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Episode #22 - Sahil Lavingia - Founder & CEO of Gumroad
July 15, 2020
Podcast

Episode #22 - Sahil Lavingia - Founder & CEO of Gumroad

Gumroad


Sahil - Gumroad - Spotlight Podcast-MP3 for Audio Podcasting...

Thu, 6/11 10:50AM • 55:54


SUMMARY KEYWORDS

creators, people, memberships, build, product, business, tools, digital products, feature, thinking, price tag, redesigning, big, code, automate, sell, launch, education, easy, add


SPEAKERS

Sahil, Ben Tossell


Ben Tossell  00:00

Everybody, it's Ben here, founder of make bat, a platform teaching individuals and companies how to build custom software workflows and tools without writing code. This show explores the people behind the no code tools and the stories of folks using them to automate work and launch companies. Alright, welcome to the show. We have Sahil, the CEO of gumroad. Welcome.


Sahil  00:22

Hey, how's it going? Thanks for having me.


Ben Tossell  00:25

Yeah, of course, Tony. Well, just give us a brief intro about who you are. And welcome to this. Yeah, so I


Sahil  00:32

run a company called gumroad started it in 2011. To sell this pencil icon. I designed that and since then, we've sent over 200 and I think $75 million to creators of all stripes, designers, writers, musicians, filmmakers, engineers, anyone that wants to sell stuff that they make directly to their audience, typically on social media or through their blog or newsletter. We help them do that. And yeah, that's kind of that's what that's what I do, run that company, and then I mess around on the side tweak See, everything's every saw


Ben Tossell  01:03

nothing you'll get to the games really gone up a few notches this year, I feel like you must be doing some some social media courses or something, you'll get tickets and things from what's the what? what's the what's the game plan now? What is it just? Do you have stuff? You actually have the strength to do it? Oh,


Sahil  01:22

I think yeah, I think you know, anything that you do you want to think about how you do it and measure it and iterate on it, you know. And so Twitter is kind of like Twitter has an insane feedback loop, right? Because you can tweet something and get feedback on it. So I think in terms of if you're looking for this sort of growth trajectory in terms of a skill, it's really good for that because you can just do it. So often, there's pretty low cost, potentially high reward and you could sort of iterate as long as you're comfortable doing that you can iterate pretty quickly and get sort of smarter and better. And I don't know what my Goal is necessarily Besides, like, I have a lot of ideas around building businesses and all, you know, there's so many different parts of building a business, which is why I think I can just tweak stuff all day long. It's because there's just, it's, I mean, it's constantly learning stuff, you know, every day, I feel like I learn new things, or I refine my thinking. And so I share those and then people give me feedback. And so I think right now, it's just like, I want to become really knowledgeable about like, how to build a business from start to finish. And Twitter's just kind of a tool to help me do that in sort of parallel lets me build a big audience. And, you know, if I decide to publish a book or whatever, like I assume that that will be that will be useful as well. Yeah,


Ben Tossell  02:44

I mean, I'm, I'm in a weird phase at the minute where there's a weird phase. It's just a phase where I want to have like a process for everything. So I know that okay, if I'm thinking about starting a new project, but it has to have These three bullet points. These are the things I have to answer for each thing. Or if I'm thinking about pricing. This is like the bite size thing. And I've got Ray Dalio principles on my phone. I just bought the hardback to just have it right next to me Not that I've opened it in the last few days, but like, I've gotten there to try for a while myself and I want to have this. I don't know what you'd call it like a guide of bite sized lessons to navigate, like, personal life stuff and business life stuff. And maybe tweets are a good way to think, do you ever do like categorize them, find them somewhere that you prefer not to or just


Sahil  03:41

not at the moment. I'm such a bad note taker and documentation person. And so I hope one day that Twitter like, makes really good search so that I can say, hey, show me all my notes about community or like marketing or profitability and they'll just be like, you're all those You know, the tweets that you have about this, which is basically kind of like my open notes in a way. Because Personally, I actually don't keep very many notes at all. I just kind of just live my life do stuff. I think like, it's so hard to the problem that I have notes is that it's so hard to ever go back to them and like, use them. Like I had notes on like, Okay, what kind of car do I want to buy? Like, what are the things I should check for? Because I bought a car and they're like, things that I don't like about it. And I know I'm gonna buy a car and totally forget that that note even exists, you know, so, so, I don't know, for me, it's like just doing stuff tweeting stuff, getting people to almost like put pressure, like, respond positively, positively, negatively. I feel like that helps me get it in my brain so that I don't have to, I don't have to like go to a notepad or like go to, you know, a folder in my in a folder in a folder to find something. I just, you know, when you're building a business, you're you have to react so quickly. You're not really thinking about like, oh, let me consult my like You know, plethora of notes about you know, yeah, I mean,


Ben Tossell  05:04

I'm, I'm probably the saying that I'm an awful note taker, as in, I can't take notes or, like, I'm just bad at them or just got like 500 that are like semi half sentences that I've never looked at again ever. But then it's often when someone when I've got like a reference point and be like, oh, that relates to that thing. So I love the idea of the the mental models and all that stuff and thinking, Oh, yeah, I'd love to just know every single mental model, or like the hundreds and whatever that manga talks about, but yeah, no, those I know how to say, Oh, yeah, that's this thing. But I just can't think like that, because it's reading notes and then making that a mess. I've got a, like, a specific reference point to one of those things, I think.


05:53

Yeah.


