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Poppenreiter is aware of the struggle she faces in trying to distance Ohlala's business model from its predecessor's."I understand why people are emotional [about it], and what I am not trying to do is tell them we are right or they are wrong.I am just asking them to reconsider how they view those things." Poppenreiter's way of doing this at SXSW involves a deliberately provocative move.
Go to the website and you'll be greeted with an image of a man and a women just about to kiss, before an explanation of how the service works.
Further down, a small note exclaims, "Ohlala is not an escort service.
Escorts are not welcome." I sat down with co-founder and CEO Pia Poppenreiter at SXSW to figure out what Ohlala is, and whether it deserves its salacious reputation.
Before we can fully understand Ohlala, we need to learn a little more about how it came to be.
Poppenreiter started out in finance, originally working as an investment banker. Later, she decided to go to Berlin and study business ethics while also working as a research assistant at her university. I'm from an entrepreneurial family, and I grew up with the family mood being dictated by the performance of the company.
So I wanted more of a safe [professional] environment."The resolve for a safe career didn't last too long.Despite never wanting to launch a startup, she's already on her second one.The first was Peppr, an app that is very definitely a service for those seeking sexual encounters.The idea for Peppr came to her after she saw sex workers on the streets in Germany (where prostitution is legal) and she thought there must be a better way to connect clients with providers, one that allowed people to avoid working the streets.Peppr is still running, but Poppenreiter is no longer involved.With one sexual-encounter app on your résumé, it's understandable that when people see "paid dating" in a state where prostitution is illegal, they might read a little something between the lines.