Remojo is building tools to combat digital addiction, starting with porn

 Remojo is building tools to combat digital addiction, starting with porn

Startups geared toward men’s sexual health have been doing a brisk trade for a few years now. But while the early wave of tech businesses mostly aimed to provide (easier) access to pharmaceuticals for treating health issues like erectile dysfunction (e.g. Roman), perhaps also offering hormone tests and bespoke vitamins claimed to reduce hair loss or boost libido (Manual) — and with some branching into broader telemedicine plays over time (Ro) — more recently the category has expanded to dial up attention on men’s mental health too.

It’s a welcome — and some might say, long overdue — development.

Here the U.K. seems to be a bit of a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. Back in September, for example, we covered a seed round for U.K.-based Mojo, a subscription service for men’s sexual well-being, touting therapy instead of pills as the answer to erectile dysfunction.

And while not exclusively for men, U.K.-based Paired is offering couples therapy via an app.

Well, here’s another U.K.-based subscription service with a holistic approach to men’s sexual well-being and self care — founded in the same year as Mojo (2019): The similarly named Remojo offers tech tools and in-app programs to support men with sexual health concerns — with a first focus on helping people quit porn. (Hence ‘Re’mojo.)

Take a spin around Remojo’s website and its marketing soon implies a range of benefits could flow from quitting porn — not just time and attention saved but better in-person relationships and even, potentially, a resolution to health problems like erectile dysfunction. So there looks to be a fair amount of overlap in this burgeoning male sexual well-being space.

Aside from variations in pricing (Remojo’s subscription plans are cheaper than Mojo’s), the initial difference mostly seems to be one of emphasis; aka, how to get men interested in the first place.

On that it seems a fair bet that more men consume porn than suffer from erectile dysfunction. Although Remojo’s target is men who both watch porn and want to stop. But sole founder Jack Jenkins is quick to emphasize that the subscription service isn’t only for men with porn addiction.

Rather he says it’s designed to address a full spectrum of reasons why guys might want to stop consuming pornography — from simple self-improvement (and wanting to get more control over what’s playing on their minds); to those who find their porn consumption habits are getting in the way of real life (and real relationships); to guys with religious convictions who feel shame around using porn, however rarely they may do it, and want help to live up to a sought-for spiritual standard.

Per Jenkins, a key cohort of Remojo’s users are thus Christians, Muslims and Hindus looking for help to live up to religious ideals — and maybe also seeking a non-judgmental support community for an issue that can be taboo for them to talk about in their usual social circles.

Remojo says it’s getting circa 50,000 signups per month for its subscription programs (which cost $4.99 for one month; or less if you sign up for the three-month or year-long plan) — with users hailing from all over the world (at least where internet access is easy) — suggesting porn consumption is a very universal concern.

Currently, Remojo’s biggest markets are the U.S., U.K., Brazil and India. Content in the app is in English, so it’s also growing in other English-speaking markets, per Jenkins. While the typical Remojo user is a guy aged between 16-35 — aka, a digital native who’s “grown up with instant access to porn at all times”.

With traction like that it’s also, unsurprisingly, attracting interest from investors.

Over the past 12 months, Jenkins says Remojo has raised £1.6 million (~$2.1 million) in pre-seed funding from a number of business angels, including Jens Lapinski (former Techstars Berlin managing director and CEO of Angel Invest) and Jag Singh (also of Techstars Berlin and Angel Invest), along with a number of other angels in the banking/finance space, plus some (unnamed) founders chipping in.

It’s now in the process of raising a Series A, according to Jenkins — who says it’s targeting £5 million-£6 million (~$6.7 million-$8 million) and is expecting to close the round “by January” (hence he says they’ll “probably” skip a seed and go straight for the A).

Remojo’s website touts what it bills as a “90 day reboot” — which it says is its most popular subscription plan — for quitting porn.

If the tech really works, that would imply major user churn every three months. But the stickiness and easy accessibility of online porn means relapsing is a perennial risk and a blocker tool is always likely to be helpful, argues Jenkins. So he doesn’t sound at all concerned about revenues drying up (i.e. from succeeding in its mission of getting men to hard-quit porn).

In-app courses are another way for Remojo to provide broader, ongoing utility and appeal — hence it’s offering support for other aspects of men’s sexual health and well-being; which may have been linked to (and negatively affected by) their consumption of porn (but which won’t necessarily instantly improve if/when they do stop).

Jenkins bootstrapped the business himself initially — launching an MVP which let users custom block content on their smartphones to cut off access to sources of porn.

Now the software is available cross-device, for Android, iOS, Windows and macOS. And it bakes in a lot more than a simple adult content blocker that puts up a literal barrier to accessing online porn — such as the aforementioned behavioral change courses, CBT techniques and a wider support community.

Future features in the works include AI-driven porn content identification to enhance the software’s powers of blocking/filtration, with Jenkins saying it’s working on developing models that will use computer vision and audio to detect pornography viewing as it’s in progress so that the software will be able to intervene in real time too.

The current mix blends custom blocking with supportive resources.

“It’s a hybrid of a few things. You’ve got research around habit formation and habit breaking — using the findings and principles from that field. We have our in-app content director [Noah Church] has been coaching people to get free from porn addiction for seven years — he’s got a YouTube channel where he’s been delivering courses and coaching [for years],” Jenkins tells TechCrunch.

“One of the foundations of the structure of the app is the ‘choice model’ — which was the recovery model developed by [Dr] Paula Hall — who’s one of the leading experts, if not the leading expert, on porn and sex addiction in the U.K.”

Other bits Remojo folds into its behavioral change mix are practical user insights from the program; access to an anonymous support community of others; and tools for users to track progress and be helped to stay committed/accountable (such as an accountability partner and install/PIN protection).

A core component of its program is to start the user with a full “reboot” — aka a period of sustained abstinence from consuming porn (where Remojo’s blocking tools and accountability features clearly play a key role). The idea is to help guys get space to develop alternative habits — and here its suggestions for filling the hole left by not consuming porn includes stuff like mindfulness, exercise and participation in (porn-free) hobbies.

Jenkins says the overarching goal is changing mindsets/thinking patterns — and male self-improvement more generally — hence course content covers related/follow-on areas, such as habit change, addiction recovery and overcoming sexual dysfunction (where it’s overlapping with Mojo).

Future course content is also slated to cover broader areas like dating and help with improving a relationship/sex life with a partner, as well as courses that will aim to tailor advice for specific religious beliefs.

“And for people that are maybe in a more difficult place, [we offer help with] building a more fulfilling life so that they don’t need something like porn to fill an emotional hole,” he adds.

While some porn users may have deeper psychological issues linked to their use (such as childhood abuse), Jenkins argues that porn consumption itself may not have any deeper significance than being a “convenient” release. So it’s not always necessary to psychologize consumption.

The app therefore aims to avoid judging — putting its focus on simply supporting men to regain control over their time and attention. And, well, sticking it to the attention-sucking porn industry in the process.

“[Porn use is] not necessarily driven by any deep psychological issue — it’s just very stimulating, very compulsive material that just taps into people’s fundamental evolutionary drives and just hijacks it. So people can end up just watching porn purely because it’s just there and it’s so compelling,” he argues.

“This problem is so universally shared. It’s basically almost all men under 35 — everywhere around the world, religious, non-religious. It’s just a huge issue and it’s very, very difficult to generalize,” he adds of the pull of online porn. “You can have people who might have such a severe addiction that they might be watching porn from anything like 3-7 hours a day all the way through to someone who maybe you’re a Muslim and you watch it once a month but that’s a huge problem for you because Islam has zero tolerance for that. And it’s affecting your self esteem and disconnecting you from god and so on.

“So the spectrum is so broad that it’s very difficult to generalize. I think what’s really gratifying for me and the team is all the different stories, comments, reviews we get from people about how their life’s changing — and in different ways.”