Sahil  05:54

I mean, for me, too, like there's so many lessons that I pull from random places, you know, so I'll Building a product feature and I'll be like, Oh, this is like that book, that science fiction thing that I read about, you know, or like this painting video that I watched or like, they're all these weird, like, so it's not as structured i think is like, oh, like, let me go look at like, I'm dealing with like, redesigning receipts on gumroad. So like, let me consult my like, e commerce. I know, it doesn't really work like that. And so it's hard to I don't know, I've always struggled. I've always struggled with that idea of like, of like, using Rome research or something to like, really kind of, like build out. I also just think people want to know people want to know what they know, you know, it's, it's really sort of like, I think tempting to be like, okay, like, let's, let's like write down all the things that I know map it out and like, you want to know what's happening inside your head. And I think it's sort of like that desire to to like kind of understand why you make certain decisions and like how you think about things that's super appealing to people. I just don't know how possible that is to do in that format. Like, I think the brain is probably a lot more complicated than, you know, the sort of some software would be able to figure out.


Ben Tossell  07:06

Yeah, I mean, even like, talking about wanting to have all these different principles a little bite sized, I see bites because I want to be able to like look know about it straightaway not have to think or read so much about something I'm trying to do this and make it now I just mentioned before we started recording that like I'm trying to have Okay, here are the key pieces of the business selling the kids on education piece is online, like our partner program. Here's the deep dive content we're going to be doing. And these are like all core pieces that go to the business. And as I'm even doing this my hands I'm like in my head and I'm looking at a tree. So I've been writing it down a notion and just being like, What the fuck is this? I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just going to like write a list of like, start here and here but it doesn't work like that. So I've been using my Nero was what it was cool to have, like, mega bad. And then is this thing and this is this broken down? And, you know, there's so many things to think of when running a business. How How do you manage that sort of stuff of like, do you have Herrick here are key components because all of the people who work with you gumroad some version of part time, right? And then a contract basis and just like how does it how do you manage all of that and because the government processes a lot of a lot of payments, right, there's a lot of money goes through the platform, and it's not like some small side project where people mining comparison is a lot smaller to think about and manage, but I feel like there's a million pieces so I can't imagine what is Yeah,


Sahil  08:54

yeah, I mean, yeah, we're looking you know, 9 million revenue, be our hangar Revenue business. So it's like pretty getting up there in size. You know, it's certainly not like, a side project anymore. And like, you know, we have to sort of take it seriously, right? And we get, you know, lots of like, you know, car testing and like DDoS attacks and all these sorts of things, sort of, we're at that scale where that's, you know, happens, like, every week, basically, like, it's a constant kind of thing. So you have to treat it like a business at that point. Yeah, I mean, I so so one of the exercises I had to do this is like, a few years ago, when we when we were like, not doing well, and we were thinking about selling the business and I wanted to kind of pitch people on like, Hey, you know, if you bought gumroad, you know, stripe or Patreon, or Kickstarter or whatever, like this is, you know, you're gonna have people within the company, they're gonna have to take it over. So this is like, let me make a list. And let me just tell you all the things that I do on a day to day daily, weekly, quarterly, yearly basis, right that just like operationally is required to run This business things like, you know, making sure there's enough money in our bank accounts, paying, you know, up at every quarter, you know, like looking at, you know, fraud sort of metrics in our dashboard and making sure you know, reviewing accounts every day doing support, like all of these sorts of things. And so that was a really good exercise for me to be like, okay, like, if I were, if I were to sell the company, or you could think of it, like, if I were going to give it to somebody, I'm going to go away for six months. Like, go to a beach and surf or something. And like, I just want to give someone the business like, they need to be able to run it, just like I was running it, if not better, like, here's like, you know, here's all the things you would have to understand here, all the passwords, etc. I mean, I think one of the really nice things I'm sure you already have this, but because you're remote, and you have distributed a distributed team, a lot of this is already there, right? A lot of it is like well, you have to share it, you know, using one password or what have you. So, that's so much better than like when we had a co located office, you'd be like, Hey, can you tweet This is just like, okay, like, what's it, like, I don't have it, I'm not logged in, where's the password like, this is such a pain. When you're remote, you sort of automatically adopt a lot of these a lot of these tools. So that's been, that's been a great thing. But basically, I got that document and it was way too long. And I was like, I can't sell this company like this, I would sell it. And then like, an hour later, they call me being like, Hey, I don't understand how to, you know, it was just so much knowledge in my head. And so this document kind of get longer and longer, longer and longer. And then it was, it was actually the best thing because I had a very specific goal, which was like, how can I make this document really short? Right, like, what can I automate? What can I, you know, turn into an internal tool, or, you know, instead of me remembering to do it, I get an email every Monday or every Friday that's like, hey, do this, you know, let me know when you've done this kind of thing. And so I sort of, I did a lot of that and got that page basically down to down to a single page. Document down to a single page. But in terms of gumroad itself, it is honestly like I try to keep it really, really, really simple. The way I think of it is like, is like, like McDonald's, where it's like this incredibly complicated business that you know, but because they have a franchise model, everything they decide to do, they have to teach 10s of thousands of, like, you know, like introducing a new item requires literally like millions of people having to learn how to assemble that item, you know, so there's just like this insane cost. And that's kind of how we think about it, like everything we do, if we say, Hey, we're gonna do memberships, that's a big thing that we're working on, or education can get into at the end of the year. I just, those are big, big, big deals, you know that that because every single employee, every single customer even right, like I have to now gumroad is almost like a franchise. Every creator is its own business, you know, so we're kind of having to teach people how to use these tools. And so Ben from Pinterest actually gave me this great line. And he's like, anything we build, we have to explain as part of Like the first conversation we have with creator, or in that case, like a user, you know, it was like if we're gonna launch private pin boards or map pins or whatever it's like, this has to fit in the, into the, it has to be so important that like, it's one of the first things we tell creators or users like, Hey, we, you know, we help you sell digital products. It's like, that doesn't work anymore. If we're going to do memberships, you know, if we're going to get into education, we're gonna have to revisit that. And hopefully, it gets us to a simpler place, you know, so like, for example, like, our new messaging over time is transitioning to like, we help creators do more of what they love, we help them do that by making more money. You know, sort of simple, like, get rid of digital products, etc. But that's always been a really like, it's sort of like if it doesn't fit in that either that needs to change, or we most likely it's, it's not something we should do. You know, like, for example, like services is a big one. A lot of people ask us, like, Hey, can I just invoice or can I do service billing for my clients on gumroad. It's such a great UX and like, I'm always was just like, you should just not like it's just, we're not, we're too expensive for you, honestly, like, it's great for you because you think it's easy, but the minute you realize you're paying, like our fees on it when you could be paying a CH fees or like, you know, transfer wise or like very, very low. You're not gonna like it, you know? And so it's like figuring out like, okay, who are the customers we really serve, which are typically right now and creators, digital content creators specifically, and artists and like, forget about everybody else for now, you know. And I had a tweet yesterday that's like, basically minimize surface area to maximize polish. And I think that spurred because I noticed we were like, starting to do more and more things. And it just became incredibly expensive, you know, because every time we would launch like a new thing, it have to work with all these other things that we had, right? So it's not just like adding one hop of complexity, like all the things that you've built, now have to work with that thing. And that feature in that, so it's kind of like a factorial. You know, it's like n plus one factorial, not, you know, plus n in terms of adding complexity. Yeah, so I don't know, it's, it's really hard. It's not easy. I mean, I think, you know, and just documenting everything I can, you know, I can have I've already shared with you or anybody really like all the stuff that we document internally, but the simplest thing is like, if you have a simple product, it makes all the other stuff that you know, you just have document less things your employees get on boarded sooner we have, you know, one repo you can add it to you can get spun up in, you know, in half a day. And then you're shipping code and deploying, you know, deploying new code to production within a couple days. We just had someone joined last week on Monday, and she was shipping code to production, her own code to production on Wednesday. And it wasn't easy to get to that point where we made it that easy, but it was so important. Because you know, as you mentioned, like we have a ton of part time people all distributed all over We don't even have meetings within the company. And so like, it forced us to get really, really good about that stuff. Because if you get stuck, then you're just like stuck for six hours, you know. So we had to really make it, you know, and every time we onboard someone, part of their onboarding is like noting all the problems with our onboarding, you know, because things get out of date over time updating them for the next person, etc.


