The San Francisco-based Kink.com is an internet brand that is larger than life, with kinky content that has set the adult entertainment world ablaze for over 21 years.
From the fortress-like magnificence of its legendary Armory, the diabolical masters of mayhem at Kink perfected the art of BDSM and fetish productions.
And while the company has adapted into a leanly-muscled digital beast, shedding the 200,000-square-foot shell of its vaunted Armory for a reported $65 million and recently bidding farewell to founder Peter Acworth as he pursues new ventures, Kink.com is whipping its business into shape with the discipline of a domme.
Now, it has a brand new visionary at the helm, as Vice President of Technology Alison Boden takes over the reigns as CEO. Her tech-savvy creds and grounded approach to business are already reshaping Kink.com from traditional in-house video production to licensing and distributing.
With an eye towards improving customer experience, supporting top-notch content creators and establishing a greater presence in the BDSM and pleasure products markets, Boden is poised to take Kink.com to the next level. Take a trip to the dungeon and beyond, in this exclusive unchained XBIZ interview.
XBIZ: Tell us what led you to join Kink.com.
Boden: I heard that Kink was looking for a new email marketing manager back in 2010. Because I’d been working in the industry for six or seven years at that point, I knew they had a reputation for treating performers well, so (despite being a little intimidated by the content), I decided to apply. When I met the team and learned more about their values and the way they did production, I knew it was where I was meant to be.
XBIZ: How has your role within the company (and the Kink brand itself) evolved over the years?
Boden: Prior to working for Kink, I’d been doing freelance web development work for several years. Working with the marketing team at Kink was great, but as time went on, I realized that I deeply missed coding.
Assuming that I’d need to find a new job to make that happen but not wanting to blindside my team, I let them know that I was looking. To my surprise, their response was to offer me a job as a junior front-end developer. Over the years, I worked my way up in the development team, eventually taking over the entire technology department.
Earlier this year, when Peter Acworth decided he was ready to focus on other pursuits, he asked me to take over as CEO. Over that time, I think the Kink brand has remained extremely stable from the perspective of our guiding star — our mission statement. We’ve grown by expanding the scope of how we provide “the most authentic kinky experiences” from simply a collection of paysites toward the goal of being a mecca for all things kinky.
XBIZ: In what ways has your work as VP of technology influenced your approach to being CEO?
Boden: As our focus as a company has shifted away from being primarily about video production, we’ve embraced that we are fundamentally a technology company.
Understanding (and having personally built some of) our technology gives me very realistic expectations for the true costs of new projects and initiatives.
Maybe even more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to get to know and learn to work with my incredible executive team. We developed a very collaborative, open process that requires a lot of trust. Had we not had a few years to build that connection, I don’t think we’d be as effective as we are today.
XBIZ: Talk about Kink’s transition from traditional in-house video production to licensing and distributing.
Boden: One of the best things about the Armory is the vast amounts of space it has. After ten years of those very same sets and spaces, it left little to be desired.
To empower the directors, we helped them transition into independent business owners and they’ve really taken production into their own hands in a really creative way.
Concurrently, we realized that there are tons of good kinky content producers out there who we can highlight for our members and support.
XBIZ: What are your short-term goals for reshaping the company, these next few months?
Boden: Well, I had two weeks between taking over as CEO and moving Kink out of the Armory. It was a great fresh start — new office, new management — and it’s still in progress. Finding new ways to bring the company together, encourage collaboration and start the next chapter on the right foot have been my number one priorities and goals.
Our partners and affiliates are also a huge priority and we’re planning to roll out some features for them in the coming months. Specifically, we’ll be implementing customized postbacks and improved reporting to help them better target and direct traffic to Kink.com.
All of that said, none of this would be possible without our members. I’ve set my sights on expanding and even further improving our video content, pleasure product line and educational workshops to better serve them.
XBIZ: Describe your management style.
Boden: My management style is very informed by experience at the company in a non-leadership position. I’ve had the immense benefit of seeing what works and what doesn’t in our organization, so I try to bring that to this role.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that direct, honest communication is the key to absolutely everything. I try to be as transparent as possible and encourage my team to give me candid feedback about how things can improve, even when it’s difficult.
Fundamentally, I think that you have to trust your people to do a great job, give them freedom to make mistakes and support their personal and professional growth. I’m living proof that this is a company where someone can go from email marketer to CEO.
XBIZ: How do you envision Kink.com growing in the coming years?
Boden: We’re on course to realize our goals of improving our customer experience, building a platform that supports producers making amazing content and expanding our presence in the BDSM and pleasure product market. I also see us broadening our role as an industry leader and advocate for performers. We’re staying true to our mission statement, and I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come.