Zooming out for a sec, concern about online porn viewing is something of a decade preoccupation of the U.K. government at this point — one that’s now driving ministers to implement sweeping online safety legislation, fuelled by a concern over the harms caused to children by easy access to inappropriate content online.

Remojo’s premise is, similarly, that if guys are exposed to limitless porn from a very young age it sets them up for problems with a range of sexual well-being issues later on (and, well, 50,000 men a month does suggest it’s onto something.)

An earlier attempt by the U.K. government to mandate age verification for accessing adult websites faltered, back in 2019, after a backlash over security and privacy concerns, and the viability of imposing and regulating age checks.

Guys opting into their own custom porn blocker and support-to-quit community (for a fee) certainly looks a lot easier to implement.

Jenkins says he formulated the idea for an app-based support tool for quitting porn after deciding to make the switch himself — not because he was addicted to porn but rather as “a conscious choice to live better and be my absolute best”.

It was while he was looking for support to quit that he came across subreddits with over a million users also seeking the same kind of support — and from there he started to realize the scale of the problem and the potential business opportunity.

“I started the process of quitting and cutting porn from my life completely and started looking for something to just put up a guardrail — and just block it and filter out all of that content on phones and computers, and there wasn’t really anything good out there,” he recounts. “So, being somewhat entrepreneurial, I started exploring the problem more — I thought I can’t be the only guy who wants to do this or who’s feeling like this — and so I started reaching out to people on Reddit through DMs who were actively talking about quitting porn, or porn addiction, or just problems with porn and the affect it has on their lives.

“I started doing interviews with them and I was blown away by — one — how many people were talking about it on Reddit. So there’s about 1.3 million people in subreddits just dedicated to, basically, quitting porn; and then also how eager they were to speak to me and share all kinds of person stories and information and how desperate they were for a solution.”

“After doing that initial user discovery I just started work on it immediately — in December 2019 — because I’d never seen that level of problem validation before for any idea that I’d ever had,” he adds.

“It started out being about blocking and then, over time, my understanding of the problem that people are facing — and actually how you help them make the behaviour change — break the habit or break the addiction, just change their behavior and how they think — there’s much more to it than just blocking.”

Just as Mojo is hoping that treatment for erectile dysfunction can be a way to reach men with wider therapy offers (including support for porn addiction), Remojo also intends its tools to be more expansive: Jenkins says it’s aiming to replicate the app-based framework it’s devising for porn so it can be reskinned and applied to tackle a range of “modern, behavioral, digital addictions and compulsions that no one’s really dealing with” — from online gambling to social media and computer gaming addiction.

“We’re going to use our framework to help people quit gambling, quit compulsive gaming and also reduce or cut social media. These will be separate brands but using the same technology, the same framework to guide people to better habits or complete abstinence from those things as well,” he says. “The exact same framework applies — we would just really change the in-app courses. But the rest of the system is exactly the same in terms of what works for habit change, behavior change and overcoming these digital addictions.”

So maybe — ultimately — Remojo will also be building products targeted at women.

(It’s also yet another sign of how far attitudes around social media have skewed negative that quitting porn and quitting Facebook are being uttered in the same breath.)

Another development on its roadmap is to create its own custom OS — one that’s minimalist by nature and aims to put the user in control over all the digital things trying to gobble up their attention.

“We want to build a custom operating system for Android phones and also for desktop devices,” he tells us, saying it will use some of the forthcoming Series A funding to start work on that with the goal, ultimately, of “releasing a handset for digital minimalists with all of these digital wellness controls built into the operating system itself”. Though that’s likely further out.

The plan for the next 12 months — when Remojo expects to be flush with Series A cash — will also be to dial up its messaging.

On that, Jenkins says it wants to “start a global conversation” to change many more minds about porn consumption — and try to normalize the notion of quitting porn so it becomes as “vanilla” and unremarkable as a person saying they don’t drink or smoke.

“What we’ll be looking to do with the Series A is… break the taboo around the topic. And make this as normal and widely accepted as saying you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t eat meat and so on. Make this lifestyle choice an acceptable mainstream topic or choice,” he adds.

Related post