Frank Batten, Sr. knows a good idea when he sees one. The retired chair of Landmark Communications ran a very lucrative media company that includes Richmond’s Style Weekly. And while that alt weekly is well stocked in restaurant and futon ads, it has its share of racy content, too. A recent edition included teases for the Paper Moon "gentleman’s club" and a 900 service for "fun chat with sexy singles." In America, sex sells—well.
Try telling that to UVA’s Darden School of Business. Last week, it pulled from its Batten Institute-run business incubator (funded by a gift from Batten himself) a start-up aimed to secure online money transfers for people buying porn or gambling on the Web. Pmints, a company founded by MBA student Rafael Diaz-Tushman, generated some alumni agitation after The Daily Progress profiled it July 7. Though Darden faculty must approve incubator ventures, Dean Bob Bruner said that Pmints would no longer receive University support "because of the nature of some aspects of the business." Online porn was a $12 billion industry in 2005, according to The Third Way Culture Project, a self-described "non-partisan strategy center for progressives."
Gene Block, former UVA provost, speaking at Darden.
Currently, Darden is incubating 10 ventures. Among them: a Web-based career counseling service for undergraduates, an IT consulting company and a group that creates software promoting literacy. But complete information on current ventures was removed from the Darden incubator’s website last week as the story unfolded.
According to Bruner’s statement, Diaz-Tushman will continue to pursue Pmints anyway, adding that he "strongly believes that there is nothing inappropriate about his business." Pmints is currently beta testing its services in anticipation of a fall launch.
In a follow-up story on July 24, the Progress identified Oliver Asher as one alum who wrote to Bruner to object to Pmints. He was identified as vice president of Advancing Native Missions, a "Christian ministry organization."
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