Startup entrepreneurs don’t shy away from tricky problems and social taboos. If there’s a potential gap in the market or a problem worth solving, there’s most likely an innovative solution being worked upon.
Mobile apps and new technologies have disrupted a number of industries in unexpected ways. It’s a testament to the power of creating a unique platform and leveraging it to reshape society for the better.
One industry that remains untapped is the sex industry. Vague regulations and restrictive standards on major mobile platforms have kept startups away from this niche – but vital – industry. That didn’t stop developer Reuben Coppa from designing a unique and mobile-friendly platform that could reimagine the industry and make it a lot safer.
Coppa’s Rendevu mobile web app is an on-demand platform for adult services that hopes to make the industry safer for both clients and working professionals. Widely considered the ‘Uber for escorts’, Rendevu has secured $700,000 in a recent round of funding which makes it the only funded app in the niche.
The app lets professionals display real time availability, list prices, and display ratings including profile accuracy. On the client side, the app pre-authorises credit cards to ensure safety and confirm the payment before services are rendered. The appointment process also involves an ID confirmation by the escorts which adds another layer of security to the arrangement.
‘We’re a technology company entering adult services, not the other way around,’ says Reuben Coppa.
‘This gives us a unique perspective on the industry and helps us solve safety, efficiency and usability issues effectively.’
Although estimates for the exact size of the sex industry are difficult to come by, the most conservative studies peg the market between $56 to $186 billion in annual revenue. According to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are more than 61,000 sex workers in the UK, who contributed £5.7 billion to the nation’s GDP in 2012. The Rendevu team believes the global market is much bigger considering how many of the transactions are ‘off-the-book’ and paid in cash.
Not only is the market potential huge, it’s also tightly regulated and difficult to penetrate. App stores controlled by Apple, Google, and Microsoft tend to be risk-averse when it comes to risque content on their platforms. This has had a negative impact on adult-oriented apps in the past. Developers often have to find creative ways to get their apps on mobile screens.
Rendevu, for example, is available as a web-app that works within the browser and doesn’t need to be downloaded from the app store. Meanwhile, adult-only apps such as Tinder, Grindr, and Happn have reinvigorated the online dating and adult services industry. This has primed an “Uber for escorts” service like Rendevu to capitalise on growing demand.
Backed by a fresh round of funding, Rendevu looks like a game changer for an industry sorely in need of disruption.