Ben Tossell  16:22

Yeah, I mean, yes, it is a growing process as well, right? It's not like, okay, we'll do this once now. And then Oh, yeah. Simple. And then everything be clear. I'm going forward. It's like, Until next month, and then we've got a new product out, like you said, new theme, you have to fit in with everything else, and that changes everything. How do you think about you mentioned yet that gumroad is going to go into memberships and then into education. At the moment, I suppose it's quite a simple product in that, like you put up a product and you just someone buys it and then gets the files, whereas memberships education is like this ongoing Monthly thing you continue to get content you keep going back. how's that gonna change? how you think about, like, building it? and managing it, I suppose.


Sahil  17:11

Yeah, I mean, so it's funny because a lot of our creators are like, oh, like, all we need, we love gumroad All I need is to, like deliver content over time. Or like, all I need is to, you know, allow people to access, like a feat of my content on gumroad or All I need is a comment system, so people can like reply on the files, and then I can sort of, you know, the students can converse or I can reply to them, etc, etc. And by the way, none of these are hard to build, right? Like, if you wanted to build a prototype of this, you could build it within a weekend. You know, it's pretty simple crud app, you know, that you can build within gumroad. And, and I'm always like, yes, it is that if I wanted to just ship that one feature on top like, you know, That would work. But really, I need to kind of go down a level, I'd go all the way down to the core of gumroad. and say, okay, like, What? Where does this? Where does like this fork in the road start happening, right when you're thinking about digital products versus memberships? Because you're not thinking about it, or education, right? Like you're not thinking about at the end, when you're like, Oh, I just need to add comments on my digital products. Like that might be how a creator who's experienced with gumroad is thinking about it, because they've gone all the way through and they're like, I just need this feature to like, move to classes or courses or, you know, compete with teachable or something like that, which is, you know, like, there's


Ben Tossell  18:35

just nothing. There's a whole camp of where we come from.


