Life of a Porn ‘Star': How This Montrealer Helped Build Adult Mobile, Part Two

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There was a point where Brandon Reti quit his high-flying, big-money job as the head of the mobile department of Manwin. There he helped build it up to 20 million unique monthly visitors and $4 million in monthly revenue.

He lost interest.

He used the phrase “platinum handcuffs” to describe the end of his stay at Manwin, now known as “MindGeek” after a merger in October 2013. It’s the conglomerate that owns some of the largest and most successful pornography sites in the world, like YouPorn, PornHub and Brazzers.

Reti would fly first class everywhere, was treated like a diplomat and had 45 people working under him, continuing to churn out massive revenue for the company.

But, in mid-2012 he felt that he had done all he could and it was time to move on. Tax evasion controversies surrounded the company’s reclusive German owner Fabian Thylmann at the time, which prompted the Manwin sale for €73 million late last year.

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Looking Back

Some of the most interesting parts of the job entailed what Reti described as “human sexual anthropology,” or how he was afforded the privilege of watching the behaviour of entire nations of people. It was based on the huge amount of unique visitors that were watching videos on Manwin properties every day and the data that came with that.

“The average person is going to meet 10 to 200,000 people in their entire life, and I was watching how 20 million people a day actually acted,” Reti told BetaKit. “You’re looking at how entire countries consume pornographic content, and that’s a really, really interesting thing.”

Different cultures consume pornographic content differently, and their behaviour on the web is extremely revealing. He said some of the most pornography consumed per capita came from Utah, known as the US state where the most Mormons live, notorious for its strict chastity laws, among other cultural peculiarities.

Traffic spikes during holidays and major events were also intriguing. During the Superbowl, as one might imagine, traffic was quite low during the quarters. But once half-time hit, well, you know the story.

People have told him that his team was “probably just a bunch of misogynists in an office,” or that he was “wasting his talent” working for his employer. To that he would quickly explain his desire to create a great user experience, regardless of content. He said about 90 percent of the people would be convinced by the end, while the other ten percent wouldn’t have it.

“There’s always the people who are going to say ‘you’re evil,’ ‘you’re a terrible person,’ or ‘you’re filling the world with filth.’ I never really looked at it that way,” Reti told BetaKit. “I always looked at it as I’m delivering a need. People are going to consume adult content and if we looked at it in a way that if users are really going to enjoy then everybody’s winning.”

Anyone who wouldn’t hire him based on his resume would be making a “terrible decision.” “I have seen things that most people don’t get to see.”

Inside Manwin

Walking into into the blue and white-painted Manwin office, one might think they’re at Facebook given all the programmers hard at work on console screens. Well, besides all the pornography on the screens.

Whether its porn or selling shoes, in this day and age one doesn’t win without the best SEO, and Manwin had a team of 35 people dedicated to it while Reti was there. “That’s why Manwin has been so successful. They took the tech approach and the engineering culture and applied it to the adult industry,” said Reti. “They really broke the norm.”

Sex sells, sure, but Reti said when everybody wants a piece of a small pie, it’s a little harder than expected to achieve success. “It’s your job to make sure you’re doing a better job than your competition, and I think the method in which Manwin chose to do that really worked.”

You couldn’t act like a pig either, regardless of the type of content that one had to stare at all day. Respect for others, particularly women, was heavily enforced. Reti said his department had among the lowest turnover in the entire company, because “we treated our employees with respect and dignity and made sure people were happy.”

Moreover, he emphasized that anytime any content was uploaded that implicated rape, violence, incest or consuming alcohol, it was immediately taken down. “There are certain types of content that are not allowed to be on legitimate pornography websites and I’m very much against those things.”

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The negatives

With the positives came the negatives, and for Reti it was seeing some of the regret among some of the on-camera talent. Whereas 15 years ago a VHS tape could be forgotten, whatever goes online today is there to stay.

Some of the talent were more personable than others, while some were downright hilarious, nice people. But the frequent regret he witnessed “was just sad more than anything.”

While Reti never allowed himself to get “tainted” by the industry, he holds strong beliefs that the content can easily distort young people’s perceptions of love and healthy sexual relationships.

Moving on

He wouldn’t change any of it for the world though. After all, he helped build one of the largest and most successful adult mobile sites in the world. “It was a great time in my career and I learned so much,” he said.

The beginning of the end came about one year ago though, as Reti and dozens of others stood outside of Manwin headquarters awaiting firemen to clear a bomb threat. There he received a call from an old friend, and a future cofounder. We’ll take a closer look at his current life in part three.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Three here.

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk previously has written for the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Regina Leader Post, Techvibes and BC Business Online. Joseph often goes crazy on twitter during NHL and NFL games.