Kink's Peter Acworth Speaks at 'The Economist' Innovation Summit

Lyla Katz and Ariana Rodriguez

BERKELEY, Calif. — Kink.com founder and CEO Peter Acworth was a featured panelist recently at The Economist Innovation Summit.

The summit called, Innovation: Fresh Thinking for the Ideas Economy, was held at the Haas School of Business on March 23-24. In addition to Acworth, various other business experts were on hand including Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School, economic author Judy Estrin and Kris Halvorsen from Intuit and others.

"I was very flattered to be included," Acworth told XBIZ. "I think its quite rare that someone from the adult entertainment industry gets included in a mainstream event like this and I would like to thank The Economist for being so forward thinking."

Acworth added that several hundred audience members packed the room for the 8:30 a.m. panel and as a member of the often under-represented adult industry was welcomed with attentive, interested listeners.

"The only discomfort in the audience came when I asked everyone if they knew Kink.com, and a few people raised their hands but only half way," Acworth said.

The discussion titled "Successful Failure" focused on the concept of how people deal with failure and risk, innovating in crisis and alternative ways to measure success. The panelists also talked about one of the biggest challenges facing the American economy, intellectual property and how companies today must implement more than just a research and development strategy to survive and thrive. The panelists said that regardless of geography or industry, an organization lives or dies by how it innovates.

Acworth kicked off his discussion saying that he felt his company’s speed at bringing product to market makes it more nimble in adapting to a briskly changing landscape.

"The main contribution I made was on the subject 'innovation in a crisis,' Acworth said. "I told them I felt that the adult entertainment industry was in a state of crisis and having to reinvent itself right now."

Acworth said he noted that DVD sales were down 50 percent and Internet sales (pay-per-minute, pay-per-view and the subscription model) were down 10-30 percent.

"I told them that if you attend the conventions and keep your ear to the ground, my impression is that there is still money in dating and live products," he said. "To that end, Kink.com’s plan is to invest in live products and community features, because the future of the subscription model is currently unknown."

Acworth said that during the event's question and answer session, he was asked about the lack of scholarly research on the adult entertainment industry with the interrogator pointing out that if someone approached the Haas School of Business requesting a grant to do so, it would most likely be rejected.

"I replied by saying that he was right, and I reiterated that most of the companies are private and it is very hard to get accurate data (indeed, the figures 50 percent and 10-30 percent were largely guesswork)," Acworth said. "I also said that I felt it was a great shame more academic research isn't done on the industry because it is a particularly interesting and fast-changing industry.

"As examples, I told them the first affiliate program was actually made for an adult site, and that early work on streaming technology was done by companies like Real Networks, whose vast majority of clients were initially adult in nature."

The summit is designed to fuse creativity with action and possibly expand and overturn established thinking about what innovation is, where it comes from, and how to make it work.

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