Interview with Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad

Interview with Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad

There are some interesting ideas talked about here.

Sahil chose a “horizontal” approach to Gumroad versus focusing on a particular “vertical” market. That means he created a platform where anyone could sell almost anything. This is in contrast to a vertical like Substack focused on newsletters. Sahil says this was probably the wrong choice.

Another interesting distinction is between “platform” and “aggregator”. “Sahil’s original vision for Gumroad was a white-label platform: it offered creators access to business without actually locating it for them, and remained invisible to consumers.

Since Gumroad’s founding, platforms like YouTube have shifted to become aggregators — “destination” sites that control interactions between creators and audiences and take a far bigger cut of the proceeds.

Today, Gumroad sits somewhere between those two poles. It has swapped that initial hands-off approach for an active push toward connecting its creators with new consumers.“We’re slowly moving into an aggregator model,” Sahil explains. In five years, he thinks Gumroad is going to look “somewhere closer to where TikTok and YouTube are now,” a destination site dedicated to discovering new creators.”

I think the best opportunities for bootstrapped startups are to be “vertical” “aggregators”. For example, businesses that help us discover and purchase products in a particular niche. You want to be vertical to better speak to customers. You want to be an aggregator because the real value for sellers is getting their products in front of potential customers.

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