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Meet Annie Brown of Lips in Pacific Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Brown.

Annie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Lips is a cryptographic creative sharing platform for women and LGBTQ persons. We address the problem of online censorship of art, self-expression and promote the free, open and honest sharing of experiences, trauma, and pleasure as to paint a more complete picture of womanhood and sexuality, as well as providing a space where anonymity is protected, compensated and does not mean sacrificing intellectual property.

This company began as a project for an Introduction to Women’s Studies course I took while attending The College of William and Mary. The assignment was to identify a problem on campus and then solve it. I chose to address the issue that many W&M students were uncomfortable discussing sex and sexuality. To address this issue my friends and I created a print zine where women and the LGBTQ community could contribute art, poetry, essays, (anything!) to express themselves and we put it all together in a beautiful publication.

The project was so popular that (despite attempted censorship by the administration) we became an official campus publication, and opened five chapters at campuses across the SouthEast US.

Flash forward to now, after working as Communications Director for two Y Combinator startups, as well as serving as Marketing Director for The Women’s Startup Lab in Palo Alto – I decided it was time to digitize Lips and work towards building a better Internet for women.

We’ve built our MVP (lipszine.com), hosted joint events with leaders in the sex tech space (MLNP, Unbound, Future of Sex Podcast) received 200+ submissions, started designing the mobile app, and gained over 6,000 organic followers on Instagram, all with a budget of $3,000. We will be crowdfunding in March to raise funds to build our cryptographic sharing platform & marketplace.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being a company that accepts and celebrates erotic art and uncensored expression is not the easiest road to take. Reaching out to angel investors and applying to pitch competitions can be tricky. Also, with censorship algorithms on Facebook, Instagram and now Tumblr – paid social advertising is almost impossible for sex tech and sex education organizations. However, this increased censorship is what motivates the Lips team to continue building a space for those shunned by other platforms.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Lips – what should we know?
The Internet as it exists today censors expression and promotes a false view of reality, which studies have shown causes low self-esteem and other mental health issues, especially for women. The groups most affected by this are female, feminist and LGBTQ artists – as their accounts are often shadowbanned and deleted without warning.

Lips allow for the free expression of these groups. Currently, users can post on our site, and we are working on developing and implementing cryptographic and marketplace capabilities within the coming year.

We are currently developing cryptographic and blockchain features to allow users to post anonymously and protect their IP, thus moving closer to our vision of a more open and honest Internet.

Because most platforms have ages 12+ using their app, they are limited in the content they can allow. Additionally, platforms such as Instagram delete artists’ posts and accounts without warning – making promotion very challenging.

By enabling users to purchase directly from the main feed, we are disrupting how art is shared and sold online, and are the first to allow artists to promote and sell work anonymously.

I am proud of the difference Lips is making in people’s lives. I’ve been doing this for a while now, but when people come to me saying that Lips helped them to overcome trauma or feel more comfortable with their sexuality, I still get emotional.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I am sincere in my desire to help women and the LGBTQ community express themselves fully. As a young girl, I was constantly told I wasn’t good enough, that I should look different, act different and be different than who I was. I fell in love with feminist philosophy in college, because it helped me understand that I could be myself. I believe my background in women’s studies combined with my experience working for tech startups allows me to approach building this company in a pragmatic, effective and philosophical way. I also think leadership, teamwork and collaborations are key to success. I’d like to give a shoutout to our Art Director Julija Rukanskaite, as well as advisors Bryony Cole and Raj Sanghvi – these are the folks who are responsible for transforming Lips from idea to reality.

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