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Ask HN: Which companies work like Gumroad?
205 points by sudhirj on Jan 8, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 147 comments
I understand that it’s not for everyone, but I’m curious to see which companies work that way. Would love to give it a shot.

Edit: @Waterfowl posted the specifics:

this article about how gumroad works was at the top of the front page yesterday.



https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25673275 reply

Thanks for asking this.

I recently took a job with $MEGACORP after 5 years with start ups. I forgot how much $MEGACORP likes meetings. I found myself thinking about how gumroad has no meetings. I asked myself the same question as the OP.

I recently became a supplier to a megacorp. They'll plop a weekly meeting on eight peoples' calendars like it's nothing. I tried sending out email summaries on various projects, so they could just refer to that instead of having meetings, but they decided they would then just read through the email summary during the meeting.

I am discovering that I need to significantly increase prices to compensate for the additional navel-gazing inherent in working with a large company.

It's one of the reasons I still remain bullish on the strengths of small companies: large ones just begin attracting people who apparently enjoy frittering their education and talents away on pointless zoom calls.

The zoom calls are the symptom.

Meetings are a way of "doing something" without actually doing something. Most megacorps waste millions spinning their wheels on nonsense, but they're established and make money so it doesn't matter.

A strong small team working on a specialized product will always win - that's why they get gobbled up eventually by the megacorps - there's no way they can compete with that internally.

Meetings are a result of having a large team (or many teams) which require work/information to be synced periodically. I have not seen a software product that can tackle this problem: I only want to see progress on team Y for delivery 1 that my team needs for delivery Gamma.

Also, strong, small teams usually don't scale well - which is why they sell themselves to megacorps who can (e.g. megacorps are much better when it's time to localize to 20 countries on 3 continents and navigate the legal labyrinth necessitated. All that work requires meetings to coordinate, even if legal ends up only asking the engineer a single question)

All of those things are true of established industries with mature products. But that's also why established industries with mature products don't innovate and die.

There's too much bureaucracy to innovate. A potentially great idea could be snuffed out because it threatens the internal ambition of a middle manager, or the silos required to overcome results in burnout and good devs leaving. Even if a good idea is approved, you need 20 different teams, requiring 20 different meetings, and overall meetings, and then you need status meetings to watch the budget, etc etc.

> Also, strong, small teams usually don't scale well - which is why they sell themselves to megacorps who can

They sell to megacorps to make money, not to scale their product.

> They sell to megacorps to make money, not to scale their product

I should have been more explicit. Scale is the arbitrage opportunity exploited by megacorps: Buying an upstart at $X means they project that they can make a multiple of $X out of the transaction, based on their ability to scale (or integration with other products). If smaller team could easily make the same multiple of $X, then they wouldn't sell at $X.

It's economies of scale versus companies being too large to manage

As long as I can Bill my hours, I don't care all that much.

I find smaller or more experimental companies to be much more unstable, and in my thirties I just want something stable and nice so I can save money and retire with a bit over a million in the bank at 40.

Just want to be done with it

> in my thirties I just want something stable and nice so I can save money

Shoot, the article yesterday had me searching for how I can apply to Gumroad on top of my day job. They were claiming $50-250 per hour with as little as 10 hours a week. You want to save money? Have a stable day job and work at Gumroad for 10 hours a week. With such a short work week I can't imagine you'd be doing much more than simple bug fixes. I can swing 2 hours of that a day.

> retire with a bit over a million in the bank at 40.

You might have to set your sights a little higher. That's not gonna carry you to potentially 85 years old.

If you retire at forty with a million in the bank, how do you make it if you live till 80?

There is an idea called FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early). The first half is having enough money to not need to earn again, so you are not dependent on work or others. Once this is achieved, then you can retire early if you would like.

The conventional wisdom in this community is that if you invest a sum of money in equities, you can withdraw a certain percentage annually without ever running out of money. That is, you mostly live off of the growth of your investments. Generally, 4% (inflation adjusted) is considered a safe withdraw rate. So if you have a million dollars, and you can live off of 40K a year or less indefinitely, then you can retire.

