WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Tim Valenti, who turned a tiny gay adult enterprise born in the back room of the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theater in San Francisco into a multimedia industry leader, gave a standing-room-only crowd a rousing keynote address at the 2016 XBIZ Show late this afternoon.
Valenti founded NakedSword.com more than a decade ago, and now has under his grip Falcon Studios Group and AEBN. The combined companies have more than 100 employees, he told attendees of the XBIZ trade show, which runs through Friday.
Valenti’s keynote address at 4 p.m. was preceded by an introduction from Cybersocket co-founder Morgan Sommer who characterized him as a friend and business partner for 19 years.
“He aggregated the top eight gay porn brands through those years, and he is someone who is fascinating to watch,” Sommer said.
Valenti told attendees how his company became a pioneer in the gay online adult streaming space when videotapes and DVDs dominated the market.
NakedSword’s birth was quite simple, he said. The famed Mitchell Brothers offered space in their commercial property in return for he and his partner building them websites.
Today, he said, his gay online streaming films are viewed by so many that members watch nearly 2,000 years of content every year.
But Valenti said that it wasn’t so easy getting to the point where his companies are today, and that the industry faces new challenges over regulation and other hurdles, such as the proliferation of pirated porn.
“We romanticize the success; not the risk,” he said.
Valenti then swung over for a look at “those who came before us,” including visionary Falcon Studios founder Chuck Holmes.
“Chuck Holmes, who founded Falcon Studios in 1972, wasn’t an incredible filmmaker … he wasn’t an auteur,” Valenti said. “He was a businessman.
“Chuck knew that for the gay market the money was elsewhere. You see he was from Indiana, away from the city where gay men have little or no access to gay porn,” he said. “Chuck knew there was a much more longtime value in pioneering a new market than jockeying for market share in the existing one.
“And he quickly built the biggest gay porn production company in the world — a title that Falcon has held for over 40 years. That type of success only comes from taking risks.”
Valenti, who noted he’s from Hawaii and that he loves to surf, said he sees the art of the sport paralleling successful business practices — particularly the adult entertainment market.
“One thing you learn as a surfer is that if you are only noticing the wave when it is upon you, you’ve missed it,” Valenti said. “You have to spot it further out and plan. You have to figure out which one you want to catch.
“Otherwise when the big wave comes you are already on the beach or that the wave is crashing on you. Business, I think, like surfing, is playing the long game.”
Valenti added that those who jump into the adult industry also must take on a bit of risk.
“By seizing a niche and by looking for opportunities and working furiously to establish a beach head.” Valenti said. “If you are playing it safe, and you are only investing in today’s revenue stream you are missing a wave.
“To be a true success, a true visionary, you have to up the status quo. You have to be unafraid to be mocked and take risks.”
Valenti said there is no doubt that the industry faces tough times, with regulatory challenges, piracy and lawsuits, “but despite it all, there are good reasons to be bullish about our future.”
“Today, you can shoot on an iPhone and edit content on an app. Today, distribution is easy as an upload,” he said. “Today, mainstream is distributing adult content. No longer can you say your vision is being squashed.”
But Valenti, who has been an active member of the Free Speech Coalition for more than 10 years and is the industry trade group’s president, said that the adult industry faces opponents “that want to pick off pornographers one by one.”
And that is where the FSC comes in, he said, whether it be defending legal action over 18 § U.S.C 2257 or the ballot measure for mandatory condoms in California or proposals over bloodborne pathogens in porn at Cal/OSHA.
“The FSC is underfunded, misunderstood and frankly underappreciated,” he said. “But if we didn’t have the Free Speech Coalition we would have mandatory condoms by now, and the 2257 law would be enforced for affiliates. I understand that the FSC is not perfect, but if you don’t like it don’t sit on the sidelines and complain. Get involved.”