Exec Seat: PriveCo President Tom Nardone
Tom Nardone launched PriveCo in 1998 at the height of the dot-com boom after seeing an opportunity in the anonymity of the Internet. Founded as Isdera Corp. in August of 1998, PriveCo set its vision of providing a retail platform for people who would prefer to purchase certain items in a private environment. The moniker PriveCo adopted in 2006 was an amalgamation of the shortened words “private” and “company.” Today, PriveCo operates 11 retail sites, including ShopInPrivate.com, Vibrators.com and Bachelorette.com. In this exclusive Executive Seat Q&A, Nardone sits down with XBIZ to discuss his latest project and professional goals for the new year.
What does privacy mean to you?
Privacy is when you can do something you want to do without any repercussions afterward. Privacy is a basic human right and it should be respect as such. My company is in the business of protecting the privacy of our customers.
How did you get your start in the online adult retail business?
In 1998 I noticed that people were using the Internet for all sorts of private things. In those days people were behaving online in ways they would never do in public. The Internet was anonymous. Also, Internet retail was just getting started. I came up with the idea for an online store that sold items that are embarrassing to buy in person, but not online and with complete privacy. ShopInPrivate.com was born; it was mainly a drugstore that sold hemorrhoid creams and adult diapers. Over time though, our privacy message was strong and people asked us to sell adult toys. Eventually our company was able to acquire Bachelorette.com and most famously Vibrators.com. We currently run 11 retail sites that sell a variety of items that are embarrassing to talk about and shop for. We have shipped over 750,000 private parcels since we began.
How has privacy evolved and what is in its future?
When I started in this business a single spam email would drive an Internet user nuts. Now, spam is just a fact of life. Back then retail newsletters would have never worked, now many people tolerate them, although I still hate the sight of them in my inbox. Privacy has certainly eroded in the last few years and I suspect it will do so more and more. There are still some activities though that people will never want public and for most people sex and related behaviors will probably continue to need to be private.
Which of PriveCo’s sites have seen the most significant growth in recent years?
Our three largest sites rose from nothing to significant revenue. ShopInPrivate.com did it first, then Bachelorette.com did it, now Vibrators.com is our rising star. While the three sites sell slightly different product mixes, all of them rely on a promise of complete privacy to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. None of them have an email newsletter for example.
How did you come to adopt the philosophy: “Technology does overcome embarrassment”?
A corporate vision is supposed to guide a business long-term and I wanted one that represents what drives our business, not what we do on a day-to-day basis. We are successful because we found a way to save people embarrassment using a new technology (the Internet at the time). I wanted to be certain that if any new technologies come along we pay attention and see if we can find a way to use that technology to save embarrassment as well.
How has mainstream exposure impacted the success of your business?
Three months after we launched, ShopInPrivate.com was mentioned in InStyle Magazine’s Valentine’s issue and we were off to the races. We have been very fortunate to get our share of mainstream exposure and it always helps new customers find our service. It doesn’t hurt that we are the most private way to buy anything, but without some recognition for that, we wouldn’t be where we are.
What are your goals for PriveCo and its sites for 2013?
ShopInPrivate.com will continue to be the world’s most private store with unique and interesting products you won’t see anywhere else.
Bachelorette.com will continue to be the world’s largest bachelorette party store with a wide selection of silly, adult products for bachelorette parties.
Vibrators.com will continue to be the easiest place to buy the perfect vibrator. I would argue that our team knows more about vibrators than anyone else on the planet and we pick only the perfect vibrators to sell.
Tell us about your 3D printing venture, MakerLove.
MakerLove is a personal project for me. I envision 3D printers as a new technology that people will use to avoid embarrassing situations. A person with a 3D printer won’t go to a store to buy a dildo, they will print one! Not only will it be convenient, inexpensive, and personalized, they won’t have to be embarrassed when they do it. I also believe that in 10 years many of us may own 3D printers. I have one now and it is pretty darned cool. In a few hours it “prints” plastic parts, toys and stuff. These devices could revolutionize the sex toy industry.
MakerLove.com is a site where people can download sex toy designs free of charge and anonymously. Then they can create their own sex toys privately. Printing out a dildo takes less than a dollar’s worth of plastic. 3D printers currently cost about $1,500 and the prices are dropping fast. The site generates revenue because if you want your newly printed toy to vibrate, Vibrators.com will sell you a bullet that is compatible with the design for $9.99. So far we’ve sold 90 bullets.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It is rewarding to see our privacy philosophy paying off. My goal is not to be the world’s largest seller of sex toys. Someone will always be willing to send an intrusive newsletter twice a week to their giant list of customers. Someone will always be willing to fill the nation’s mailboxes with catalogs full of dongs. I find it rewarding that many customers understand the value of their personal privacy and they trust PriveCo to keep it safe. It’s like every one of our customers is a kindred spirit, a believer that privacy is important.
What is your personal motto or mantra that you live by?
I have a goal. I want to be playful and heroic. At home, at work, and running my volunteer group I want to be playful and encourage others to have fun. I also want to be heroic, knowing that my efforts help other people. That is my goal. To achieve that goal I have a mantra I repeat to myself. It is, “Every day I move forward.” I don’t judge myself on how far forward I move, just every day I move forward.