Lessons from Sahil Lavingia on building Gumroad and angel investing with shl.vc

Lessons from Sahil Lavingia on building Gumroad and angel investing with shl.vc
October 31, 2020 Oreoluwa Aremo
Invest In The Future With Sahil Lavingia

In the 1st episode of Invest In The Future, Iyin Aboyeji, our Founder and General Partner, spoke to Sahil Lavingia, founder and CEO of Gumroad, who is also an angel investor and founder of shl.vc – an early-stage venture capital fund.

Invest In The Future is our live podcast series. We learn from prolific investors and founders who have invested in and built some of Africa and the world’s most impactful technology companies.

Listen to the entire conversation with Sahil below. Subscribe to Invest In the Future wherever you listen to podcasts here.

Here’s what we learnt from Sahil:

Building products that solve your problem first 

1.There are exciting ways to find opportunities to build a stellar product. 

2.One way is to find a problem in your life and try to solve it with technology. 

3.This is the story behind founding Gumroad for Sahil.

4.‘’First of all, I just wanted to solve my own problem. There is kind of two steps to everything that I do, one is I kind of just build it for myself and then I have to think about whether this is worth turning into a big business, raising money and hiring a team,’’ Sahil shares. 

5.While some of these products you build may fix your problem(s) and become MVPs(Minimum Viable Product), others may not, and that is ok. 

6.Gumroad was built because Sahil couldn’t sell a digital product he created online. 

7.The core idea of Gumroad was created and developed over a weekend, and by Monday, it was launched.

8.In his article Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company, Sahil called Gumroad, ‘’A weekend project turned VC-backed startup.’’

9.While this may seem like a ‘’wow’’ realisation, it is essential to understand the core of a product, test it and build on top of that core. 

10.Every product is different, but eventually, there are one or two things that users come back for. You first need to look for what those things are.

11.For Gumroad, it was helping other creators make money without thinking so much about setting up an online store, processing money, getting funds into their bank accounts and other factors they would typically consider.

12.Once Sahil saw the future of Gumroad in the ecosystem, he left Pinterest and started to raise money to build his startup. 

Angel investing with shl.vc

1.Sahil acknowledges that being at an early stage is ‘’really hard and really painful.’’

2.In many cases, founders don’t know if the companies they are building will be a billion-dollar company or not. 

3.For him, being an investor means that you can help founders grow their early-stage companies with funding and sometimes your expertise.

4.Apart from funding, he also fosters a relationship with these portfolio companies to reach out to him anytime they want. 

5.This is partly because he has been in the position(s) they are in and understands the frustration of not having a reliable advisor. 

6.Interestingly, being a founder also gives you a better understanding of handling being an angel investor.

7.Sahil believes that founders underestimate how willing people are to meet with them. With this in mind, he has learnt how to get the audience of the right people through writing cold emails. 

8.Over the years, cold emailing proves to increase sales for business; it also helps to grow your network as a professional. 

9.Another way to get the attention of an angel investor is to show your data. Data of how far your company has come and the things that you have done to scale. 

10.With this data, angel investors better understand what you are building and how they can help beyond funding. 

For us at Future Africa, we built the Future Africa Collective to remove the barriers to investing in African startups. We give members of this exclusive community access to vetted and verified startups transforming Africa. You can click here to learn more. 

Listen to the entire conversation with Sahil below. Find Invest In the Future wherever you listen to podcasts here.

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