In our “Starter Story” series we invite femtech founders to share their stories of how it all began. How did they come up with the idea? Where did they meet their cofounders and what was the hardest part of going from 0 to 1?
In today’s Starter Story we get to share Afterglow’s founding story as told by Founder Lilly Sparks. Afterglow is merging porn and sexual wellness by creating a content universe of videos, exercises, articles and other erotica to help users dive deep and foster intimacy with themselves or their partners.
When did the idea for your startup first come up?
I’ve always loved romance novels and reading about sex. I’d watch Hollywood movie sex scenes and be turned on. So I couldn’t understand why I never found porn that made me feel the same.
When I was turning 30, I was in a 15 year relationship with my high school sweetheart. We loved each other deeply, but our only sexual experiences were with each other. We’d learned about sex through porn, and it wasn’t the best teacher. I felt that there had to be better sex out there, but I didn’t know where to find it. You can easily watch a YouTube tutorial and watch people teach you how to play the piano, but if you want to know how to have better sex then it’s considered porn? This is why I was inspired to create afterglow, which creates cinematic porn that improves your sexual wellness. We make the highest quality porn that’s realistic and relatable while still being hot enough to masturbate to. We merge porn and sexual wellness with pleasure universes of videos, articles, exercises and more. We’re releasing the shame and stigma around sex and porn by making porn that’s good for you.
When and how did you take the decision to take the plunge and turn your idea into a business?
So its really difficult to tell your family that you’re starting a porn company. I always had the idea that once I’d made it, then I’d start afterglow. Then I went on a 10 day silent meditation retreat and during that time I got the message “Start Now.” Sometimes you just gotta go for it even when you’re not sure that you’re ready yet.
Oh – when I finally did tell my mom (like 3 months after I quit my other job, I waited a long time), her response was great. It was: “Oh yeah, women don’t really care about seeing the cum shot, do they?”
You’re a solo-founder. Have you ever considered adding a co-founder?
Yes, I am 100% pro-cofounder. Knowing you have somebody who’s got your back is invaluable. It just takes a lot of time to build up that trust level. Some people bring in co-founders too early, especially if they’ve never even worked with that person before. It’s basically a marriage. I’m taking my time and making sure I’ve got the right person before I commit.
What were the biggest challenges for you personally and your company going from 0 to 1?
When I started afterglow, I knew absolutely nothing about the porn industry or filmmaking and had no connections. I’ve started companies before, but starting a company in sextech comes with a WHOLE other basket of challenges. You can’t just throw some money on Instagram ads and Google Adwords and acquire customers. You’re constantly worried about getting deactivated for as little as using the word “sex.” My team and I have basically had to learn how to become lean guerilla-style marketers and look at all kinds of unique ways to acquire customers through everything from partnerships to OnlyFans.
Do you have any advice for others, who are just getting started?
Go for it! Sextech will be a $122B industry by 2026, and femtech even bigger. I was in the natural foods industry, and the sextech industry is basically what the organic food was in 90’s. There’s so much white space and we can see the demand growing every day. Anything is possible, and everything is a skill that can be learned. Start now.