Sahil  18:40

Exactly. And it's like, how many people would never have gotten that far, because they just wanted to subclass like all of those people, right? Like, you just were that one of the few that wanted to do digital products and then wanted to do a class, right. And so it was like really going back to the beginning of gumroad. And that's what we did with when we when we decided we're going to work on that. memberships, it wasn't like, Oh, we just need like, add, you know, add membership or like, you know, make this product a membership or whatever it was like, Okay we need to redesign like how do you think about onboarding because if you're, you know, gumroad before is like you create an account and then you add a product, right? So that's no longer true. Because and even if it was like create a product ad membership, that's not how people think about memberships, they don't think about adding a membership, they think about my gumroad is my membership, you know? And so we were like, Okay, how do we fix that problem? What do they have in common, and what we realized was like, what they have in common is what you first want to do when you get to government is to create a profile. That's like your name, your avatar, your bio, these are things you do basically on every single website that you sign up for. And so that was easy, okay, like, first you do that? Then you can say, hey, do you want to add a product? Or do you want to like Adam, Adam membership, you already if you add a membership, you've already added all of this information, you know, so it makes that a lot simpler. You already have a profile, you already have a URL. These are all things that when you first started with gumroad You didn't even have Because it was like what you, you're just selling one product, you don't even need a username necessarily right to do that. You don't need a profile, you don't need all of these other features. And so it was really like, it's kind of like going, going, really trying to put your head in the mind of a new creator who's like, I actually don't care about digital products at all. I'm on gumroad because I wanted to start a membership. And I heard that gumroad just launched a memberships product, and ended like, making it so that it feels like they didn't even have to think about like gumroad is always built for memberships. And that's really, like, that's a lot of work. I mean, we started working on this like a year ago. And it's honestly one of the things that we we bet it's like a big change culturally within company because we're always like, ship ship super fast. You know, like iterate like crazy, etc, all that kind of stuff. And now it's kind of like, you know, we sold like shipping it really fast but it's like taking memberships and breaking it up into 100 different things and focusing on Okay, redesigning the product edit screen to make sense memberships redesigning versions to tears, you know, there's just so many small things like for example, another one that's really a like a tiny thing that I think is interesting is that you know, when you have a product and product layout on gumroad is very simple. It has like the cover, it has the name, it has like the information with the I want, this button has the price tag in the corner. And we realized with memberships like that price tag in the corner actually doesn't make sense. Because when you sign up for a membership, you're actually not subscribing to a product, right? You're subscribing to a specific tier, so that there's no price tag to to a membership, it's actually sort of third tier. And so that's a, that's a huge change, right? Because that like that price tag does things like it, it tells you how much you're paying, it tells you if there's an offer code applied, you know, it tells you if it's pay what you want, if it has a plus sign, like they're all these things that we built into the price tag because it was so like so clear and simple. That doesn't make sense anymore. And so we have to like redesign the price tag, you know, which is Like most people would not think about when they think about gumroad they're not thinking about that price tag, you know, offer, you know, shows the discount code or something like that when it's applied in the URL. And so there are all these sort of small things. But if you're a new customer, a new user, all those small things, you're gonna be like, nevermind, I don't want to do this, right. Like, I think you'd be like forming a habit, right? Like James clear talks about you have to make it as easy as possible, because otherwise you're just going to revert to what you were doing before. Because no one likes like your body isn't ready doesn't enjoy, like feeling stressed or feeling uncomfortable or feeling anxious. So you have to make it as which is what is happening when someone is signing up for governor. They're basically in like, trying to form a new habit in a sense, right? They're like, I'm a creator, I want to be a creator. And so it's like, how do I how do we get them to form that new habit and part of it is like make it as enjoyable as possible, reward them with like cool animations and like make them feel good. And and that really It's not hard, it just requires a ton of time. You know, I think that's the thing a lot of people forget is like, it just takes time. Like, it's not like we have access to secret tools or like, we're incredible designers or whatever. It's just like, no, like redesigning that price tag is, you know, it's like this. It's tiny. It's like this big in the corner, like right here. And that's going to take two weeks, probably two to three weeks for me to kind of go through and unpack and like, you know, there's like, I looked at the function just to show what, like the price tag what the price is for the product. And it was like 80 lines of code. There's like all this logic that has to do with just showing that single, you know, if it's yen, you know, it's different because yen doesn't have like a has only one denomination. It doesn't have cents and dollars. There's just yen so there's like all this math that's happening that people just don't know. And it's just saying, look, this is important to us. And that's kind of how I think about these big things, right, like membership is like it's an opportunity to introduce all of these new People to gumroad. And so like, let's take the time before we launch memberships to, like, clean up all of these things just like you know, someone is coming in your house or something, right? Yeah. I think a lot of people are just moving so quickly, they never go back. They never go back and are like I need to, you know, let's, let's sign up for a new account. Let's see what that looks like. Let's make sure all the copy makes sense. And it honestly sucks because then you have to go through your, your Help Center, update all your help center documentation, which is probably, but the truth is that's already out of date, like it's out of date, whether you go back and change it or not, you might as well like. Yeah, so I've always wanted to start up by the way for that that's just like automated Help Center documentation or something like some link between like your code base and like, because every time we build a new feature, I forget to tell somebody or like, you know, it's just such a pain. And we get emails like, hey, the The price was here. Now it's over here, like and it's like, yeah, we moved it. Sorry.


24:54

Yeah, exactly. Um,


Ben Tossell  24:57

yeah, I think I mean, I do this often. We've made a path. And like, adding something else, I seem to add it. And obviously, our loops are different because I'm building without code you're building with code, I just add it. And then I'm like, wait, now, a ton of things don't make sense or like, there's like now too many things on the navbar. There's just like too much there. And then I've got to try and simplify it. And I got, I think it's just like a process of back and forth. And yeah, trying to think about that is, is painful and difficult. And, I mean, you don't often get the benefits or see the benefit, like straightaway, other than you yourself. I just find it sounds like therapeutic that I'm like, okay, that feels cleaner. How I feel it, but I don't know. You got to sort of message message users and see and see what they say and how they connect with it. Oddly,