Obviously this is a simplification and there are more considerations. Let me know if you have any questions. This is a topic I am passionate about and happy to give my 2 cents on.

I'm pretty well versed in the whole FIRE thing, and find myself more or less on that path.

One conclusion I've come to is that after people "retire early", they almost never actually stop making money. It just tends to end up being more entrepreneurial stuff that they make money off.

You don't "have to" work, but you "might as well", and all the sudden you may even find yourself in a more lucrative gig than you started with because you changed your focus and found a niche you can fill nicely.

I'd love to have free time to pursue other hobbies like working on video games, and making music. If I had the million dollar cushion, and then maybe I only made like $500 or $600 a month with my hobbies that would be awesome.

Life is too short to do anything else in my opinion. unless I guess I end up with a family but that's not really in my plans

Wooing a client isn't so different than pursuing a romantic partner in this way. When you don't 'need' something from someone, you are easier to be around. Your personal qualities aren't being overshadowed by your agendas.

Yep. The type of person who gets a high-paying enough job (and has the discipline) to save $1M usually doesn't have trouble getting extra work if they want. But now there's no pressure, they can take "fun" gigs that couldn't have supported them previously (musician, librarian, teacher, etc.).

A reasonable investment portfolio (in the US) will reliably generate enough inflation-adjusted growth on average that this will afford a modest lifestyle in most parts of the US. $35-50k/year (today's dollars) without much risk, which is a fairly average wage. It is only unrealistic if you live in an expensive city with a lavish lifestyle.

Anecdotally and ironically, many tech people that do this end up making a loads of money after they "retire". They don't sit on a beach and do nothing. The ability to be highly selective about what they work on, and to defer any compensation, often leads them to invest all their time on software projects they are passionate about, which not infrequently ends up throwing off a large amount of incidental income even though that wasn't the objective per se. I like the term "recreationally employed" to describe this lifestyle. I know many engineers who ended here and some of them make more money "retired" than they did work the 9-to-5 grind at a big company.

Move to a country where I can live off the 40k -> 60k a year an interest or whatnot.

This basically means either Southeast Asia, or some parts of Latin America. Asian languages tend to be extremely hard, and it might be a lot easier to sort of blend in with the populace in Latin America. The last thing I want to do in my retirement is draw needless attention to myself.

> Move to a country where I can live off the 40k -> 60k a year an interest or whatnot.

You realize the median US household income is like $40k/ year right?

With $40k a year you can live with the rich in some Latin American countries, if you can also spend 250k/350k on buying your own place in a high rise with private security or a gated community. You won't have access to Amazon and be able to buy all the top notch gear for your new hobbies in a week like as a tech worker in the US, but you can have a nice house with cleaning staff, a nice car or just take Uber or private cars everywhere, and do fancy dining two or three times per week.

The median American household doesn't have all this luxuries.

Yeah but I'm not trying to struggle in America, so cómo estás ¿

You can also live just fine off that amount in most American cities. $40k is basically $2,500 / mo after tax.

In the Atlanta area for example, there are plenty of nice 2-3 bedroom houses for $200,000 or even less, which puts your mortgage at $1,000 / mo. That leaves $1,500 / mo for a car, utilities, and food, which is plenty doable. Rent out a room if you want to for more income.

1k a month? Good luck with that.


You aren't making any sense.

Put in the numbers you suggested to the calculator. The only way you are getting under 1k month mortgage is if you have 20% of your down payment. I think the stats are something like 90% of homebuyers don't even put down 10% of the cost in down payment.

How does this work if you have kids that will be going to college when you’re ~50? That is, how do you know at 40 how much you’ll want to spend on your children’s college education?

> That is, how do you know at 40 how much you’ll want to spend on your children’s college education?

It's hard to figure how much to save for kids college, because the spectrum is so wide. For example, do you plan for the worst case scenario (ivy league, no scholarship or out of state state school, no scholarship) -- $250k and climbing.

Or the best case scenario (they take tons of ap courses and courses at local cc until transferring their jr year to in state school with full tuition scholarship) -- ~$20k?

