The latest Berlin-based start-up app idea has taken the online dating principle to the sex industry. Peppr.it, launched on April 1, allows prostitutes to upload profiles of themselves that potential clients nearby can browse.
Clients can search for male or female "Pepprs," and adjust their filters for special services and body type. They can then send an enquiry and make a date.
The prostitutes do not pay to put their profiles online, while clients pay the website a €5 or €10 booking fee.
The app was co-founded by Pia Poppenreiter, who got the idea after walking through a red-light area in Berlin on a winter night. "I was walking down Oranienburger Strasse – I know it sounds cheesy, but it's the truth – it was chilly and I saw the poor girls on the streets, and I thought, why isn't there an app? It's not efficient to wait outside," she told The Local.
"We're trying to revolutionize the image of sex work in general," she said. "We're trying to get it away from its shabby image."
Poppenreiter and the other Peppr.it founders work with escort agencies and speak to the prostitutes by phone before they put their profiles online, in an attempt to ascertain whether they are forced or not.
"We have a short conversation to get the feeling that this is voluntary and they are independent sex workers," she said – although she acknowledged the company cannot guarantee this.
"We try to ask them – you kind of find out in a conversation whether they're doing it on a voluntary basis – we ask them what they did before, whether they've always worked voluntarily and so on," she said.