Close your eyes and step into the Doritos time machine. You’re a freshman in college again.
What are you wearing? How do you look? More importantly, what heinously embarrassing saying are you uttering to sound cool as your hall mates pass by?
5 feet, clad in a Lululemon hoodie and running pants (step aside Juicy Couture tracksuit), I stood in LMU’s Sunken Gardens debating if I should post my Instagram with the caption “That awkward moment when…”
Trust me. I’m cringing, too.
The sole reason I’m revealing this absurd flashback is to shine light on how truly amazing Sahil Lavingia is. (You’re welcome, Sahil).
Only a few months after moving from Singapore to attend USC, Sahil was approached to work with, and eventually join, the Pinterest team.
Fast forward 12 months, and he decided to leave Pinterest to remove the barriers of online selling. I know, lofty task for a 19-year-old.
Gumroad’s ultimate goal is to empower digital creators to sell directly to their audiences. So if you’re a musician, writer, or an artist Gumroad will provide you with a link to sell your work through any medium you’d like.
One link. No middleman. Just your loyal fans.
After hearing Sahil’s story you probably imagine him as the stereotypical “programming nerd;” Dressed in a hoodie, working through the night as the gleam of his computer screen illuminates the pyramid of Red Bulls beside him.
As with everything Sahil does, he’s far from the norm.
Well, he does wear hoodies and code in the dark but it’s safe to say that method’s proven successful for the visionaries who came before him (Hi Zuck!).
The most contagious part about Sahil’s story is his deep commitment to the community he’s serving.
I really like the people that we are building this for. People that make the things that I consume on a daily basis.
According to Sahil, these are the three things that make Gumroad special:
- Everyone on the team fundamentally believes that creators should be self-publishers and directly sell to their consumers.
- The team’s adamant about building Gumroad to be simple and efficient for every user. From Eminem selling his latest album to a grandmother sharing a recipe book, they’re constantly working on removing barriers in the product.
- Creators are entitled to their profits. To fulfill this, Gumroad aligns with their creators rather than using a traditional marketplace model.
In addition to capitalizing on each of these values Sahil’s heavily committed to being the best CEO possible.
While he doesn’t categorize the organization as completely flat, he serves as CEO, Sahil’s a firm believer that every employee deserves a stake in the business.
The main goal is to stay as flat(ish) as possible for as long as possible.
Sahil’s take on running the team directly translates to his hiring strategies.
The objective is to target team members with leverage who are excited to come into work and grow with the company. These are the individuals who embody Gumroad’s values to their core.
When it comes to leadership, in the traditional sense of the word, Sahil avoids the prescribed strategies.
He’s completely transparent with his team, doesn’t have an office, and opts to speak in public rooms instead of holding one-on-ones.
I think I get better every day because everyone in the company is helping me get better.
This is the mentality dictating the thriving startup’s culture.
In his words, none of his team members work for him. They work for Gumroad. Sahil himself works for Gumroad.
Sahil’s the first to admit that making company decisions as a first-time founder is challenging.
From office location, to feature releases, and even the snacks in the kitchen, he’s cognizant that each choice he makes holds heavy influence for the company’s future.
His responsibilities as Gumroad’s founder made my heart race, and as he shared his vision for the future I was reminded of a quote he shared early in his career:
I didn’t want to be replaceable. I wanted to invent.
Today Gumroad empowers over 10,000 creators to sell their work online making it clear that he’s achieving that goal.