Q&A: Adam Grayson Discusses Role as CFO of Evil Angel
LOS ANGELES — Adam Grayson remembers being a fan of Evil Angel as a teenager whose after-school job was writing code for a web-design firm.
“To me, it was always, far and away, the pinnacle of adult entertainment,” Grayson told XBIZ.
Now the New York native works closely with John Stagliano, who founded Evil Angel in 1989 and built it into one of the largest porn studios in the world. Grayson joined the company in 2009, heading the Internet department for a few years while he also worked on his MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
Today he is the Chief Financial Officer who also oversees the day-to-day operations, handling everything from technology efforts to sales and marketing endeavors. In this exclusive interview, Grayson discussed his career trajectory, his biggest challenge at Evil Angel and the future of the studio.
XBIZ: Where were you born and raised?
AG: New Rochelle, N.Y., a very boring, typical suburban childhood.
XBIZ: How did you get into the porn biz? When?
AG: I discovered computer programming and the nascent Internet in the mid-90s, and one of my first ‘accomplishments’ was writing Perl code to spam Usenet with adult ads. Keep in mind this was 1995 or 1996. Suddenly, I discovered this sort of programming (the porn kind) was much more rewarding monetarily than anything else I had done. While my after-school job in high school was writing HTML and Perl for a mainstream web-design firm, I was moonlighting as an affiliate, all while I was too young to actually walk into a porn shop.
In 1997 I was a freshman at Northwestern University, and I got a call from my former boss at my after-school job that pitched me on the idea of building a massive searchable database of details about porn movies. We would call it ‘meta-tagging’ today, but I don't think we ever used that phrase back then. So we started SearchExtreme.com, built an army of people to tag and log all of the content, and running that company was my life until 2007. We ended up selling that site to Gamelink.
XBIZ: When did you join Evil Angel as full-time staff? How did that come about?
AG: I was hired at Evil Angel in January 2009 as Director of Internet Operations to run their Internet department, and in reality, to prepare that division for the upcoming deal with Gamma (to take over administration of our sites). I knew [Evil Angel founder] John Stagliano and a number of the directors pretty well, since my company's office was neighbors with Evil Angel from 2003-2007. When their Internet department was left without a leader in late 2008, [former General Manager] Christian Mann reached out to me to see if I would be interested.
XBIZ: When did you transition into the CFO role?
AG: The week I was hired by Evil Angel, I was also accepted into the part-time MBA program at UCLA's Anderson School of Management. Luckily, John and Christian were both very encouraging, and for the next three years I worked at Evil during the day, and focused on my MBA at night. During that time the company was also changing, and I officially took over the CFO role in early 2012.
XBIZ: What are your job duties now and how have they evolved?
AG: With Christian's passing last summer I basically handle day-to-day operations at the company. John handles the creative side of things, and I worry about the boring stuff —finance, technology, operations, HR, etc. The finance and technology is really my bread and butter, but with Christian gone I am also supervising the sales and marketing initiatives company-wide.
XBIZ: What's a ‘typical’ day like for you? What are some examples of the various business you handle?
AG: I don't know if I have a ‘typical’ day, since they can vary so widely. No day or week is really ever predictable, since such a wide variety of things end up on my desk.
XBIZ: How many producer/directors are in the Evil Angel stable now?
AG: There are 18 active directors right now.
XBIZ: What's the hardest part of your job?
AG: Making sure we never get arrogant or complacent as a company.
XBIZ: What's the best part?
AG: I was a big Evil Angel fan going back to my teenage years. To me, it was always, far and away, the pinnacle of adult entertainment. So to be here now running the company with John is incredibly fulfilling both professionally and as a fan. Working with Christian and John over the past six years has been educational beyond words, and I don't think I could do this job justice without the knowledge they have imparted.
XBIZ: How do you see the future of Evil Angel?
AG: Agility, first and foremost. We won't tell customers what kind of content they want, or on what screen they want to watch it, or how they want to pay. They will tell us, and we will continue to evolve rapidly based on that feedback.