Porn Hub Creator Reinvents Himself As Socially Conscious Entrepreneur

By on September 10, 2017 in ArticlesBillionaire News

Keishi Kameyama is the founder and publisher of Pornhub.com. Recently he was asked to address undergraduates at Japan's most prestigious university – the country's answer to Harvard – about how to run a socially responsible business. Nope, I'm not lying. That really happened. It is quite a turnaround from the days when he was regularly rejected for bank loans and not included in business deals. He was a pariah because of the adult nature of his business. Today, Kameyama is being hailed as an internet pioneer and role model. His company, DMM.com started as a porn site, but over the years has transformed into a large array of sites and a start-up incubator that have made him one of the richest people in Japan.

Kameyama grew up in a small seaside town in Japan. His parents ran a cabaret where men paid for the pleasure of the company of the club's hostesses in hopes that it might lead to sex. It wasn't a brothel, but it wasn't far from it. The women who worked in the club often roomed in the family's home and ate dinner with them.

Kameyama dropped out of accounting school around 1980 and moved around from job to job. He worked as a partially nude dancer at a gay male strip club for awhile and once sought a job at a hospital washing cadavers. Eventually he opened a video rental shop. By the time he was in his late 20 he owned several video rental stores. But the Japanese version of Blockbuster moved to his town and he knew he could not compete, so Kameyama turned to making movies rather than renting them. He chose to make porn films because it was cheaper to shoot those than a regular feature film.

He set up his porn studio in an empty supermarket and used regular home video recorders – thousands of them running 24/7 – to copy the adult films from master tapes. He made video stores an offer they could not refuse. The stores only had to pay him for the tapes they sold. He could easily tape over the unsold stock. Next, Kameyama came up with the idea for a cash register that looked like today's iPads. He gave it to the video stores for free, so long as they would share their sales records with him. That's how he became the most knowledgeable person in Japan at knowing what people's porn preferences were.

Of course, the breakthrough really came when he went online. In 1998, when he did, fewer than one in five households in Japan had access to the internet. Getting online early allowed Kameyama to get control of Japan's porn market. Within a decade more than one million users were paying to stream Pornhub.com films. DMM.com now sells half of the $1 billion of adult videos purchased in Japan annually. With all of those customers, he began looking for other things his primarily male audience would want to buy.

In 2009, he bought a struggling online stock brokerage. He spent nearly $100 million turning it into Japan's most popular platform for trading foreign currencies. DMM was catering to sex and money.

After that, Kameyama started to expand into more family friendly enterprises. Today, the 56-year-old is married with two kids. He has a net worth of $3.5 billion, making him the ninth richest person in Japan. Kameyama doesn't go in for the trappings of wealth. He rides a bicycle to work.

For Americans, it seems strange that the man who set up an online mall for porn movies has attained such widespread public acceptance, but Japan is not as puritanical as the United States. The Japanese have always had a bigger tolerance for pornography.

Over the years, Kameyama also diversified his business. DMM is now involved in video games, an online English school, and solar farms. In 2016, porn was less than one third of DMM's $1.7 billion in sales. Revenue is growing at 30% each year. DMM.com's portal has 27 million registered users across all of his businesses.

Kameyama has remained notoriously private over the years. He never allows photographs to be taken of him without obscuring his face. He started giving interviews a few years ago because there were rumors he was a yakuza gangster. He wanted to put an end to those rumors.

And that's how Keio University came to ask him to come and speak about socially conscious entrepreneurship and his investments in Africa.

Articles Written by Amy Lamare
Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based writer covering business, technology, entertainment, philanthropy, and pop culture. She spent 8 1/2 years covering the entertainment industry for www.hsx.com. She attended the University of Southern California where she majored in Creative Writing. An avid long distance runner, weekends she can be found running the streets of Los Angeles training for 1/2 and full marathons. Follow her on Facebook.
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