C.J. Asher – First of all, thank you for this interview Leah! Please, tell us a bit about yourself and your career.
Leah Callon-Butler – My career has been a lot of fun. I delivered a sustainability award-winning community bulk-buy project that saw $6.5mil worth of solar technologies installed in regional Australia; I transformed a ‘scratch and sniff’ startup into an international sensory advertising agency; I’ve been involved with a number of female empowerment initiatives including a movement which mobilised leading Australian CEOs to commit themselves to building the pipeline for young women in senior leadership roles; and I started a company which provided bootstrapped startups access to top-notch sales talent on commission-only terms.
While studying for my MBA, I became extremely passionate about social enterprise models. So much more than the standard box-ticking practices of many Corporate Social Responsibility charters, these are business models that treat the financial bottom-line inline with the importance of driving ROI on social and environmental initiatives. This led me to work on some insanely cool research projects, like the time I was sent to Philadelphia with a group of six other Executive MBA students to conduct a research project on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) with the goal to align the profit interests of the global reinsurance industry with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Perhaps ironically, my start in the renewable energy sector is what got me into blockchain many years later. Over a casual coffee catch up, one of my mentors showed me a case study on the Brooklyn Microgrid, a ConsenSys project between LO3 Energy and Transgrid, which was the first-ever proof of concept for energy P2P trading on the blockchain – and I immediately became enamoured with the phenomenal application potential for distributed ledger technologies. I really believed that blockchain had the power to reimagine the world as we know it – and from that moment – I knew I wanted to pivot my career into that space.
C.J. Asher – Tell us about intimate, its history and so forth.
Leah Callon-Butler – intimate.io was launched in October 2017 when Nathan Smale and I joined Reuben Coppa as co-founders. Reuben has deep experience in both crypto and adult, having been involved with a company that introduced the first Bitcoin ATMs to Australia, as well as being the founder of an app called Rendevu which facilitates on-demand bookings for escort services. Nathan has over 15 years experience in mobile product development and has extensive experience in the gambling arena (a sector which experiences many of the same challenges as adult). Since then our team has grown to 15 people across the world, of which seven are women). We have capabilities across crypto, tech development, sales, marketing, community, finance, regulatory and compliance.
C.J. Asher – What is your title and role with intimate?
Leah Callon-Butler – I’m a co-founder and the Chief Impact Officer for intimate.io, a cryptocurrency facilitating trust and safety for the Adult Industry. My role is about ensuring that our cryptocurrency achieves the social goals that we have set for it – that’s about challenging stigma against the Adult Industry, removing moral bias and working toward a sex-positive society from a holistic perspective.
C.J. Asher – What differentiates Intimate from other cryptocurrencies?
Leah Callon-Butler – intimate.io solves the moral bias facing legal business operators by providing a secure and reliable payments solution. In addition, the intimate.io trust and reputation system – coupled with a comprehensive code of conduct – will raise the bar for safety and social conduct throughout the sector, while empowering the community with a consensus protocol to enforce the ethical rule set and ‘blacklist’ any immoral activity.
People often ask us why we need a new token for the Adult Industry and they make comparisons to other ‘privacy coins’ like Bitcoin, Monero, ZCash and DASH. However – just like cold hard cash – these are monetary systems with no moral code and no reputation system, and thus, they are unable to empower and protect the people who act within their economy.
Let me explain: Currently, there is a big trade-off between people’s desire to keep their personal data anonymous while also wanting the sense of trust and safety that comes with data disclosure and transparency. intimate.io solves this problem by:
Providing a payments solution to address industry-wide difficulties with accessing basic banking products and merchant services due to moral bias (which includes the eliminating chargebacks);
Enabling a pseudonymous reputation system which affords users the right to transact – both online and in the physical world – with privacy and trust; Partnering with industry to develop a clear framework which differentiates between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ actors on the network, to protect human rights, define industry best practice and support ethical conduct; Partnering with oracles for off-chain verification of information such as personal ID and Sexually Transmitted Infection health checks.
C.J. Asher – How did you decide to focus on the adult industry?
Leah Callon-Butler – intimate.io is the first to design a cryptocurrency that can be used by every segment of the Adult Industry. This is one of the oldest industries in the world and yet it is still largely unregulated, its workers are marginalised, and very often, neither supplier nor customer is protected or empowered. Institutional bias has made it near impossible for sex tech entrepreneurs to rely on traditional mechanisms of payment and identification, while many mainstream banks and payment gateways – such as PayPal and Stripe – won’t deal with retailers in this space at all.
So Adult needs the decentralisation properties of Crypto, but Crypto also needs Adult. Blockchain is a technology crying out for a use-case and intimate.io brings together several different blockchain-based technologies, to demonstrate unprecedented real-world utility through application to an industry that is sorely in need of emancipation from centralised bodies who have assumed the role of moral arbiter for too long.
The intimate trust and reputation system, which includes features across smart contracts, staking and two-party escrow, is notably ambitious as its functionality is not exclusive to the Adult Industry. The team at intimate fundamentally believe that this innovation has the power to completely redefine ‘who’ and ‘how’ we trust in every industry in the future.
C.J. Asher – How has the recent dip in cryptocurrency values impacted intimate?
Leah Callon-Butler – I was asked this question a lot around March, when the markets were really low. I was in Puerto Rico for CoinAgenda Caribbean, then Los Angeles for Global Blockchain Forum and CryptoBlockCon, and honestly, no one was talking about market prices. I think that when people are committed to building great tech solutions to solve real-world problems, you are in it for the long run – no matter what. We’re still going to keep pushing forward, whether the price of ETH is $200 or $20,000. So market prices don’t really come into the equation.
However, this isn’t to dismiss the fact that crypto markets are highly volatile and this is what keeps a lot of people from using crypto in their everyday lives. For example, sex workers and adult performers are worried that if they accept money for services in BTC or ETH today, the value could drop significantly overnight. Another concern is the threat of rising fees, which is a symptom of scalability issues in blockchain, as we have seen recently with Bitcoin, where it would cost you more in fees to buy a coffee, than the price of the coffee itself.
These are very real concern that intimate is working hard to solve for real people. One demonstration of this is that intimate is blockchain agnostic. This means that we are not tied to any particular blockchain protocol and can move to a new one, if we encounter any issues that could affect the best interests of our community. Likewise, we have recently partnered with another Australian blockchain startup, called Havven, which has developed a ‘stablecoin’ solution which will allow people to buy and sell with intimate tokens without the headache of volatility.
C.J. Asher – What adult film stars and companies have you – or plan to – partner with?
Leah Callon-Butler – We have recently signed Brand Ambassadors Linsey Dawn McKenzie, Lacey Starr, Sahara Knite and Derrick Pierce. We are proud that they have chosen to represent the intimate.io brand because they are ethical and compassionate advocates for the Adult Industry. Any adult performers who share our ethos, we welcome them to reach out to learn how they can get involved too.
You can see a list of our current partners here and our BDM team are working to build relationships with trusted and established business operators in all segments of the Adult Industry all across the world. These include payments integration partners (i.e. platforms that will accept the intimate token, or ITM, as payment) as well as oracles for verification of important information such as ID or STI health check records.
In addition, we have sponsored a range of industry bodies such as the Freedom of Speech Coalition and the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee in the US, Eros Organisation in Australia and the UK Adult Producers organisation in the UK.
C.J. Asher – Which clients are currently accepting intimate?
Leah Callon-Butler – The intimate.io Token Sale launched on 26 April 2018 and will be open until 7 June 2018, unless tokens sell out earlier. Soon after the close of the Public Sale you’ll be able to spend your ITM tokens with our partners. We are currently working on payments integration with one platform, Rendevu, and will be rolling out to others over the following months.
C.J. Asher – Are you concerned about future potential government regulations that may negatively impact cryptocurrencies and – specifically – intimate?
Leah Callon-Butler – Yes, always! As it stands, regulatory and compliance is an evolving landscape for crypto and adult (as we’ve seen with FOSTA-SESTA), so our team must always remain prudent. We’ve seen the pendulum swing both ways, with some jurisdictions friendly and open to crypto, where they have recognised the opportunity to provide a supportive environment to attract entrepreneurial talent and drive local innovation, whereas others (like the US) have clamped down against the perceived threat. I think what’s disappointing is that there isn’t more self-regulation in crypto, as we really need entrepreneurs to set an example for the rest of the industry, even in lieu of official regulatory frameworks. At intimate.io, we have gone to great lengths to impose self due diligence, as we see this as a form of competitive advantage within an industry where unscrupulous behaviour is rife.
C.J. Asher – What positive industry and media coverage have you received?
Leah Callon-Butler – LOADS! Here are but a few of my favourites:
SCN Corporate Connect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9PXs_9LhuU&feature=youtu.be
Quillette Magazine: http://quillette.com/2018/02/27/blockchain-and-sex/
C.J. Asher – What social media sites can your customers follow you at?
Leah Callon-Butler – Our official handle is @intimatetoken and you can find us on Twitter, Telegram, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social channels.
My personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/leahcallonbutler/