Sahil  25:54

yeah, and it's a it's, that's something we've started doing a lot more of recently is just talking about customer's talking to users like every time I work on something, I just, you know, copy to clipboard, screenshot, copy to clipboard, paste it, you know, to like four or five different creators. And it's not even like, these are the creators, I always go to just who I happen to be talking to at the time. I'm like, hey, by the way, I'm working on this, like, what do you think, you know, we're redesigning, like the tier selection or versions or like manage membership or, you know, the library or whatever it happens to be at the time, the new receipt, and then they're always like, Oh, this or that, or, like, did you think about this or like, that's a little weird, or, like, I have a product where like, that doesn't make sense actually, like that new copy that you're going to. And sometimes, like, I just have to tell people like sorry, this is like, it's better for 90% of creators and like, slightly worse for 5% and the same 45% so like, we're going to make that change. So just but even then, it's just like giving people a heads up like make this change now so that in this new world, your your your, your products will look just as just as nice. I think a big thing too is like saying if we build something we Basically want the majority of creators to use it. So it's if we're building a feature that we think only, like a few percent of people are going to use? Well, it's not like we don't do that we're not perfect, right? I'm sure you could look at gumroad and find all these like kind of features like that. But it's like, we wish people use them. It's like even creator was knowledgeable and sort of understood how to run their creative business, they would use every feature that we built, and all the features that are kind of like 5% 10% of people use them, like they're maybe maybe zero percent of people should be using them, you know, maybe we should just get rid of them. or build, like an API or an integration or an app system. So people can just like, you know, layer on top of Gummer their little use cases. And we've already started to see that happening. You know, people will connect Gummer to Xavier or something like that? You know, and over time, we can say hey, okay, we really want to do memberships. We really want to do education, but like, let's do it in a way that we think we're going to make it so awesome and so core to the product that every creator is that signs up is going to be like, Oh yeah, I'm gonna sell my digital products, and I'm gonna have a membership. And I'm going to sell classes, like every. And that's, that's what I believe, like I believe in year, like the default gumroad creator is going to have multiple avenues they might even you know, they might be like Tiffany if you want like buy me a coffee kind of stuff, right? Like, there's all these different ways creators monetize, we want to support them in all of these different ways but we want to do it, like, you know, very, very slowly you know, and also like doing it slowly. The other thing that's really key is it allows your your users to like, internalize the change, if you're moving so quickly and changing things all the time. And like you're shipping like 50 different features. It's I think, like I saw a thread on like someone asked about, like, you know, I don't know if they mentioned gumroad but like they were like what products they used to sell my digital products in a long time, whatever. And a lot of people like there was a there's a great response that was basically like gumroad is the best for getting started and The thing that they do best is that everything makes sense. Like everything that they build, I can almost predict what governor is going to do next, because it's sort of like fits in such a clear story. narrative. And it's really simple. And there's these other products. I don't know what they're going to ship tomorrow. Like, they seem to be just doing stuff all over the place for creators. And so I think that's pretty key that I think as a product person, you're like, build this build this, it's useful, it's going to solve this problem. It's functional. But as a creator, you're just like, I just want to upload a p PDF, and I don't want to have to think about, you know, like, x y, like, is my analytics set up properly? Or, like, should I be doing this? And like, every time they see a feature, they're gonna think, should I be using this? Right? Like, it's instinctive instinctively, right? Because if you're trying to make money, you're like, Oh, I be using this. Like, there's a reason this is here, you know? And so yeah, it's like, really try to put yourself in that mindset. And you'll really you'll start to realize like, wow, we do too much. And then when you get rid of a lot like a lot of my shipments to GM right now we're actually deleting code. And deleting features. And it's a great because it's like, boom, we can delete Help Center documentation, we can delete tests, we can, it's like one less thing for an engineer to have to worry about, you know, and understand and like, you know, it's another, it's another thing that won't break anymore. It's, it's one less thing that like, you know, during a code review doesn't have to be thought about. So there's so much benefit to doing that. And so that's another thing that I, you know, I think we'll try to do as a habit, ongoing, you know, like, I kind of like, while everyone else is shipping product, I'm kind of always the one going back and come through and, like, do we need this? Do we really like this is kind of out of date, or like to design this? Or can we get rid of that? And often, those are decisions that have to come from kind of that quote, unquote, that top because as an engineer or designer, you might, you might you don't know the context of why we built everything and why it exists. And so it's really useful for like, for the CEO or the founder, to kind of go in and be like, Oh, I built this six years ago. Because we needed this and actually now we have these three other features that combined do this better. So like, let's, we can delete all this code now. But it's really hard to do that as an employee. So I think sometimes it just takes like, you know, the CEO being like, I'm gonna get in and like, you know, like, I'm gonna launch a digital product on gumroad probably next year, I hope. And, or maybe late this year, and like, I'm sure going through that process, I'm going to find all these things I hate about gumroad like, Oh, this is make sense. Or it's stupid that like, one thing I realized, was like, I have to create a cover for every product, right? Like to sell a product on gumroad you have to create a beautiful cover. And if you're a creator, that's, that's like now a new thing you have to learn how to do you have to go to Canva or calculating or something like that and like learn that hard, like I know Photoshop sketch, I can figure it out. I can, you know, get an image from unsplash and put like some nice text on it and like whatever. But my guess is like a lot of creators are like, either do it really badly or don't know how to do it and give up You know, and so at some point, we will make it possible. And, and to Ben's point of like, it's just part of the pitch, right? It's like, we help you sell your digital products, we don't have to update that pitch to build that feature, we could build this whole feature, it could be like a three week project, you know, it's, you know, you know, upload your image or like, create one in line, you create one, maybe it opens unsplash, or whatever it looks like Canva integration. And, but like, it just makes sense, creators will just like, get it, you know. And so it's like finding those opportunities to where you can, you can increase the functionality of your product without having to increase the complexity of your message. Maybe that's kind of like the heuristic that's useful.


32:38

Yeah, definitely. I think it makes sense.


Ben Tossell  32:42

We switching gears a bit. We were on a podcast must be in a couple of months ago now. Daily hackers podcast when we did like a code versus no code. Yeah. debates in quotes. And it was funny because so many people were sort of hoping For this, like big showdown of me knew, like psychoanalysis has been doing this, this big argument or whatever it was, but the whole whatever came out of it, it was just like we both agreed that it was basically Yeah, just do whatever, whatever tools, you know what, what to do is just use that to build the thing. Um, since since then, have you seen any? Have you had more thoughts around the no code movement? And like, I think it does. To me anyway, it seems like the biggest audience of it seems to be these creators, whether they're trying to sell courses or newsletter businesses and all these other things. Have you got any thoughts since since our debate, I guess?


