Zivity: Contemporary Nude Art Platform to Liberate The World’s Allure
The Renaissance period, still a wellspring of inspiration, is known for celebrating human anatomy. Many women posed for the great Michelangelo - the synonym of nude art. During that age, nobody considered it disgraceful, but things have changed nowadays… Cyan Banister was also inspired by the idea of celebrating our bodies, models, photographers who can be the contemporary Michelangelo, but no one points that out. So, she decided to make a place where sensuality will be celebrated.
Zivity is a platform where models can celebrate their sexiness, photographers can be noticed, and fans can show their appreciation by voting. After lots of reluctance, Cyan convinced America and the world that nude art should be appreciated with an open mind.
What used to be thought of as obscene is now considered a higher form of art and all because of Cyan! Read the story of the heroine Cyan Banister, and find out how she changed the opinion of the whole world.
The Dreams Under the Bridge
Cyan Banister was born in 1977. At just 15, she was homeless and was sleeping under bridges or abandoned houses after her mother left her. To avoid being a ward of the state, Cyan had to find a permanent place to live, or in other words, to figure out adulthood in just a couple of days.
Given the cards she was dealt, Cyan never dreamed of opening up her own company because she never looked that far into the future. She wanted to go to New York, the city of opportunities, where even the roads would be paved with gold. Having nothing to lose, she decided to hitchhike, and while she didn’t end up in New York she reached Luckvile, New Mexico. And that made all the difference.
Cyan in Luckville
Her first job in New Mexico was slinging mashed potatoes at a cafeteria, where the elderly came by while on tour. At this humble job, Cyan learned a lot of things that later shaped her as a person. While she was working there, Cyan invented a game for herself to pass the time. Her game was simple; she had to reach predetermined and easily achievable goals, like making some extra 25 cents. When Cyan made more money and achieved her tiny goals, she realized she could perfect her skills if she continued to set more rules. And, so she did. She looked at each day as an extra opportunity. She got better and better at her game, and later, she even named her game - Capitalism. And while she enjoyed her game, she was just like any other compassionate young adult - a socialist.
Soon after, Cyan realized that socialism is only an abstract idea that works in theory but never in practice. Instead, she realized that she was essentially an individualist. Thus, she disposed of her branded clothing, not wanting to be a walking advertisement, and firmly stood against the norms of society. She started reading business books and started her first business - making and selling T-shirts. For the first time in her life, she started to dream big – to be her own boss.
One day her friend invited her over, and when she went to his place, she saw something she had never seen before – a laptop. Something immediately sparked inside her, and she was extremely curious to see what it did. Her friend showed her the power of the internet and connected her with lots of people worldwide.
After this encounter, Cyan knew what she wanted to learn about, and that was technology. Not having proper knowledge for a tech job, she didn’t get her hopes up. But, as luck would have it, her friends encouraged her to try at the very bottom, and climb her way up. And so, she did. For her - it meant a new game.
The Real Path Paved with Gold
Her first tech job was registering domain names, at Extreme Internet. One day the co-founder of the firm came to her desk and told her that she was too smart to be registering domain names and left her a guide for system administration. After initial reluctance, she finally read the book and it changed her entire life. She learned about the power of root on a UNIX operating system.
She became addicted to coding, and couldn’t stop reading. One day she embraced herself and tried to put into practice what she learned. With no prior vocational school, she managed to change the passwords in the firm just by reading that book. Her boss promoted her and taught her how the internet works, BSD, setting a router, and whatnot. Over the next two years, Cyan raised her salary from $8 to $15 per hour. However, in 1999 she decided that she needed a change, so she moved to San Francisco - Silicon Valley, the center of Technological inventions.
What Does the New Millennium Hold?
Once she moved to San Francisco, she found a few interesting tech jobs. She didn’t have much free time, but when she did, she’d pull all-nighters coding. As a result, she raised her salary from $18 to $35. She never stopped learning new things, regardless of the salary, and her only interest was her game. Along with Scott Weiss and Pak Peterson from the tech firm, IronPort, Cyan reached a six-digit salary. Scott was the only one to whom she confided that she dropped out of school, and therefore she hasn’t a college diploma. Once she reached a million, the rest is history.
Soon she met her future husband Scott Banister, an angel investor, who introduced her to the world of investing. Since then Cyan has been among the most prolific investors with investments in SpaceX, Uber, Postmates, Thumbtack, Niantic, and many more. Once these companies grew, Cyan had to figure out what to do next.
Giving Life to the Lifeless
Having enough experience to start her own business, Cyan decided to create something meaningful. In 2007, along with her husband Scott Banister and Jeffrey Wescott, Cyan founded Zivity – a subscription-based social networking site that celebrates pin-up art through photography and models. Amateur models and photographers can post their pictures on the platform and attract fans.
The idea behind Zivity was to embrace nudity as the best form of art. Models are often criticized for doing their jobs, and it was high time to put an end to such opinions. Besides, no one appreciates the people behind the cameras who go through the laborious creative processes. Their loyal fans can become closer to their idols, as they will see them in a private experience, and show their appreciation by voting for them. The message that Cyan wanted to convey was that we should embrace our bodies with kindness and enjoy our sexuality.
Was America Ready for Zivity?
The obstacles on Cyan’s journey never stopped but she had proven to be relentless. The first time she launched Zivity, was on the stage of the first edition of TechCrunch 40, in the presence of a predominantly male audience. Since she presented her idea of nudity, the investors were initially reluctant about it as many of them related nude art to porn sites.
Once the idea of Zivity started to derail, Cyan decided to speak up. She fought hard to prove that Zivity was not a site for obscene and vulgar content, rather an appreciation for the nude form and art. A platform, where art patrons, models, and photographers can come together and enjoy their shared passion.
Cyan tried hard to sell her idea to the investors. But just when it looked like her luck was running out, BlueRun Ventures and Founders Fund backed the company.
What made Zivity an unconventional business, besides their radical subculture, is the unconventional payment method. Fans expressed their support by microdonations and monthly support. More than 40% of the gross revenue is given straight to models and photographers and more votes - bigger income.
To enter the site, the model and photographers must be older than 19 years due to the R-rated content.
Zivity Grew Up Quickly
Cyan proved to be a leader by example. Sometime later in 2008, she decided to stand behind the objectives, too. Many people understood her move as an advertisement, but for Cyan it was an act of liberation. She attracted fans, indeed, but also conveyed a body acceptance image. Cyan’s company grew quickly and was the talk of the town in its first years of existence. To further promote her company, Cyan promised to post her own nude photos on the site. A promise she made good on! Shortly after, the board of Zivity decided to launch Top Fans, a celebrity-oriented website. This meant a divide among the employees as well, and most of them went with Top Fans. The main backers of Zivity – BlueRun Ventures, and Founders Fund have shares in the second company after the split. Over the first two rounds, the company raised $8 million in funding.
We went back in the past, and now we have reached the present. It seems that at present, Zivity is no longer active but it was a force to be reckoned with while it lasted. It paved the way for destigmatizing nudity in society, and while it’s no longer available, it helped launch Cyan’s career. Today she is a successful Angel investor and entrepreneur, with investments in companies like SpaceX, Uber, Affirm, and Postmates to name a few.
Cyan’s story takes you on a whirlwind of emotions, as she went from a homeless teenager to a successful entrepreneur and investor. She shows that it’s important to get back up when life pushes you down and when one has a dream, there’s no force strong enough to stop them.