Bang Co-founder Reboots Business With Success
CEO Clement Picquet and his business partner, brother Thomas, got into the online adult business by accident.
An online streaming radio station they started up wasn’t generating enough income, so the pair tried their hand in adult, launching one site after another under the DeluxePass brand.
As time marched on, they rolled out VideosZ, which was rebuilt and later rebranded as Bang.com, consolidating all of their adult properties onto one site.
With the rebranded Bang.com flagship site, Clement Picquet and his brother have put all the chips on the table with a portal that offers something for everyone.
XBIZ recently checked in with the veteran online adult entrepreneur to learn more about his company and find out his outlook on the biz.
XBIZ: Tell me about your company and the adult web properties it owns and manages?
Picquet: Our company is headquartered in San Diego, but we have multiple team members in Seattle and spread across Europe. In San Diego, we have our executive team, sales/marketing and development. In total, we’re around 25 people. We work diligently to keep that number small by building tools that serve as work-multipliers, like ItsUp.com. We have a keen focus on process development and continuous refinement.
Earlier this year, we consolidated all of our properties and content into one new site, Bang.com. With Bang.com, we built a clean, user-friendly interface that offers easy access to our library of over 100,000 high-quality scenes, including our exclusive Bang Originals series.
XBIZ: How did your company come about, and how has it evolved?
Picquet: My brother Thomas and I started building websites in our parents’ attic when we were in high school in France. While we were sharpening our technical skills, we also realized we had a passion for music, and wanted to combine the two. We devised plan to build an online streaming radio station to broadcast the electronic music that we loved 24 hours a day. The only problem was that took a lot of money to keep it going. Bandwidth was expensive in the mid-1990s, and we hadn’t quite figured out that one key part of a business: how to make money from a radio station.
We were brainstorming ideas on how to support the streaming radio station, when a friend at school suggested that we create a celebrity site to help fund our dream. We decided to take his idea a little further and created an adult site.
Fortunately, we had found a way to generate income with adult traffic. As the paychecks started to come in, we used that money to fund our dream of electronic music world domination.
One day, it finally occurred to us that the adult traffic money we were making on the side was generating considerable more money than the radio station. We decided to set aside the music, and focus 100 percent of our efforts on adult entertainment. That turned out to be a smart and profitable decision. We hoped to someday get back to the music.
Thomas and I ended up co-founding our company, and we split the business responsibilities evenly between us. He focused on the technical side, and was in charge of the programing and development. I took responsibility for the business side, which included all of the content and marketing.
Eventually, our early adult sites turned into DeluxePass. As that ran its course, we built a new product named VideosZ, along with multiple feeder sites, including the most well known, 18andAbused.com. Throughout 2015 and early 2016 we rebuilt VideosZ from the ground up and decided to rebrand at the same time. Now our newly launched flagship site is called Bang.com and we are immensely proud of it.
XBIZ: Technology must have been one of your favorite interests. What was your first computer?
Picquet:Absolutely! Thomas and I grew up with computers. Our parents worked in technical fields and encouraged our interest in technology from an early age. I remember the first computer our dad brought home. It was a Silicon Graphics computer running an early version of Unix, with a 21” CRT screen. It is crazy to think of how big that thing was and how long it took to boot up! That computer, and the endless possibilities of what it could do, sparked our imagination.
XBIZ: What about your company’s culture, and what is it like to work there?
Picquet: We pride ourselves on creating a fun, supportive and effective environment. It’s important to us that each member of our team has the tools and resources they need to succeed. We encourage them to work on the types of projects they enjoy, so they can cultivate skills they desire for both their professional and personal growth. We also strive to give our team members a lot of autonomy and flexibility. We reward them for positive results and also hold them accountable for mistakes. That creates an environment where people are willing to try new things, take chances and get a sense of fulfilment when they see the fruits of their labor.
XBIZ: How much do your adult sites depend on affiliate traffic?
Picquet: The proportion of our traffic coming from affiliates has changed dramatically over the years. Ten years ago, we noticed a slow decline in the traffic and joins we were receiving from affiliates. At first, we fought hard to try to keep that traffic by offering all kinds of costly incentives and payout promotions in order to attract and retain affiliates.
Eventually, we saw those promotional campaigns were expensive and didn’t seem to have a lasting effect. We started taking a hard look at our other traffic sources, like organic search, paid traffic and members area-partner deals.
Five years ago, we began a huge push into paid traffic, since that was something we could easily control and see immediate results. Nowadays our proportion of traffic coming from traditional affiliates is probably about a quarter of what it once was.
Fortunately, our investments into paid traffic, like building ItsUp.com, have more than paid off. That being said, we’re always happy to build relationships with new affiliates and continue to do so enthusiastically today. With our new program, affiliates.bang.com, we have fresh new content and an outstanding product that converts well for our partners.
XBIZ: What will the world of online adult commerce look like in three years? And will VR take off?
Picquet: I think current trends will continue for the most part. We’ll see more and more consolidation. Subpar products will continue to lose traffic and many will close up shop. That will create a lot of opportunity for people willing to invest in outstanding content, building top-notch products that consumers love to use, and making smart branding decisions to solidify their place in the consumer’s mind.
As far as VR is concerned, I’m somewhat skeptical for the 3-year window. I think it’s cool and has a lot of potential, but you’ll definitely find us focusing on larger, more proven markets. If VR starts to really take off, we’ll certainly be right there with it. I see it more as a necessary product feature which all major players will have (like having HD content today), and not something that will be a significant point of differentiation for content publishers.
XBIZ: How important is it to attend and be active at online adult trade shows?
Picquet: I believe it’s crucial to show my face at trade shows on a fairly regular basis because it helps us maintain a lot of the relationships that are key to our business. It’s always good to make sure other people know that we’re committed to working hard every day to keep our business growing. I like to think that we are a great partner to have, and I want to make sure everyone knows how much we care about the business we are building together.
XBIZ: What’s a typical workday like?
Picquet: These days, my daughter tends to tell me it’s time to wake up at about 4:30 a.m. and I like to spend a little time with her before the day starts. I always start my work day by checking my phone to see how our performance has been while I slept. Soon after that, I’m scanning my inbox for any emails that need immediate attention, and then I head to the office where I usually meet up with Thomas at about 7 a.m.
Our office is a former yoga studio with an open floor plan, so as team members arrive we’ll say our “good mornings” and check in before the work day gets started. In terms of my tasks, every day is different and involves a variety of projects that we have in the works. When I’m not flipping back and forth between emails, phone calls, Slack messages and contacts on Skype; I’m keeping an eye on all of the important projects our team is working on within Jira.
I head home in the mid-afternoon and try to get to the gym for some exercise before dinner. It’s important to take care of your physical health considering all of the time we spend sitting at desks during the day. After dinner, it’s time to reconnect with my wife and play with our daughter before our eyelids start getting heavy at about 8:30 p.m.
XBIZ: How do you balance work life and family life?
Picquet: I’m fortunate to have an extremely supportive and helpful wife, and that I have been able to build the company with my brother, Thomas. We keep somewhat flexible hours at our office and people, including myself, spend a portion of their week working from home.
On top of that, many of the members of our team are close, so although I put in my fair share of hours on the computer, I’m constantly surrounded by family and friends who I trust.
XBIZ: When not thinking about the biz, what do you like to do?
Picquet: Though my work definitely takes up a big chunk of my time, I’m all about family time. My daughter is growing at the speed of light, so I’m trying to spend as much time with her as I can.
We’re lucky to live in a beautiful part of Southern California, so we usually visit the local parks, go for walks on the beach and occasionally sip a glass of wine.
In addition to that, Thomas and I like to make a point of going to a few music festivals a year, and he has recently started making his own music. It’s nice that things have come full circle for us, and we’re excited to see where else life will take us.