Sahil  33:46

Yeah, I mean, I've thought more about how like what I do, like there are a lot of things that I think I have automated, but I actually don't have automated I think they're automated in my head even when I'm doing them manually, but like I just do them so often that I so you know, a lot of a lot of it is doing that exercise again, like when we thought it, we're thinking about selling the company without not thinking about selling the company anymore of just like, Okay, what do we actually do? What do I do on a daily basis, that sometimes it's like, even things I like doing, but it's like, I probably should still not be doing it. Like, the fact that I like it is what makes me not worry about automating it, but I should still, I should automate both the things I like and things I dislike, because the things I like are preventing me from doing other things that are more important that I actually don't like, but I should be doing, you know. And so, yeah, I've just been thinking about a lot more of that. And I think there are a lot of opportunities for, like, especially internally, I think, like a lot of data data analytics, like we've seen a lot of growth from COVID recently, a lot of people staying at home and things like this. And I've been wondering about like, right now I run all these manual queries, and it'd be cool to sort of like just suck all that data into a, you know, some no code tool, you could call it and now and then You know, make it just no need to go in and see everything, you know, and do do different sort of visual visualizations and like, retention paths and patterns and things like that. And I, I think it's hard because I don't have anyone necessarily to show it to it's not like I'm doing it to, you know, to raise money or, or what have you, which would be a forcing function. But I just think in general, it would be a good, a good thing to sort of monitor the health of the business and also to be able to show our employees, by the way, like, this is how we think about, you know, these are, what this is, what your work is doing. Your work is leading to these metrics, right, ultimately. And I've noticed that as I become more transparent and share things, some of the most excited people are the people within the company, they're like, Oh, it's cool that I could see, you know, this feature being used by all these people and stuff like that. And typically, that's like a thing restrained to engineers, because engineers know how to do SQL and can go in and be like, Oh, how many people use this feature I built. But if you're like, all these other functions of the company, you don't really do that all the time. Then also, I've just been noticing a lot of our creators. So that's a big focus for us will be next year I think will be integrations. We're doing like a thing with Zapier right now. But I think there's a I think creators, as you mentioned, like are getting larger. And certainly there's more complexity to their businesses, and they're having to think about like, how do I build an email list? How does my email list work with gumroad? How does my gumroad email list work with something else and like, they're all these, the more and more tools and the creator kind of tool ecosystem and a successful creator will be using, you know, a lot of them right, like a few, a few of them at least. And they kind of need to sync and work together. And so I think there's a lot of opportunities to kind of simplify that and say, Hey, you know, in 10 minutes, use a YouTube video tutorial or something like this is how you you know, what, you're a government creator. This is how you know you want to use MailChimp. This is how you can set that often. Google Analytics is another one and like facebook, facebook, marketing, that's another big one. That slowly creators are getting the reason to be turning into startups, right? Like if you think about what you might do or what I might do, we're basically thinking about like SAS or like, you know, like, you know, MRR, MRR, turn retention. These are all things that we think about that if you're a creator selling ebooks you're not thinking about typically you're not thinking about like, customer acquisition cost, retargeting, you know, return on adspend through different social channels. And I think it's just the, you know, we started the company 2011 like that. It's just the the creator sort of economy has matured, that we're starting to see that start to happen, right, like we're starting to see creators either get to that scale, or just get that sophisticated. I think the other thing I've been telling you a lot of our creators, they're like, I'm just bored at home. And I, I'm using this new time as like, investigating, like how to mess with Facebook ads and it's addicting, right? Because you get if you have a product, a digital product, like 40 bucks, and you can figure out how to spend $35 on making $40 then it's Free hobby for you. It's actually a hobby that makes money for you now. And so then it becomes a game of like, Can I get that? $32 $30 $29? You know, and because it's like it's like almost like trading stocks or something, you know, it has this kind of addictive quality to it. And so as you gumroad we're trying to think about, well, we can't build all this stuff like that we would, you know, as we mentioned, it would just complicate the product. So how would we, how do we make it really easy to just like plug in your Facebook, or your Google Analytics, or your XYZ service? And then, you know, sort of just automate it or let them do it like let Facebook teach you how to do all these things that we can just benefit from like more product sales or what have you.


Ben Tossell  38:40

Yeah, I think yeah, definitely people to becoming like their own even like the passion projects become like little mini businesses and more more people see that there's, oh, I can launch a paid newsletter that someone will pay X amount for or whatever it is. Yeah, like similarly. I think


Sahil  38:57

that's a big one too, that I'll add is like Is is multiple revenue streams that we're seeing a lot more of that and that's a lot of why we're doing memberships. Why are we doing education to you know, it's like we're seeing creators, typically, if you're a full time creator, it's not just often it's not enough to be like, I'm just going to sell ebooks, like, you know, you start thinking about what are you know, you might do consulting, you might see like, they're all these things that outside of the creative economy are very normal, right? Like you, like, you know, you write a book, you do speaking, you know, gigs and you like, do workshops, like you think about it in sort of this multi dimensional way. Because then, you know, one dries up yourself, one, you know, one grows, helps the others etc. You know, you have really, you know, rich sort of business customers and you have a lot of normal, but, you know, customers as well and you want to like have different price points for them, etc, etc. You might have a retreat that you organize or a conference and they're all these different revenue streams, and creators, I think are getting now getting to that point. So that's a big thing that we've seen and we're trying to adapt to which is Like, you should be able to use one tool to sort of do all of that transactionally at least, um, over time, like, we'll slowly sort of expand the way I think about it is like, you know, they're sort of concentric circles, like digital product sales is like the first one and then like, memberships, it's like a little bit broader, and like courses is broader, and education in class at livestream classes is something we'd love to do is like, much larger than that. But like, if we can do these things, then like, the jump from that to this is going to be a lot smaller than going straight to like, let's figure this out. Yeah, you know, and it it'll mean it'll, it'll take us like a year or so before we even get to that stuff, but we can at least start thinking about it. And as we make decisions, we can be like, Oh, you know, if we make this change now, it helps membership. So it also makes it like a little easier when we get to classes to like, you know, get there. And and also last point is it starts training our users that we're going in this direction they can almost forecasted because of these changes that we're making. Oh, there. We they renamed this thing so they're probably gonna Uh, you know, and and it's been really helpful actually to kind of like, see that start to start to happen.


Ben Tossell  41:07

Yeah, and I guess you, like you benefit from creators continually having income streams, and like opening up new ones and being successful creators like you want them to be on good roads, do the whole lifecycle and use all your products to do that, right?


