In November, OnlyFans chief marketing officer Amrapali “Ami” Gan received some surprising news: Tim Stokely, founder of the adult content site, told her he was passing the CEO baton to her. Stokely wasn’t just stepping back from management. He had previously sold his entire stake in the startup, Gan confirmed in her first in-depth interview since taking the CEO’s spot in December.
Stokely’s exit, unusual for a founder at a high-growth startup, was just the latest surprising turn of events for OnlyFans. Started in 2016 as a niche website used by sexually explicit performers to get paid directly by online fans, the site became a household name—and a profitable company generating $391 million a year in revenue—after the pandemic struck in 2020, all without raising a dollar of venture capital.
Now Gan, at the helm of the secretive startup, is trying to guide OnlyFans to its next act as waning pandemic restrictions sap some of the demand for online entertainment and a crop of new startups comes after its lucrative business.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, we just rose to fame over the pandemic,’ which, yeah, we kind of did,” Gan said in an interview over a Google video chat. But, she maintained, the period of lockdowns was also “hitting fast-forward” on a business that was already on the rise and has continued to grow.