Gumroad wants to make selling content as easy as sharing content

When I first met Sahil Lavingia, the CEO of Gumroad, and he explained that his company makes it easy to sell things online, I didn’t immediately understand why that was a service people needed. After all, you can sell things in a lot of places: eBay, Etsy or Craigslist. You could accept money through Venmo or Paypal, sell on Facebook through Chirpify, or buy a Square dongle and let people swipe their credit cards.

But when he explained the core use case — a musician or designer or author creates creates a piece of art or digital content and wants to sell it — I could see why the other solutions might not work. Sites like eBay and Etsy are meant for specific types of sellers typically selling physical goods, and there are plenty of payments startups that make it easier to send money to a friend or coffee shop.

But if I wanted to sell copies of a digital magazine or an app icon I had designed to a base of subscribers or fans, I’m not sure where I’d go.

Gumroad screenshot

So this is why Lavingia, an early Pinterest employee who worked on things like the Pin It button and the mobile app, launched his startup called Gumroad in 2012, which raised $8.1 million from top Silicon Valley firms to make selling something online as easy as sharing it online, as Lavingia says.

This week, the company launched the ability to sell subscriptions, rather than individual one-off payments, as a way to tailor the service even further to how customers were using it.

He said the company saw that users were selling tens of thousands of dollars of content through what was essentially a subscription, even if Gumroad didn’t formally support it. So he figured it was time to add this to the service: “We were solely about helping people sell these atomic things,” he said.

With subscriptions, Gumroad will let creators sign up subscribers, set a monthly or yearly price (it can be $0 if they prefer), and then send their subscribers any kind of content, from book chapters to film episodes to songs or any kind of digital content. The customers can then download the content directly from an email.

“We want to make it as easy to sell something as it is to share something,” he said.