Gumroad is a pretty cool e-commerce platform that also helps build an audience. As the website itself states, “Gumroad is for independent writers, designers, software developers, musicians, artists, teachers, filmmakers, and anyone in-between. Whether you sell digital goods or physical goods, you can use Gumroad. Simply put, if you make stuff for people to buy — Gumroad is for you.”
Gumroad founder, Sahil Lavingia, took time out of his schedule to answer my questions.
Mike: Where did the idea for Gumroad come from?
Sahil: Quite simply: I wanted to sell an icon I had designed in PhotoShop. For just a buck, to just my audience. I looked around and couldn’t find an easy way to do that. There were huge marketplaces and things, but I just wanted a link. So I built Gumroad.
Mike: Prior to launching Gumroad, you worked at Pintrest. What was it like to be an early employee there and did you learn lessons that you could apply at Gumroad?
Sahil: It was great! I learned a lot, shipped a lot of product, and got a ton of feedback. I also learned about being an early employee–what I wanted from the company I worked for–so that when I started growing Gumroad, I had that perspective.
Mike: Your Linkedin Profile states that Gumroad has “…put more than $77,000,000 in the pockets of musicians, artists, writers, and more.” Amazing! How does that feel to be responsible for this?
Sahil: We should update that! It’s over $175,000,000 now! It feels great. But there’s a lot of work to do! I’m hopeful we can get to that first B in the next 3-4 years.
Mike: I’m a domainer at heart. I was pleased to see you own your own name as a domain at sahillavingia.com. What is your philosophy on owning your own name? Should everyone attempt to do that? What can we expect from your musings when subscribing?
Sahil: Yes! It was a little easier with my relatively unique name. It just keeps things simple. Instead of having to invent a brand, it’s just my name. Easy! With my newsletter, I want to share thoughts about the creative process. As I write, paint, and of course ship software–the differences and similarities and how they all interconnect for me.
Mike: At the time, when you launched Gumroad, how did you promote it and enable the business to gain some traction? That seems like a difficult task.
Sahi: Honestly, a lot of cold emails. Just finding people already selling stuff in a janky way, or people with audiences that weren’t selling stuff yet–and letting them know Gumroad existed now. That is really it. A lot of that.
Over time, people started to know what Gumroad was and it became easier. But I still do that today!
Mike: I imagine the are some top sellers using Gumroad. People that really rake in the sales. I won’t ask you to reveal numbers, but can you tell us about any of these top sellers?
Sahil: Yes, we have creators that are multi-millionaires off their Gumroad sales. Just last month someone made almost $900,000–in a single month!
It’s all about building an audience that trusts you. It has to have a significant size, sure, but it’s more important to prime them for your upcoming launch.
There are no hacks or secrets. It’s a lot of time, hard work, and giving away your learnings as you grow–so that you have a dedicated audience when you’re ready to sell your product.
Mike: It’s one thing to start a company as a founder, but quite another to run a successful company as CEO. Was it a natural transition for you? What challenges or lessons can you share?
Sahil: It’s not too different. The focus is still the same: ship a great product. Build a great team.
It’s easier if anything, because now we have thousands of creators telling us what we need to build, and a lot of data to learn from.
Mike: Are there any changes or evolutions in the internet or technology that you are anticipating and will need to adapt to for long term success?
Sahil: Honestly, no. I am just constantly iterating on Gumroad. Not trying to scope out some grand future, but betting on the obvious stuff: more mobile usage, for example. But really we’re a nimble startup, so we can react to change pretty quick.
Mike: Where did the name “Gumroad” come from and does it have any meaning?
Sahil: My mom 🙂 – I like names that take two words and combine them. It makes it easier to remember and spell, in my opinion. So…yeah. Nothing too deep!
Mike: What is one book that you have read that has impacted you and you would recommend to others? Why?
Sahil: The Golden Compass is my favorite book of all time. That whole series made a pretty profound impact on me, I think.
I won’t recommend non-fiction, because everyone already does that 🙂 – read more fiction!
I just started following Sahil on Twitter, and appreciate the data he shares and his openness in updates.
Thanks for interviewing Sahil, Mike. It’s interesting to learn more about him and Gumroad from your perspective.
[…] If you are interested in downloading a copy, visit this link at Gumroad. […]