Sahil  41:23

Yeah. And we see a lot of people that you know, they have super success on gumroad. And then they realize, okay, I need to do like a really intense course. And then they leave and then they do 10 times the volume on that course than they did with the books. And we don't see any of that, right. So my hope is that if we can get into those verticals, a lot of those creators that still saw their books on gumroad will be like, oh, cool, I can just use, I can come back. We'll see. Like, maybe they won't. Maybe they're like, actually, we love this new service. And like, you know, we'll never go back. That's fine. I think it's just something I believe we should do. Like it's just important for us to do and then maybe just for the new creators that sign up, they're like, Oh, yeah, of course is awesome. I'm not ready to do that. Government has a great sort of way to do that. And then they never have to graduate as a as we call it.


Ben Tossell  42:08

Yeah. Yeah, I think, yes, interest in this, like, I don't know how I feel about companies doing we're trying to be the like the one like God tool for x whatever that thing is. And I think gumroad is not i'm not saying gumroad is like that where it's fun to have the memberships and education but like you were saying, having these add ons of the Facebook advertising and Google Analytics and like, I think a thing in that space would be to run your whole business you just use like gumroad within you had everything, newsletters and all that sort of stuff. I mean, I don't know how I feel about those times. I always feel like there's always going to be a few tools that use even things like notion for example, which is like docs, wikis tasks, collaboration tools for your team. And some of these other tools do the same thing. And we see so many new tools Come on maker pad, I mean, notion and gumroad technically, they're not no code tools, but they're part of people's no code solutions. So I cross them in that world. I just think that there's always gonna be room for people to have multiple tools in their in their, yeah, okay.


Sahil  43:30

Well, you see it in like, like, Shopify just launched like an email thing. And I'm sure MailChimp is working on an e commerce thing. Yeah. It's, it's, it's, I think history is kind of cyclical, in that way, right? Where you have these like, all these tiny tools, MailChimp is like we just, you know, in the 90s, or whatever we're like, we're just gonna do emails because email suck. We're going to be called MailChimp. And then, over time, they kind of get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and then what ends up happening right is like, they suck at one of these things, maybe even their original use case they're no longer good at and so there's like a new startup, maybe sub stack or what have you, that's like, we're just gonna do that again. And then maybe over time, they'll get bigger and bigger. And then there'll be like, new opportunities after that, right? Or, like, there. So that kind of even Shopify, like, you know, they, they technically, I think offer like digital product sales, and you can do kind of some things that you can do with gumroad. But, again, they can even have a better version of government, people just won't even know about it, or like, they're gonna have to go through all of these things to find it, or they're gonna have to pay 29 bucks a month for all of these features, and then only use two of them. You know, yeah. So even with gumroad I'm like, very wary, you know, like, Hey, we're going to get into memberships are going to get in education, like I don't want to be that, you know, you credit card account, and then it's like, what do you want to do? And it's like, 30 things, you know, do you want to sell me books or video course or this or that or like, offline or services or charity, like you want to, you know, do a tip jar like and you know, it's so Easy to because it's money, right? It's always be like, Oh, if we did that we'd have more money. But it's like, yeah, it's like, No, we don't, I've done that I've gone down that path to try to make a lot of money before and it didn't work. And then when I sort of said, hey, let's just simplify, let's just stay focused on, you know, new user signup, to sale, new user signup, to sale, let's just make that really, really awesome. Like the later half of last year was the basically just that focus over and over again. And we made so many updates and like, our growth was better than ever. Because guess what, like, what we're doing is we're taking that path that everyone already uses, and making it better and better and better. Whereas when you're doing these other things, you have to find new customers to do that, you know, that's a lot. That's very difficult, you know, whereas in this one, it's like, Hey, you already do this, by the way, now, it takes one step instead of two steps. And it's like, okay, 10% more people are doing that, you know. The other really nice heuristic that I use is like, does it go on our homepage, like, if it's really important, it should go on our homepage, right. And so everything we build should sort of like, make its way to the homepage in some capacity. And if it doesn't, that's sort of like something we should fix over time, either our homepage or our features page, but it's definitely almost always our our homepage, which currently is broken. Like it fails that test in many ways. But you know, we have a plan this year to kind of go back, like after memberships, we'll go back and redesign the whole thing. And then we'll launch memberships. Like, we'll ship memberships, redesign that and then and then launch it. Because it's like, yeah, it's it. You know, if we spent a year working on it, it's really important to gumroad we should put it on par with digital products. And if it's not on par, we should not have built it. You know, it's just let's, let's focus. Let's just get into digital products even better, you know? Yeah.


Ben Tossell  46:49

That's awesome. Well, what would you be building a few gumroad already existed? What would you be doing now? Like, this year? Yeah. Bye. In the tech world, I know you paint and write books and all that sort of stuff in. Nor do you need one because I don't need to say yeah, I'll just painless because


Sahil  47:11

Yeah, what would you be? Yeah. Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of things that are interesting to me right now. I think audio is really interesting. There's like this new app that's going viral called clubhouse, which I've been using quite a bit, which I love. And just like, it just literally, it's really simple. It's just like, it's basically like conference calls with your with your first and second degree connections. You know, it's it, it's like zoom but like, you know, without video kind of thing. or Twitter without with audio or whatever. Kind of extra Why?


47:43

Yeah, but that's, I think


Sahil  47:44

that's interesting because I think especially at home people are doing a lot of things and like, staring at like, we're staring at screens so much and like maybe we shouldn't or you know, I think that's interesting. I think air pods are also kind of this like interesting hardware evolution that might enable things might not but my I also think, remote work, like there's a ton of stuff that can be built for remote work. And I think people are just starting to figure out, especially if it's Coronavirus, but a lot of people are starting to figure out like, this is not going to go back to normal. Like if you can work remotely for six months, or three months. Like what, like a lot of people are going to be like, Hey, now it's all you know, it's time to get back to the office, these are gonna be like, why? Like, I've been doing this job and I don't need to commute for an hour, five days a week. Can we do one day a week or two days a week. So my guess is we're gonna start seeing that become the default very quickly. You know, people might even commute to like a neighborhood, co working space instead of commuting to the city or something, you know, like, they'll just be these hubs, I think, new kind of hubs. So I think that's a really interesting space. I also think like, I've been thinking about as we grow the company in this way, like there's all these you know, it's hard to hire people. It's hard to onboard people, it's hard to deal with, you know, passwords and, and, you know, different sorts of things there. pair programming, like there's all these sort of small things that I run up against, often. HR, healthcare stuff I'm paying people is sometimes annoying too. There's all these, all these, it's actually really easy to ramp somebody up on the software side. It's like the operational side. That's tricky. And so I think there are a lot of opportunities there. I would probably, that'd be my guess is I would go into that space and say, Hey, I'm gonna build, like, a tool for companies like gumroad. Because that's like what I'm sort of most familiar with to, to onboard. People operationally. There's a yc startup called deal that's kind of doing something similar.


