Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

“Tasteful” Naked Ladies Online Get $7 Million


While BoomTown does not usually do funding announcements, the $7 million that the adults-only social network Zivity will be announcing today is interesting for one reason.

No, not the fact that it builds its business model on the back–well, back ends, to be more precise–of photos of women in various stages of undress.

Get your minds out of the the gutter!

It’s because it is one of the few Web 2.0 companies that is trying out a subscription business model, as opposed to every other online company these days, all of which are chasing ad-supported nirvana.

Today, the San Francisco-based Zivity is nabbing that $7 million from BlueRun Ventures and Founders Fund, both of which have backed social-networking widget phenoms like Slide.

In fact, Zivity co-founder Scott Banister is on the board of Slide and was one of its earliest investors. (Banister, whose wife, Cyan, is also a founder and model on the site, has also been involved with a wide range of start-ups, from Overture to PayPal to IronPort.)

So instead of, say, Viagra banner ads, Zivity users pay $10 a month to look at the “tasteful” naked ladies pictures uploaded by users. The company must approve of the professional-quality photos, using a series of guidelines (no sex acts or close-ups, for example).

“Look, Lindsay Lohan just did a whole photo session similar to what we have on our site, so what’s wrong with 3 million other women wanting to do it,” joked Banister in an interview last night, referring to the recent series of pictures the troubled actress did a la Marilyn Monroe for New York magazine. “We are creating a place where the more controversial material can be published online without worrying whether advertisers are willing to underwrite it.”

Well, we will not get into a debate as to why we probably should not be playing copycat with the train wreck that is Lohan. But Banister does have a point about the need for different kinds of business models that don’t rely on advertising.


In fact, Zivity–which was seeded in 2007 with $1 million in funding–pays contributors who are more popular in a revenue-sharing plan via voting. Right now, for example, the most popular “photo sets” includes images of Cupcakes, Pearl and Damanda (pictured here).

There is also an increasing element of social networking, among the models, photographers and others, which does mimic more straight-laced sites.

In the press release for the funding, Banister compares Zivity to the popular cable channel HBO. “We think of Zivity as the HBO of the Internet,” he said. “Unlike free social networks and other user-generated content platforms underwritten by advertisers, our subscription-based business model offers us real freedom–to publish uncensored content and to pay our content producers generously.”

While the site is only comparable to HBO if it ran only “Taxicab Confessions” and “Real Sex” in an endless loop and you had never heard of “The Sopranos” and “Entourage,” its sure-fire subscription base might allow Zivity to be one of the few Web 2.0 companies that survives the coming washout.

But before you fire up that browser, the site has only 10,000 beta users now, with another 30,000 on its wait list. While you can sign up to get an invite or be invited, the open public launch is not until 2009.