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Youngest Indian CEO in US shares his amazing story

Last updated on: May 3, 2012 12:41 IST

Youngest Indian CEO in US shares his amazing story

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Ritu Jha in San Francisco

Over the last several years, sharing has become easier but selling has remained just as hard, says Sahil Lavingia, Founder and CEO, Gumroad, in an interview to Ritu Jha.

When Sahil Lavingia, 19, a computer science student decided to drop off the University of Southern California to join Pinterest he went first with the news to his mother.

"I felt like my life would be better if I left school and joined Pinterest, and that's what I told them," said Sahil, a designer, founder and CEO of Gumroad, a tool that democratizes the ability to sell stuff online.

"Gumroad's goal is to making selling as easy as sharing," Sahil told India Abroad. He added: "Over the last several years, sharing has become easier and easier but selling has remained just as hard as it was in 2001."

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Image: Sahil Lavingia, Founder and CEO of Gumroad.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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Gumroad sells things online that you've made and includes songs, albums, videos, photos, and other things. You can price a link for as little as $1, and as much as $1,000.

However, Gumroad has its cut in online selling. It takes five per cent + 25¢ of each transaction. For example: If you sell a digital video for $10, it gets $0.75 and $9.25 is deposited into your account.

There are no setup fees, monthly fees, bandwidth fees, or withdrawal fees. It directly connects you to your client.

Born to Indian parents in New York and raised in London, Hong Kong and Singapore the youngest entrepreneur among the Asian Indian community do not think living in various country was a gift in disguise but he loved living in so many different places in such a short period of time though he said, "It definitely helped me learn a lot about the world and about myself".

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Image: Born to Indian parents in New York, he was raised in London, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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Talking about Gumroad he said: "We're trying to make it easy and accessible for everyone. We think anyone that creates content (anyone who writes, creates music, makes videos, takes photos) should have the ability to sell directly to the people that want their stuff. Those are the people that can benefit. We are just three for now, and growing quickly."

He said: "We have launched a bunch of new features, including the ability to remember your credit card so you can repeat-buy very frequently. We're working hard on making the product better, and building a team that will scale along with it."

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Image: We're trying to make it easy and accessible for everyone, he says about Gumroad.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Tags: Gumroad , CEO , US

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Before venturing into Gumroad, he was with Pinterest, as a designer head and made Turntable.fm for iPhone. Not only this, by the age 16 he had already created dozen of apps (applications) though not all were successful. But some of his favourites have been applied in iPhone.

He says out of 20 products his favourites are: Dayta, that's a data tracking application for iPhone, and Rmmbr, a note-taking web app that doesn't require registration and Color Stream app, helps to create and store colour palettes for iPhone.

Crate, an app, that lets you share multiple files at once to anyone you want. Tweader,similar to twitter. Trnsfr an app that lets you send pages your're looking at from your browser to your phone.

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Image: Before venturing into Gumroad, he was with Pinterest.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Tags: Rmmbr , Dayta , Pinterest , CEO

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Rmmbr, wrote on his Rmmbr says "it's my one-hour app".It is an easy way to create notes on the go. All you have to do is visit a Rmmbr URL and it'll create one for you if it doesn't exist.

Caltrainer, an iPhone app that gives Caltrain timetable in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently Gumroad turned one-year-old Sahil's invention of pencil has been a hit online.

So what is this pencil craze? On this Sahil said: "Yes, my pencil has been seen hundreds of thousands of times by now, which is crazy. He's selling that iconic pencil on Gumroad for $1 and has found buyers too. The iconic pencil came into being after four hour of long work on Friday a year ago.

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Image: Sahil's invention of pencil has been a hit online.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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Like any startup, Sahil too have mentors, whom he calls his friends. "Nope, it's not tough for a teenager going to Venture Capitalist. VC's are just like me and you. I don't think age matters in a discussion like seed investment."

So any business venture in India, he said while in college he visited India last in 2009 for an internship for a software company in Bangalore.

Young, vibrant and confident Sahil at this young age works around 80 hours a week.

"But it never feels like work," stated the young entrepreneur, who has never been to TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Silicon Valley, a non-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professional conference.

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Image: Young, vibrant and confident Sahil at this young age works around 80 hours a week.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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He said: "I was invited to speak at the next one and I think I will go." So does the computer geek, CEO of Gumroad, have time for friends and family?

Sahil said: "I have friends that I hang out with everyday, because I get to work with them. I also hang out with other friends on the weekends if I'm not too tired. I try to read before I sleep but that rarely happens. Normally I think about how lucky I've been so far."


Image: He says he hangs out with friends everyday.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Tags: CEO , Gumroad , US

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