Ben Tossell  49:49

Yeah, we used it.


49:51

Yeah. Are they awesome?


Ben Tossell  49:53

Yeah, it's pretty useful for because obviously we have remote contractors. So wanted it was like deal or it was remote comm or something and feel got back to me first. Um, and yeah, it's just we haven't done our first payroll cycle through yet. We've just got set up so we're just ready. first of May will be the first payment go through that so Oh,


Sahil  50:15

yeah, probably pinging about it because I mean, I'm definitely interested in that space. Yeah, remote is another one that just launched. Yeah, I think that's a really a really compelling one for me. I don't think they're, they're thinking about it very, like, I don't know, I guess you'd have to start thinking about it very simply, like, Oh, just just like we help you operationally solve this very specific problem but I think there's a lot more like evolution of the idea of of work that you can enable with it. Like you can have a lot more freelancers you could have like, you know, bounties and like more project based work and like I think there's a lot cool a lot of stuff. Like you could have a trust network built into it and you know, they can start enabling with like helping you find engineers even So I think that space is really compelling, compelling to me, because I think the working the way we work is, is probably going to change significantly in the next few years.


Ben Tossell  51:11

Yeah, I mean, I like how make bad is sort of similar with gumroad. And how we just have contractors, people work other places, like weather because they want to even just like, it doesn't always have to be everyone's full time. Obviously, we're remote first. It works. I mean, obviously, there's some times you would rather turn to the side and say, Hey, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes time zones are annoying, but I think that's, like, partly to do with, like management basically, like me in this process being like, Well, why why do I need to answer so like, so now? Is it realistically so important? I need that now and I've got to wait two hours to do it or like, so some of that is just like the practice of remote work as well, and the processes behind them. How do you feel for that? I suppose?


Sahil  52:05

Yeah, it is. I think a lot of it is, like, it's kind of I mean, I experienced the same thing where I'll like, ask someone a question. And I'm pretty good at it now, because it's been a few years, but in the beginning, I was like, it's been 10 minutes, like, I need my answer. And I'm like, not doing anything. I'm just like, waiting. And then I overtime, I'm like, I can go do something else. I don't need this right now. Yeah. And you just start, you know, you start working in a different way, right? where, like, I always have like two or three different things I'm working on so that if one gets blocked, I can switch to the next one, or, or even sometimes, like, sometimes, I'll be, you know, I don't know, I'll just be blocked on two or three of them. And I just really want to get this one thing done. It's all the context in my head or whatever. And I'll just be like, Hey, could you get back to me like semi soon? And then I'll just go for a walk or I'll just be done for the day. And it's like, guess what you don't want to have to, I think the office train me like it's like 2pm 3pm I need to be working. Until 5pm, or whatever, at least, you know, maybe longer and it's actually fine to be like, No, I just stop working now no one's watching me, no one's waiting for me like I can just stop and then I can wake up early tomorrow the answer will be there and I'll be done. You know. And so a lot of it's like retraining yourself to kind of get into this new world, but it's in your right like they're definitely total downsides to not be like I actually it's funny because a lot of people are like, like, like they think I'm like a pro remote working advocate and I'm but I'm also like pro office to advocate to like, there's amazing things about being in an office that I miss a lot. And I'm sure a lot of people miss a lot right now. And it's just, it's not like I'm saying, Oh, this is like the only way to go for it. It's like no, like, you know, for me, like I actually think I dumber will probably have an office at some point in the next couple years. It'll just be like a lounge, or like, you know, people can come in and leave. But there's not going to be this like, every day. You know, if you need to do a meeting or you have like I know you want a nice video conferencing setup or Or you just need to deep work for, like, you know, or whatever, like, you know, you can, you can do that. And we'll probably open it up to like creators in the area and stuff like that as well. And just, you know, it's figured out like this kind of hybrid model. And my guess is that becomes a lot more common, you know, like, we might have an office in San Francisco that like, has showers. And you know, and like, but it's like a community center for creators, maybe for like, the homeless population, like, we might do something there. And then, you know, like, part of the office is like three or four desks that we can work on, if you need it to be, you know, if I was in the city for a day, or I needed a meeting somewhere or what have you. The way that I think of offices now is like, it's a very single dimensional thing. It's like, used for a very specific utility, and my guess is that it's gonna especially if, like, if if there is a sort of a deep recession and a lot of sort of people just default on their, on their rents and things like I think, I think a lot of landlords and sort of governments are gonna have to think about reselling a lot of this stuff and like sort of finding new different types of people and like, a start up with, like 3000 employees just is not going to be necessary as much anymore.


Ben Tossell  55:11

Yeah, no, definitely. Um, well, I'm really glad that you jumped on and he is fine. I'm sure that we're over an hour already. So. Yeah, so I mean, people probably already know it's fine. gumroad which is gumroad COMM And then you're on Twitter at app. shl.


55:33

Yep. shl


Ben Tossell  55:35

easy enough. Well, yeah. Thanks so much for coming on the show.


Sahil  55:38

You're welcome. Thanks for having me.


Ben Tossell  55:39

Thanks so much for listening. You can find us online at maker pad.co or on Twitter at make pad we'd love to hear if you enjoyed this episode, and what we should do next.



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