Maybe try to aim for the midpoint? It's a hard problem.

What I've read that mad sense to me, though, is that kids can borrow for college and you can't borrow for retirement (reverse mortgage notwithstanding).

At least my plan assumes I won't have a family. Kids make this nearly impossible. While I can up and move to Costa Rica tomorrow( assuming their wasn't a pandemic ) , you can't exactly just tell your wife and kids to pack it up( and expect to remained married).

Either you keep working to pay for their education, or you tell them to take out loans like most families, or you live in a state that pays for education. Georgia, for example, has the HOPE scholarship which pays for kids with good grades to attend public colleges at low or no cost as long as they keep their grades up.

If you have kids, and want to help pay for their college education, a 529 plan or other custodial type account (UTMA/UGMA) would be a good choice. I would not want to take that out of the funds you are trying to live on.

Health and dental insurance can be a huge cost though.

Healthcare can definitely be expensive and you'll need a plan for that until Medicare kicks in.

ACA actually makes health insurance very cheap if you can control your income (I.e. retired and living off investments). My in laws were paying a couple bucks a month for a Silver plan, I think it’s up to $100-$200 now. ACA subsidies do not take into account wealth, only adjusted gross income.

I have a dream that someday America will get its head out of its ass and decouple health insurance from employer benefits.

That would change the employment calculus for a ton of people.

Most people who get rich get that way by saving money. That means living on less money than you can make. Indefinitely.

If you want to get sucked into every ad campaign that comes along, you'll end up broke even if you get a huge windfall. Which is in fact exactly what happens to many lottery winners, sports stars, musicians, child actors...

> Which is in fact exactly what happens to many lottery winners, sports stars, musicians, child actors...

I suspect the problem of sport stars et cetera is that they have to focus most of their time on their career, thus most don't have time to learn about finance (and not being from rich families means they can't simply copy the strategy of their parents), but it is publicly known that they are rich, and there are scammers who specialize on exactly this kind of victim. That is, I suspect that many sport stars will at some moment of their life meet a "financial advisor" with references from fellow sport stars, who offers to take care of their finance, and they go "lucky me, now I can focus 100% on my training", only to find out later that the money is gone.

To get rich, you need two different skills -- one to make money, and one to keep it -- and they both compete for your time. If you only focus on being good at what you do professionally, you may see lot of money flowing through your hands, but the part that you don't spend will somehow disappear anyway.

> Most people who get rich get that way by saving money. That means living on less money than you can make. Indefinitely.

That's true, but it is much easier to save money if you already started with a large amount. With enough starting money, it simply means not spending more than the interest you get (after adjusting for inflation).

You assume that a million generates $40k to $60k, inflation-adjusted, for the next 40 years?

I suppose that's one assumption to make. You know that the last time the US GDP grew more than 4% was back in 2000, right? And 2010 worldwide? Both with a continued downward trend since at least the 60's?

(This obviously doesn't preclude >4% ROI, but that in turn means increasing income inequality, and at some point, there's a price to be paid for that)

It's not about GDP, it's about Equities - eg: SPX which averages like 10% growth over last 30 years or something. Getting 4% off $1M isn't that hard at all. And with $1M you may be able to get some portion to work higher yields.

Equities don't keep growing indefinitely without underlying economic growth, and GDP represents that economic growth. There is no immutable law that SPX needs to keep growing 10%.

It has been outpacing GDP because increasingly, production is being concentrated in fewer, larger companies. So right now, they are growing. There are limits to that growth if GDP isn't growing as well - there are only so many smaller companies you can put out of business.

This - investing into SPX, or VFIAX, or any other market aggregate - is a viable strategy in the face of unlimited growth. It's a reasonable mid-term strategy. It's entirely unclear that there will be unchecked economic growth for 40 years. In fact, there's very good reason to assume there won't.

As for "get some portion to work higher yields" - those yields carry risk. They're not just making you more money, you stand a better chance to lose money, too. Which in turn means much less return, even if you manage to maintain 4%.

And to make matters worse, you're timing dependent - if you'd invested $1M in 1999, you would've been back to $1M in 2012. Except, if you'd lived off it for those 13 years, you'd be down to half your initial investment, ~$480K.

FIRE is a high-risk strategy. I'm not saying it can't work out, but over 40 years, there are a lot of things that can happen, and most FIRE proponents have very small safety margins. The crux is that that doesn't seem particularly problematic in your 20s and 30s - worst case, you start again, right? Except "start again" in your 50s, 60s, 70s is a really sucky proposition.

Ultimately, everybody takes their own risks, but let's not underplay those risks.

Folks keep saying lots of logical things like this (for decades). And yet TSLA p/e is 1800.

And there are a dozen TSLA on the horizon.

And the market keeps making new ones.

A million in bank is like $35,000 a year in interest. Not an extravagant lifestyle, but certainly possible to live comfortably on that in a low cost of living area if you have low expenses.

Where are you getting low risk 3.5% interest these days?

It's an average inflation-adjusted expected rate of return over time of a balanced portfolio, not a guaranteed rate every year. Some years might be 10%, some years might be -10%.

Historically, about 4% is the safe drawdown rate. FIRE folks tend to be a little more conservative than that, though, because of the even longer time horizon involved with retiring earlier.

Check out a tool like https://www.firecalc.com/ that is designed to run backtested simulations to see if your drawdown rate from your starting assets would historically be safe for your time horizon. The UI is clunky but the math is good.

That's fair, I'm pretty familiar with FireCalc and the withdraw rates, I wasn't in the right frame of mind (are any of us?) but that makes sense.

I think the 3.5% number is not for low risk investing. Additionally, you would need to make something more like 5.5% to account for inflation. Still a fairly conservative number for investments in equities.

The oft-quoted 4% figure is accounting for inflation. The nominal average return of a balanced portfolio over time is more like 7-8%.

FYI, the oft-quoted 4% figure was derived using a 30 year retirement time horizon [1]. Using longer time horizons will lower that number. [1] - https://financiallyfinanced.com/posts/will-bengen

In the UK My ISA portfolio is yielding at 3.2 from when I last did the sums - this is ignoring any capital gains.

Its a mix of some big Investment Trusts some wealth protection like Personal Assets RIT and Capital Gearing and a few more speculative bets

Interest and live on <$50k/yr?

This is sane way to think. There are awesome workplaces out there. Whether you have a shot getting employed there is another question.

I wish I had thought it that way when I was in my thirties.

How did you think in your thirties?

I work for an ultra mega corp and honestly the amount of meetings would be comical if it wasn't so monotonous. The recent meetings have centered around increasing capacity, I've tried to explain that less meetings would give folks more time to produce value, nobody gives a shit so I stopped caring too.

I have come to the conclusion that those kinds of meetings have nothing to do with exchanging information, finding solutions, or anything remotely related to creating value for the customer (tm).

Though I have yet to figure out what they’re really about.

An easy way to pass the time? People relying on them to validate their salary? The only way a weasly middle manager can get himself heard? Cargo culting? Probably a mixture of all and more.

I know this isn't a fun answer but in my experience it's just bad process and culture

Basically nothing can be done / no decisions made without a meeting. Why? Because X number of people feel they need buy in. If you don't get them onboard and give them a chance to voice opinions you'll be pushing uphill to get work done.

And meetings are actually a fairly effective way to do that -- you have a group's attention for a set amount of time. If you just sent a doc then you'd have to follow up, etc.

That sort of becomes the default, so there are meetings even when that sort of buy in isn't necessary, bc meetings are just how things get done.

Similar experience here - lotsa years at startups, then something worked out great and part of the deal was I had to join $MEGACORP for a couple of years. I left as soon as my time was up, and a big part of it was due to the absurd amount of meetings.

Now back at another startup (10 people), we have no meetings other than a 20 minute Monday call for some sync-up that otherwise doesn't occur naturally. It's wonderful.

The worrying thing about a 10-person startup is their lack of money.

And possibly their unproven business model. Which can lead to managers making petty decisions about money and individual worth.

Since not every 10-person startup becomes the next Google. Instead, most of them becomes the next Froogle, that probably shouldn’t have existed to begin with.

Stability is why I took the job at $MEGACORP.

In the past 3 years I haven't worked a full year due to the companies I worked for going out of business.

$MEGACORP isn't all bad. The pay is about the same, but I have much better benefits. For the first time in 5 years I have a 401K.

I've decided that I'm not going to work for another startup, unless I'm a founder. That way I have enough potential upside to make it worth the risk.

> The worrying thing about a 10-person startup is their lack of money.

I work at a company this size. We've almost gone under quite a few times. We're still here. It's an interesting way to live. It's certainly not for everyone, but you get an enormous amount of influence and autonomy. The pay isn't "great", but I make enough that my wife can stay home with our three kids and the numbers in the bank account just keep going up.

Of course, a lot of that is lifestyle decisions, but working at a small company is a lifestyle decision as well.

Yeah, but that's orthogonal to the question at hand, no?

Sure, startups aren't for everyone, just like big corporations aren't for everyone. For me, working for a /particular/ startup is unstable and risky, while working for startups generally has been extremely stable. Other people find them too risky, and that's fine.

Some people love the perceived stability of a large company. OTOH, big corps are known to do across the board RIFs, independent of how well a particular division is doing. Or killing off a whole department on what seems like a whim. YMMV.

you dont have to be in a $MEGACORP to have tons of useless meetings. You just have to move to a company where the people are proud to do SCRUM by the book, with reviews and retrospective (each one 4 hours long)

Hoping this is hyperbole, but if your reviews or retrospectives are actually four hours long, you should politely point out that these do not need to be more than an hour (and many mature scrum teams do both in an hour total)

Interesting. It usually takes us most of an hour to get through our reviews, and I don't feel like we have an unusually high number of deliverables (10-15 tickets on average maybe, representing 1 or 2 larger projects and a small batch of regressions/spikes/featurelets, for a 3-dev team). Retros are taking around an hour, faster than last year by 2x but the time still feels like it's well-spent.

Why ... so you can be labelled a malcontent, non-team player, denied promotions and eventually managed out of the org at first opportunity? :)

There is a way to give this feedback that is positive, collaborative, and highlights what a great team player you are -- the sort of thing that gets people promotions. But YMMV!

it's unfortunately not a hyperbole. It takes us literally 4 hours. Mostly the scrum master do it as a monologue. We all just zoom out and do other stuff. Last sprint i finished a lib that i was working on and deployed our code twice in production to avoid dying live on teams.

Interesting... I went from MEGACORP to startup, only for the startup to have, literally, an order of magnitude more meetings.

I think it depends on the company. I've worked at two megacorps, one where meetings were absolutely nonstop and the other where I had about 2 a week.

Do you mind telling us which one each was?

Sure. I had a lot of meetings at Netflix (was there for 5.5 years, left in July). I had almost no meetings at Microsoft (was there for 3.5 years, left 10 years ago).

This was just my experience. These are large companies so there is really no one overall experience, especially at MS.

Oh and I was an IC at both companies. More junior at MS.

I'm at a $MEGACORP and actively work to reduce meetings as much as possible. I've found there to be far less need for meetings as my colleagues are more experienced than those at startups. I can trust them to execute, make smart decisions and escalate if need be. Startups tend to require a lot more hand holding (and therefore more meetings).

I see startups having a crazy amount of more meetings than mega corps, especially the ad hoc ones.

Sometimes the meetings at $MEGACORP feel like useless ceremony. However I have worked with people who don't frikken read and do their own thing. For these people meetings are where you have to harvest their attention towards the cards/issues/wiki/specs/diagrams. Still not cool.

Heh, I just go on my phone in meetings that are truly useless, especially these days when it's an audio call (my camera is off). Or better yet I can just work on something not requiring an entire brain/focus.

What happens if you simply decline to attend?

My company is ran similarly; though I never raised VC and bootstrapped my way to profitability over 5 years as a solo founder. I provide a simple platform for people to play their friends on high quality CS:GO servers, while keeping track of their stats/wins/losses. https://popflash.site

If you have played a lot of Counterstrike, have real-world technical skills, and are interested in a flexible autonomous environment much like Gumroad, feel free to tell me about your recent projects: daniel@popflash.site

Just wanted to say my friends and I had a fantastic time using Popflash 4-5 years ago to organize our ten mans. Thank you!

Well cheers. That's honestly such a pleasure to hear, especially on HN of all places. So glad you had a good time.

Pop flash was a godsend on the early days of the pandemic. Best money I ever spent. Keep up the amazing work

A decade ago, when I was still playing a lot of CS, I would have joined :) looks really interesting.

How are you making money on here?

I charge users 5 bucks a month to host unlimited matches (just 1 person out of 10 pays).

I could charge more, but since I don't have the overhead of a large company, I can get by with less and my users get an extremely affordable product.

You host the 128tick servers right? You can afford that on $5/m? I would have thought game servers cost more than that

They won’t be playing 24/7, if you assume a paying user plays one match/hour per day on average you need 1/24th of a server per month/user.

You can definitely get more than a few servers for $120/month

Hey what tech stack powers your project, I would love to know

Mostly normal stuff; node.js, postgres, redis, some react, Sourcemod/c++ for the in-game management. Nothing overtly fancy nor magical.

Nice, Thanks for responding, let me know if you are looking to hire on short term contract

Elastic works similarly, though not to the extent that was described in that Gumroad post. It also varies a bit by team, but I've worked on many teams over the last 5.5 years here, so I have a decent perspective on what's normal and how things evolved to this point.

Engineering is distributed around the world, so it happens in a highly asynchronous way centered around GitHub issues, the vast majority of which are in public repos. Slack and Zoom are used, but if they're used to make decisions, the recording is saved for others to consume and the decision is documented on GitHub.

Meetings are discouraged, but not non-existent. To give some context, I'm a manager of two teams and this week I had 4.5 hours of meetings (including 1:1s), which is pretty normal. When I was an independent contributor on a single team, I often had weeks where I had a single 30 minute meeting.

In practice today, I suspect an engineer at Elastic will spend an average of ~2 hours a week in a meeting, with a few spending a great deal more than that and others spending less.

This culture is demonstrated top-down and has been a common thread from the early days, through the IPO, and continues today.

Edit: We also have a general philosophy of features being done when they're done rather than when we reach some arbitrary date. This doesn't mean we don't have timelines (we have ~2 month long release cycles), but if we can pair down scope to make a release, we will, and if we can't do it then we'll just move the feature to the next release instead.

We've codified a lot of the philosophy that feeds into this workflow here: https://www.elastic.co/about/our-source-code

Do you also pay $10K/mo for a quarter-time dev role world-wide?

Nope, I missed that part if it was in the Gumroad post.

That's the main part - to be paind enough so that quarter/part time work is enough to live comfortably anywhere in the world and have a time for side hustles. "Work less" as the article mentions.

What's the performance evaluation process(for promotions or otherwise) at Elastic like? At most big companies I have seen perf to be a major headache

As with anything that is potentially contentious and involves humans, there's a lot of nuance here and breaking it all down into a couple paragraphs doesn't really respect the unique needs of everyone. I've worked with some amazing people that respond best to very informal processes around performance-based feedback, and I've worked with some equally amazing people that desire a relatively rigid and analytical process. I think we all try to do what's best for each person.

That said, it's important that we do have guiding processes and principles here to ensure that everyone is being evaluated both fairly and effectively, so it's not like the wild west or something.

Every "track" has levels with defined expectations in terms of the type of work they do, the impact they have, the interactions they have with teammates, others at Elastic, the community, etc. High performers would be folks that are at least meeting the expectations established for their level, which is where promotion comes in.

Promotion is not necessarily role-oriented in the sense that you don't get promoted out of being an engineer into management or something like that, they are different parallel tracks. For example, I technically took a demotion to switch from a Tech Lead to an Eng. Manager role.

