias that is holding an entire industry back. I also saw that it was an opportunity for me to implement my passion for social impact, to empower and protect some of the most socially excluded and oppressed people in the world, so I dove all in.
Who are intimate’s target clients?
intimate is the first to design a cryptocurrency that can be used by every segment of the Adult Industry. This is one of the oldest industries in the world and yet it is still largely unregulated, its workers are marginalized, and very often, neither supplier nor customer is protected or empowered. Institutional bias has made it near impossible for sex tech entrepreneurs to rely on traditional mechanisms of payment and identification. They find it very difficult to get banked (with many entrepreneurs having no other option than to run their business through their personal bank account) and they have become accustomed to exorbitant fees and issues with frozen accounts. Many mainstream banks and payment gateways - such as PayPal and Stripe - won't deal with retailers in this space at all.
intimate solves this problem by providing fair and equal access to payments services for business operators in the Adult Industry. We will do this by making it easy to implement the intimate API and SDK on existing platforms, to provide another payment option for customers. We have already signed a number of payments integration partners to the intimate ecosystem including: BaDoink VR (a Virtual Reality adult content producer); MojoHost (a hosting platform for 700+ adult content websites); Emojibator (a designer and manufacturer of emoji-themed vibrators); Paul Raymond Publications (an adult content publishing company in print and digital); Urban Resorts Japan (a property group specializing in Love Hotels); Rendevu (an on-demand app for booking escort services, operational in Australia and the UK where escorting is decriminalized); Sexpo (an exhibition for sexual wellness and lifestyle); Prudish (an online retailer of adult products) and others - see our white paper for more.
How are you different from your competitors? Who are your key competitors?
In terms of our direct competitors, you will find that there have been many other ICOs for the Adult Industry. However, they tend to take a crass approach to their messaging and marketing, and it’s rare that the founders would even put their name and face to the project, which does nothing to ‘raise the bar’ or afford the industry the respect it deserves. Further, the majority of these projects are purely focused on micropayments for adult content online (such as porn and live cam platforms). intimate is the first to design a cryptocurrency that can be used by every segment of the Adult Industry and our definition of the Adult Industry is very broad. We act as a payment gateway for all segments of the industry from porn and live cams, to retailers of sex toys and intimate apparel, to Japanese Love Hotels, to physical human-to-human interactions such as escorts and dating, and so on. In addition, our trust and reputation system (which partners with oracles to provide verification of info such as ID and STI health checks) helps to make the entire industry safer and more secure for all.
In terms of indirect competitors, there are also other privacy coins such as Bitcoin, ZCash, Monero and DASH. However these coins are not governed by a moral code and they do not have the added trust and reputation system, which is designed to incentivize and reward good behavior on the network. intimate’s trust and reputation system is truly unique and ambitious in this way.
Another useful point to share about intimate is that our token is blockchain agnostic. This means that while we are initially raising an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain, we will retain the right to move the token to another smart contracts platform, such as EOS. This is so we can proactively manage or avoid any complexities that may arise as blockchain technology continues to evolve - such as issues with scalability, rising fees, forks, etc. This is ultimately for the benefit of our token holders who understandably want all the advantages of crypto without any of the headache.
What are some of the challenges you face in your market?
The biggest problem we are fighting against is stigma. Stigma in this industry is deep-seated and widespread. This has created a problem because there is currently no framework to help distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ actors within the industry. A sex worker operating within legal jurisdiction still finds it difficult to get banked, cannot publicly advertise their services, does not enjoy the same rights and protection as other workers, and is subject to judgment and social exclusion by much of society. This creates a very murky environment where contributing citizens are regarded as outlaws, and thus, it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish their work from totally immoral activity such as human trafficking and pedophilia. This homogenization enforces inaccurate assumptions about the entire industry being ‘dirty’ or ‘wrong’.
It’s not uncommon for people to think of the sex industry as homogenous in nature and they often fail to make a distinction between legal businesses and illegal operations. But this would be like assuming that a fully regulated and compliant pharmaceuticals multinational, such as Pfizer or Glaxo Smith Kline, is operating in tandem with the illegal drug trade.
intimate will solve the moral bias facing legal business operators by providing a secure and reliable payments solution. In addition, the intimate trust and reputation system - coupled with a comprehensive code of conduct - will raise the bar for safety and social conduct throughout the sector, while empowering the community with a censorship protocol to enforce the ethical rule set and ‘blacklist’ any immoral activity.
