Is New ‘Uber for Escorts’ App Rendevu the New Rentboy.com?
Rendevu is a mobile web app and on-demand platform for adult services that hopes to make the sex industry safer for both clients and escorts. The app connects sex workers, male and female, to users.
The app lets escorts display real time availability, list their prices and display ratings including profile accuracy. The app also pre-authorizes credit cards to ensure safety and confirm the payment before services are rendered. The appointment process involves an ID confirmation by the escorts which adds another layer of security to the arrangement. Once the appointment is over, the data is erased, wiping away any evidence that the rendezvous ever happened.
It’s super safe, because everyone is vetted and customers have to put their credit card details into the app before they receive their booking,” says Mila Jovi, a Sydney-based escort agency owner who uses the app.
“I had one case before Rendevu where one of my girls turned up and the client didn’t have enough cash to pay. This eliminates all of that and makes safety not as big of a concern as it has been.”
Widely considered the “Uber for escorts,” Rendevu has secured $700,000 in a recent round of funding, making it the only funded app in the sex industry.
“We’re a technology company entering adult services, not the other way around,” says Reuben Coppa.”This gives us a unique perspective on the industry and helps us solve safety, efficiency and usability issues effectively.”
Although estimates for the exact size of the sex industry are difficult to come by, the most conservative studies peg the market between $56 to $186 billion in annual revenue.
App stores controlled by Apple, Google, and Microsoft tend to be conservative when it comes to sexual content on their platforms. This has a huge negative impact on adult-oriented apps in the past.
Developers often have to find creative ways to get their apps on mobile screens. Rendevu, for example, is available as a web-app that works within the browser and doesn’t need to be downloaded from the app store.
Is Rendevu the next Rentboy.com?
Since it’s not really an app, Rendevu reminds us even more of Rentboy.com.
In August 2015, the NYPD and Department of Homeland Security together raided the offices of Rentboy.com, simultaneously arresting seven senior staff members. Company CEO Jeffrey Hurant and the other six employees were arrested and charged with conspiring to violate the Travel Act, a rarely-acknowledged antiquated law related to traveling over state lines for sex.
Special Agent Susan Ruiz used words like “internet brothel” and “global criminal enterprise” to describe Rentboy.com, an organization that did very little to hide the nature of its operations.
In October 2015, Hurant pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution and, on behalf of the business, one count of money laundering. The government recommended a prison term in the range of 15 to 21 months. The government has already seized roughly $1.5 million in proceeds from the business across various bank accounts. Hurant’s sentencing is scheduledfor July 21.
Will an app like Rendevu be targeted the same way as Rentboy.com? Both sites promote a safe space for sex workers. Since Rendevu will no doubt be used at a global level to bring together escorts and clients, couldn’t it be targeted just like Rentboy.com was? Or, because it primarily serves a heterosexual population, will it be safe? Was Rentboy.com just the victim of institutional homophobia?
Either way — given the funding boost, it will be interesting to see how the new funding will affect Rendevu — and what it could me for technology firms and investors.