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Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

OnlyFans, the online creator platform known for its adult content, is struggling to find outside investors, according to multiple sources.

Between the lines: Sex sells, based on company financials leaked to Axios, but it also scares off venture capitalists.

OnlyFans remains in market, seeking what a source close to the company refers to as a "strategic partner."

  • The Raine Group, a merchant bank focused on tech and telecom, this past spring began helping OnlyFans to solicit investors.
  • Several deep-pocketed firms quickly passed, not even engaging in serious due diligence.
  • The money it's hoping to raise would partially cash out majority owner and porn mogul Leo Radivinsky, while providing management with what one venture capitalist calls "more legitimacy."
  • OnlyFans declined to comment for this story.

By the numbers: Any other company with growth like OnlyFans would be able to raise big money in a matter of minutes.

What follows is rounded data from a pitch-deck that was compiled at the end of March. The 2021 figures are based on run-rate through the end of Q1, while 2022 figures are OnlyFans projections:

Gross merchandise value (GMV):

  • 2020: $2.2 billion
  • 2021: $5.9 billion
  • 2022: $12.5 billion

Net revenue:

  • 2020: $375 million
  • 2021: $1.2 billion
  • 2022: $2.5 billion
  • Over 50% of OnlyFans revenue in March came from paid subscriptions, while more than 30% came via chats. The rest was a combination of tips/streams and paid posts for free accounts.

Free cash flow:

  • 2020: $150 million
  • 2021: $620 million
  • 2022: $1.2 billion

Total amount paid to creators since inception: $3.2 billion

  • More than 300 creators earn at least $1 million annually.
  • Around 16,000 creators earn at least $50,000 annually.
  • More than seven million "fans" spend on OnlyFans each month. It has even more users who only consume free content.

In short, OnlyFans has a porn problem, even though it never once mentions porn in its pitch-deck (something that multiple investors called "disingenuous.").

  • Some VC funds are prohibited from investing in adult content, per limited partnership agreements.
  • Several investors are concerned about minors creating subscription accounts, although the company says it has controls in place to prevent that.
  • Some investors say they could get past the porn, but worry that the company's reputation would prevent it from attracting brand partners (despite this week announcing a "safe for work" product that features its growing number of clothed creators).
  • A counterargument is that Snap is now plastered with advertising, and valued at $115 billion, even though it began as a way for teens to share nudes.

The bottom line: OnlyFans is one of the creator economy's largest and most successful platforms. And investors are content to watch its success from afar.

Go deeper

Estimate: Revenues would drop before increasing under Dems' tax plan

Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has submitted a draft proposal on raising taxes. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Democrats plan to raise $1 trillion over 10 years by making the federal income tax code more progressive. But they won't get the money quickly — their plan actually decreases total income tax revenues in 2023. And when the money does come, it will come from the very rich.

Why it matters: Estimates released by the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation on Tuesday show the House Democrats' plan raising $12 billion less than the current tax regime in 2023. But it will raise $133 billion more in 2029.

Federal judge blocks Biden administration's Title 42 policy

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a public health order that fast-tracked deportations of migrant families at the southern border.

Why it matters: President Biden has faced significant backlash for retaining the Trump-era policy, which was implemented as a COVID containment measure. The expulsions denied adult migrants and families the chance for asylum.

38 mins ago - World

Blinken, Austin call out China at event on Australia security pact

Blinken and Austin. Photo: Andrew Harnik/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned China's "aggressive" and "destabilizing" behavior at a press conference Thursday, as they inaugurated a major new trilateral security partnership with Australia and the U.K.

Why it matters: China was not explicitly mentioned in President Biden's announcement of the AUKUS alliance, through which the U.S. and the U.K. will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines as part of a broader effort to ensure "peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific."