How to earn $100,000 at age 15

Gumroad’s founder isn’t shy. And that’s part of what’s so fascinating about him. He could have stayed at Pinboard and perhaps gotten rich in the process. Instead, he walked away to found his own start-up.

I’m not sure which is better: earning $100,000 by age 15 or having a story written about you titled “The Most Interesting Teenager In Silicon Valley.” Sahil Lavingia’s done both. The 19 year old was on the team that helped launch Pinterest (the fastest-growing Web site of all time).

Before that, he was a 15-year-old kid designing iPhone apps on the weekends and selling them on Flippa.com.

“I built a to-do list app,” Lavingia said in an interview with Alyson Shontell. “I built this thing that let you create Facebook walls but for Twitter before Twitter had any kind of conversation aspect. I built this tool that let users send automatic, customized direct messages on Twitter.”

He contracted out the coding work, then sold the apps for $1,000+. Things accelerated when Lavingia took up iPhone app development. He says he leaned how to build Apple apps in two weeks thanks to Stanford videos.

“I was financially independent when I was 15,” Lavingia said. “I never really tell anyone that because it doesn’t feel relevant, but looking back I think, Oh, starting a company might have actually made sense. I have been doing okay for a while. My bank account when I was 15 or 16 was over $100,000.”

Lavingia’s clearly not shy. And that’s part of what’s so fascinating about him. Sure, he could have stayed at Pinboard and perhaps gotten rich in the process. Instead, he walked away to found his own start-up: an online payment processing site called Gumroad.

Gumroad officially launched on Feb. 8, 2012, and it did so thanks in part to $1.1 million in seed money from a number of venture capitalists including the heavyweight VC firm Accel Partners.

Why all the hype for Gumroad?

Gumroad has one over-riding goal: making it easy to buy and sell things online. It does that by giving sellers a simple form to fill out. After hitting submit, the seller than gets a link to share with others who want to buy a particular product.

“Lavingia thinks that Facebook and Twitter can become the new marketplace/store-front and thus, in his view, Gumroad has the potential to be a huge sustainable (even billion dollar) company,” writes Alexia Tsotsis at Techcrunch. “Gumroad obviously disrupts the traditional and current online distribution systems, allowing artists with massive Twitter followings like Kanye and Gaga to sell directly to their followers, for example.”

If Gumroad pans out, it could open the world of online sales to a whole new audience – and help transform commerce on the Web in the process.

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