Processes do vary a bit team by team, though they've become more consistent over time and are pretty similar now. This is how things work on my teams:

I have 30 minute 1:1s with each person that reports to me every 2-3 weeks depending on their seniority. This is pretty informal, but the consistent face to face gives us opportunities to talk frequently about how things are going.

Every quarter I do a longer review with each team member. This isn't super formal or anything, but it is more structured with a corresponding doc that I fill out in advance and that we both expand upon during our meeting. Nothing should be a surprise here as I give positive or critical feedback more regularly, but this is where we can really dig into aspects of their performance, rehash current expectations for their level and make plans with them for how to achieve their professional goals, whether it be promotion, type of work, transitioning to a different role, etc.

The 6 and 12 month reviews are a little more comprehensive as I also include anonymous 360 feedback from peers and others throughout Elastic.

Do you hire for non senior positions?

We do, yeah. We include "target" seniority designations in the job post titles, so if it doesn't say "senior", "principal", etc, then it isn't a senior position. We also don't (for the most part) have requirements around years of experience, though in practice there's an obvious correlation.

That said, at this very moment we happen to have a boatload of more senior positions available. There are a couple less senior ones though.

My startup, Haekka (https://haekka.com) functions similarly. We don’t deal with office politics and bullshit. We only have two FTEs (founders) and 3 contractors. We’re 100% remote and have no plans on not being remote. My previous company that I sold was remote for 7 years. I don’t believe in building software in an office.

We’re very transparent about our financial and business goals. My only scheduled meeting is a weekly dev sync that I do think is very helpful, but we don’t do daily standups or daily calls. All comms are done through Slack, GitHub PR comments and Linear comments.

I will likely be hiring a contract python (or full stack) dev in Q1 as well as a growth marketing position. Feel free to email me ryan@haekka.com

How do you avoid dealing with politics? A lot of people I've heard say "they don't do politics" are affected by it just as much as anyone else. They're just bad at it.

Everyone is hired for a specific job. The details of that job are explicit to both parties. Where there is ambiguity we call that out and set that expectation (ex: that this duty may change).

This alone avoids a lot of the “not my job problem” or people trying to encroach on someone else’s job. In turn, this reduces chances of conflict and politics.

Additionally, we keep communication extremely focused on work. There are no slack channels for watercooling, there are no “get to meet each other” zoom calls.

We (including founders) log on, we do our work, we communicate (via text) about issues, wins, concerns, questions, and we log off. There’s no expectation of working hours (save for that weekly dev sync I mentioned).

We also don’t preset deadlines. I’m not going to sit here and say we don’t have target dates, because we do. But it’s an explicit function of engineering to determine the scope of a feature and to assign it an effort. Based on that effort I can then forecast when it might get done. But there’s no deadline. This is just good engineering practice and also helps us improve our code quality over time. We do not share forecast completion dates with users and customers. The most we will say is that we’re working on something. No etas.

We’ve also built in a culture of shipping constantly. Shipping a feature or a release isn’t some big event. I might log on in the morning and see that a feature was finished over night (including final QA, etc.) and I’ll just release it. This takes a lot of pressure off development. Because we’re so comfortable releasing, even if there was an issue, we could just roll back. I’ve had to do this twice now and it was a non issue. The release notes hadn’t even been emailed to users yet, so no harm.

This sounds pretty awesome. I think that some of the office politics creep in not because of the projects that people are working on, but just because people actually interact on non-work things. This can be a really good thing in many cases (you spend a lot of time with these people, so it's good to have a cultural fit and hang out), but it can also be bad, because so much of your personal life can be wrapped up in people from work.

This has less personal contact, and therefore the only politics will mostly be focused on work. As long as things are scoped tightly and you are self-motivated, this should work pretty well. But, you have to have your own social life, since you won't get it from work.

This sums up my thoughts as well. I pay you $150k per year, you work 20 hours per week, there are no meetings, there are no politics; you're assigned work, we collaborate on that work via text, you complete the work, you log off and have a life. Most engineers (including myself) are only worth about 4 hours of actual work per day anyway, so if you can do a weeks worth of work in 20 hours, then so be it. I don't need to fill another 4 hours per day with bullshit emails, meetings, or anything else that doesn't involve work.

