Daily Productive Sharing 115 - How to Bootstrap Your Business at All Cost?

One helpful tip per day:)

(The English version follows)


湾区日报近期推荐了年收入超过一千万的 Gumroad 分享他们的理念:


Gumroad 创始人 Sahil Lavingia 在这篇文章里介绍了目前公司的运转情况,其实他在前面一篇文章里介绍了近十年来的坎坷历程,也许更值得一读:

  1. Sahil 曾经是 Pinterest 的第二位全职员工,当时才19岁;
  2. 他并未兑现 Pinterest 的期权就离开了,只为创建 Gumroad。因为 Gumroad 的开端非常顺利,第一天上线就有超过五万人访问,并且在很早期拿到了顶级 VC 的投资,超过一百万美金;
  3. 不到一年,他们又融到了一轮超过七百万美金的资金;
  4. 但是走 VC 这条路意味着他们要对投资负责,而不仅仅对用户负责。所以他们要超高速地增长,几年之后,他们就发现这条路和他们的理念不符;
  5. 于是有三条路摆在 Sahil 面前:1. 把公司关了,2. 把银行里剩余的投资还给 VC,3. 尝试其他方式活下去。


  1. 当我们面临多个选项时,看起来最难的那个选项可能只是短期阵痛,长期来看却是最好的选项,而桌面上最容易的那个选项可能只是局部最优,全局不一定是最优;
  2. 当大多数都依靠 VC 投资创业时,也许 bootstrap 是另一条可选路径;
  3. 大部分成功都不是一夜之间发生的,其中的坎坷只有亲历者自己清楚。但大部分成功都是累计的结果,与其关注不确定的结果,不如关注确定的过程。


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Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company

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Gumroad's founder Sahil Lavingi recently shared his working philosophy. He describes the current running of the company in this article, but in fact he describes a bumpy ride over the last decade in an earlier article that is perhaps more worth reading.

  1. Sahil was once Pinterest's second full-time employee, at the age of 19.
  2. He left without cashing in his Pinterest options just to start Gumroad, which got off to a great start, with over 50,000 visitors on its first day and a very early investment of over a million dollars from top VCs.
  3. Less than a year later, they raised another round of funding of more than $7 million.
  4. However, going the VC route meant they had to be accountable to the investment, not just to the users. So they had to grow super fast, and after a few years, they realized that this path didn't fit their philosophy.
  5. So Sahil was faced with three options: 1. shut down the company, 2. return the remaining investment in the bank to VC, 3. try to survive in other ways.

He finally chose the most difficult path, as for how many bumps he went through, why don't you just read the original article. This article is actually quite inspiring:

  1. When we have multiple options: the option that seems the most difficult may only be a short-term pain, but in the long run it might be the best option, while the easiest option on the table may only be a local optimum, the overall situation is not necessarily optimal.
  2. When most are relying on VC investment to start a business, perhaps bootstrap is another alternative path.
  3. Most successes don't happen overnight, and the ups and downs are only clear to those who experience them. But most success is the cumulative result, instead of focusing on the uncertain result, we should focus on the certain process.

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Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company

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I thought Gumroad would become a billion-dollar company, with hundreds of employees. It would IPO, and I would work on it until I died.

At my lowest point, I had to lay off 75 percent of my company, including many of my best friends.

Now, it may look like I am in an enviable position, running a profitable, growing, low-maintenance software business serving adoring customers.

The reaction exceeded my grandest aspirations. Over 52,000 people checked it out on the first day.

Almost immediately, I raised $1.1M from an all-star cast of angel investors and venture capital firms, including Max Levchin, Chris Sacca, Ron Conway, Naval Ravikant, Collaborative Fund, Accel Partners, and First Round Capital.

A few months later, in May 2012, we raised $7M more. Mike Abbott from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), a top-tier VC firm, led the round.

I was on top of the world. I was just 19, a solo founder, with over $8M in the bank and three employees.

But we were venture-funded, which was like playing a game of double-or-nothing.

For the type of business we were trying to build, every month of less than 20 percent growth should have been a red flag.

With that off the table, our options were: 1. Shut down the business, 2. return the remaining money to investors, 3. and try something new.

We were responsible to our creators first. That’s what I told every new hire and every investor.

As everyone else found other opportunities, the skeleton crew fizzled from five to one.

I was basically alone. I didn’t have a team, nor an office.

For years, my only metric of success was building a billion-dollar company. Now, I realize that was a terrible goal.

My friends were worried, but I assured them I was neither depressed nor suicidal.

Most days, I failed.

Every year before 2016, there was an improvement in my expectations — in the team, the product, or the company. This was the first time in my life when the present year felt worse than the last.

KP would like to sell our ownership back to Gumroad for $1.

There was a path to an independent business, not beholden to the go-big-or-go-home mentality I signed up for when I raised money.

The future came into focus: I could grow a small team, slowly buy back our investors, and build Gumroad into a meaningful business focused on our creators.

There were months where I worked 16 hours a day, but there were also some months where I worked four hours a week.

I am now more focused on creating value than capturing it.))

Without a fundraising goal coming up, we’re simply focused on building the best product we can for our customers.