Former student leaves for Pinterest

first_imgWhen Sahil Lavingia goes into business meetings, he is usually the youngest one in the room. At 19 years old, he is the owner and creator of Internet start-up Gumroad and has a professional résumé that includes Pinterest and Turntable but said his age has never held him back.Pinterest, a site that allows viewers to share media through a virtual pinboard, is the third most popular social network, according to VentureBeat, which covers new technology.“I joined [Pinterest] when I was 18 and everyone else was around 30,” he said. “It was amazing. I don’t think age was a factor. It was just really cool to learn with people who cared about the project.”Lavingia was a first-semester freshman studying computer engineering at USC in fall 2010 when Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann approached him to help design Pinterest. At the time, Lavingia was designing iPhone apps and working on websites. He said Silbermann found him through his blog.“[He] emailed me and said that he liked a lot of my work,” Lavingia said. “Next time I was up in NorCal, I met with him and the other founder and talked about products. In the end, I liked what they were up to and I told them I would join them.”After one semester at USC, Lavingia decided to end his formal education at USC and move to San Francisco to begin a different type of education as a full-time employee.“Education is pretty different from learning,” he said. “I thought I would learn a lot more being up in San Francisco full-time. I’d be really immersed in the start-up scene rather than paying USC $50,000 a year.”Lavingia designed Pinterest’s signature virtual pinboard. Previously, he designed and built iPhone apps including one for Turntable.fm, which allows users to share music in a social setting. He said he was about 13 when he started learning computer programs, such as Photoshop, and soon began designing iPhone apps. He said he became “addicted to making stuff.”“When you build an app, it might take you a few hours to make and it could change someone’s life,” he said. “I think the coolest thing about working on Gumroad is it gives you the opportunity to do the same thing.”Soon after joining Pinterest, Lavingia said he created Gumroad, a website for selling creative content, after he spent a few hours one day designing a pencil logo on Photoshop. He said he realized there was no easily accessible market model where he could use to sell the design online.“I thought there could be a new one based on social [networking], so I built the prototype in a weekend,” he said. “The biggest goal is to change the way people create, consume and pay for content.”Lavingia said he was frustrated with current market models, where consumers might hear a song on the radio but have to go another place, such as iTunes, to buy the song. He wanted to change the way artists create and sell their work, so he began working on Gumroad as a side project. After about a year with Pinterest, he left for Gumroad, taking with him everything he learned, including remembering to have fun.“I don’t really care about the business. I don’t really care about the $8 million we could raise,” he said. “I just care about the product. It’s just fun.”Lavingia said Gumroad has already seen success, reaching out to a variety of artists looking for an easy way to get their work out, whether it is music, writing or artwork. Despite his age, he said he never feels out of place among other, older creators of Silicon Valley start-ups such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and he never feels uncomfortable with the responsibilities of owning a company.“My favorite part of that is that if everything fails, it’s totally my fault,” he said. “I’m sure there [are] tons of mistakes I’ve made and tons of mistakes I’ll make in the future. It’s cool that people trust me and give me that responsibility.”last_img read more