Additionally, crypto itself is very complicated, the user experience is poor and many people still experience a range of issues with acquiring, using and holding crypto in general. Our mission is to design and build an end-to-end system that is straightforward for everyday consumers. Both non-technical and technical people will want to use intimate tokens to purchase adult products and services, so the intimate digital wallet and check-out process will account for that. In particular, we are designing a variety of features specifically for sex workers and adult performers who are earning income in intimate to ensure they find it easy to exchange their intimate tokens into whatever other currency they need.
How are you changing the landscape of your industry?
From a commercial perspective, the current issues with processing payments have leaked huge profit potential from the Adult Industry. Taking online adult entertainment as just one example, this is a multi-billion dollar industry but it is nowhere near reflective of the industry’s profit potential. To illustrate my point: Many people say that they wouldn’t pay for porn because they can watch it for free. But not too long ago, people were saying the same thing about music - then iTunes made it possible for people to purchase content selectively, inexpensively, seamlessly and securely. Since then, the market has progressed so much that we think nothing of paying our monthly fees to Spotify, Netflix, and all other content subscription services. Imagine the impact to be had on the porn industry if people were given a safe, secure and private payment method.
At a broader industry level, the difficulty in accessing basic banking products, merchant services and financial instruments has created incredibly high barriers to entry for any entrepreneur thinking about launching a new product or service in the Adult Industry. As a result, we are seeing a severe lack of entrepreneurial diversity in this space, with the wider industry going largely underserved and whole market segments going completely unrecognized. If we can level the industry playing field to make it more welcoming to new entrants, I firmly believe we will start to see far more innovation and a far more varied representation of target markets and segments, which ultimately creates a more inclusive space for everyone.
The truly world-changing feature of intimate.io, however, is the trust and reputation system which includes features across smart contracts, staking and two-party escrow. It is notably ambitious as its functionality is not exclusive to the Adult Industry and it has the power to make the entire world a safer and more inclusive place. We’ve already seen the potential for peer-to-peer marketplaces to reinvent the way we transact, interact and trust the people around us, but to-date, these social spaces are still controlled by centralized bodies such as eBay, Airbnb, Uber and so on. This means you cannot transport your personal reputation (or ‘rating’) between different services - it is always platform specific. A decentralized reputation system would open-up this sense of ‘trust’ to a far broader and thoroughly diverse global ecosystem, which is exactly what we are building with intimate.
So Adult needs the decentralization properties of Crypto, but Crypto also needs Adult. Blockchain is a technology crying out for a use-case and intimate brings together several different blockchain-based technologies, to demonstrate unprecedented real-world utility through application to an industry that is sorely in need of emancipation from centralized bodies who have assumed the role of moral arbiter for too long.
How much are you looking to raise and who is your ideal investor?
We have a goal of $16.85M and have achieved our soft cap of $5M, having raised $5.1M so far with $1.1M coming from the major crypto fund, Alphabit. CEO Liam Robertson said “Alphabit invests in projects that are solving real-world problems with blockchain technology, and intimate is breaking down barriers for a traditionally underserved demographic. This is the exact use-case crypto has been waiting for.”
We are currently at Industry Pre Sale stage with a 30% discount on token purchases over 30ETH. The Pre Sale ends on March 28th at 5PM GMT and we go into Public Sale on 12th April. The Public Sale offers no discount and is not open to US residents, so the Pre Sale is an important time to get involved.
Our ideal investor is a person who can see how underserved the Adult Industry currently is, and they are excited by the opportunity for a new cryptocurrency to introduce trust, safety and profit to the sector.
What’s your mission?
intimate will provide fair and equal access to payment services for business operators in the adult industry, to challenge the stigmatization that has stunted trust and safety in this sector for too long. Over the longer term, intimate will continue to develop its industry-wide trust and reputation system. This is the real game-changer as it has the potential to define the future of trust for every industry across the world. The Adult Industry is a test-bed for the future of trust. intimate will completely transform ideologies about who we trust, how we trust them and why.
What’s next for you?
I’m really excited about the next few months with all the things we’ve got in the pipeline. To date, we have already confirmed 14 payment integration partners and we will have a working product soon after launch. So after the close of the Public Sale, we will continue to expand our global ecosystem of payments integration partners and identification verification oracles, while the development team works hard on rolling out new product features.
Leah is co-founder and Chief Impact Officer for intimate, a cryptocurrency that is challenging institutional bias to bring trust, safety and inclusion against to the Adult Industry. With over a decade’s experience spearheading the business development and growth strategies for a range of emerging tech startups, she devoted a large part of her MBA to the topic of social entrepreneurship. This lead her to work with the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and actively participate in a range of gender equality movements, including a leadership development program for young women, and a global non-profit that empowers disadvantaged women to achieve economic independence.
If you have any questions, please contact Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org.