'Investors Won't Touch Porn': Why This Popular GIF Porn Site Might Go Out of Business

"Hey, investor guy, we wouldn't be a porn site if you weren't watching so much porn."

:( (Twitter)

😦 (Twitter)

I was delighted to learn, back in March, about the existence of the The Worst Drug (NSFW) — the GIF-sharing site that accidentally became entirely devoted to porn, and whose employees had come, hilariously, to be known as GIF porn scrapers. So it’s with great sadness that I report The Worst Drug might soon have to shut down.

When Raj created the first prototype for The Worst Drug, he never intended for it to become a porn site; it just, well, happened naturally.

You see, the site farms the web for the most-shared animated GIFs, edits them down, and re-posts them. Seems SFW enough, right? But what Raj and his coworkers, Chris and Katie (they prefer to go by their first names) soon discovered is that 99 percent of the Internet’s most-shared GIFs are porn.

“At first, [Katie] laughed and laughed at me for having inadvertently built a porn site,” Raj, who’s CEO of The Worst Drug, told me back in March. “After she caught her breath, she started talking to me about branding, funding, monetizing, and the thousand other things that turn a side project into a company.”

A t-shirt with The Worst Drug's logo. (Facebook)

A t-shirt with The Worst Drug’s logo. (Facebook)

Those things are exactly what they tried to make happen. But although the site has raked in tons of traffic, the team has yet to bring in funding — and that’s a problem. Katie, who’s The Worst Drug’s COO, told me over email about an alarming phone call she had with Raj on Sunday night.

“He was telling me he has to shut it down because of hosting bills,” she said. “I just started tweeting while pleading for one more week to make something happen… We still have a great user base and a lot of traffic. Which is expensive.”

If nothing changes, funding-wise, the site will have to shut down on Oct. 7, Katie said.

The team “knocked on a lot of doors before resorting to the typical adult ad network,” Katie said, describing The Worst Drug’s attempts to get funding. What they found, unfortunately, was that investors “generally won’t touch porn.”

“Investors purport to find it sinful, apparently, hence the term ‘sin stocks’,” she continued. “I’ve spoken to dozens of VCs, some from very prestigious firms. They say they appreciate our tech and design, and ask us to contact them with our next project. Investors may have different preferences, like biotech or renewable energy, but this is $13 billion of annual U.S. revenue they’re leaving on the table.”

She noted there are other industries that have a much easier time getting funding, and yet, in her opinion, have a far more damaging effect on our society than porn does.

“The food industry — just one example — wreaks havoc on our environment, keeps animals in torturous conditions, and contributes to obesity and an overwhelming number of health problems and expenses which don’t thwart this being a leading cause of preventable death,” she said. “But eating a ham sandwich is not a sin (despite the literature). Porn is sin. Gay marriage is sin. Witchcraft is sin.”

The team also got some offers from investors in the adult entertainment industry, and seriously considered working with a few of them, but ultimately decided against it when they realized their business practices were “corrupt.” “We don’t conduct ourselves that way,” Katie said.

But what irks Katie the most about their current plight is not just that investors won’t touch porn. It’s that their site wasn’t even designed to be porn site — it literally displays the items the Internet is most interested in looking at.

“Hey, investor guy, we wouldn’t be a porn site if you weren’t watching so much porn,” she said. “We didn’t choose the pornographic content, we simply held up a mirror. The site pulls the most popular content, and this is it. It’s a survey of human behavior which happens to be built on some of the best technology on the web.”

Over the past few days, Katie has taken to Twitter to share The Worst Drug’s plight, and hopefully garner support.

She’s also been using the hashtag #SaveThePornGif, and reaching out to prominent names like Cindy Gallop.

I asked Katie what would happen if, worst case scenario, the site does have to shut down on the 7th.

“If we really have to give up the startup game,” she said, “one lucky company is going to snag a brilliant designer and the most talented programmer in The Valley.”