I don't know how others do it, but at companies I've started or where I otherwise have a say in things, (1) we don't have any titles and (b) during interviewing we weigh personality almost more than tech ability. If someone is generous, has a good sense of humor, open to feedback, is laid back but still driven, and seems to love building cool stuff for the joy it brings, odds are pretty good that they will have little interest in the contention & disruption of office politics.

It doesn't completely eliminate politics but it comes pretty close. When it hasn't worked out, in most cases some coaching of people one-on-one has helped them improve, and in the other cases - where they seemed uninterested or unwilling to change, we just fired them.

> We don’t deal with office politics and bullshit.

Maybe you meant to say - you don't have office politics. If you are not "dealing" with it then you are creating a bigger problem.

I believe politics are a side product of humans working together. It'll just be there. Just like eating causes you to fart.

Related interesting read but looks good only on paper - https://hbr.org/2016/06/how-facebook-tries-to-prevent-office...

Sure. I mean we don't have it. It hasn't come up. If it did, we'd obviously deal with it.

> avoids ... people trying to encroach on someone else’s job

To me, that mindset sounds a bit like office politics itself -- i mean, using a negatively loaded word for branching a bit outside one's usual work tasks.

I'd generally be fine if my coworkers sometimes worked in"my" parts of the code base (or whatever it is) but it seems as if at where you work, they're not allowed to do that

Hello Ryan,

I've just launched a site which has a goal to collect different companies that support Gumroad's model - https://creatorjobs.co/

I've listed your company there. Please let me know if you have any concerns about that - contact@creatorjobs.co.

What does FTE means here?

Full time equivalent.

Basically it means one person.


Usually Full Time Employee

In this context FTE means a fully loaded W2 employee making a salary. A contractor can still be "full-time", but they aren't technically an FTE. They are a contract employee that works at least 35 hours per week, but this is not considered an FTE.

I run a small B2B service/product hybrid company, DevisedLabs, focused on ecommerce in a somewhat similar fashion. Our team of 12 is entirely freelancers, from engineering, to project management, to sales. We only hold meetings when necessary (we have no standups) and meetings are generally <= 2 people since it's usually for a specific purpose. We coordinate mostly over Trello and Slack, and meetings are reserved for demos or complicated questions. We use OneNote and Notion for company-wide knowledge, planning, and information tracking.

Since everyone is freelancers, most work for other clients or have regular full-time jobs. Everyone has flexibility on hours, but we try to pick those who have overlap with the team, especially for those who need to interface with our clients. Some in our team prefer to travel around, others stay fixed in a location.

Rates-wise, we don't prescribe a formula for what others should charge, nor do we usually try to negotiate anyone down. I believe everyone should make the decision of what their time is worth themselves. That is one of the biggest benefits of self-employment after all. Ultimately it comes down to what that time translates into value, so that's the lens we view it through.

I would say it's worked well for us, although I do see the value in employment for our most dedicated team members. Those who are truly full-time should be given full-time employment I believe, since it better protects them (benefits, unemployment, etc). Others who want to have a freelance life should be allowed to do that too. We will likely be offering both options eventually.

I've just launched a site which has a goal to collect different companies that support Gumroad's model - https://creatorjobs.co/

If anyone knows about this type of company, please contact me at contact@creatorjobs.co.

Bookmarked, hope to see it grow! :)

Thank you very much for the support. :)

I've launched the newsletter now, so if you're interested you can subscribe - https://creatorjobs.co/

I run my company in a similar way. It's myself, three employees and a bunch of contractors. ( https://asylumsquare.com/team )

We have an office, but everyone can work from where-ever he wants to (actually the freelancers are from all around the world). Since Covid hit we're operating 100% remote before most of the time we worked with 2 people in the office the rest of us remotely.

Everyone works as much or less as he wants, can take days off whenever he feels like.

We do have voice calls from time to time when it's appropriate, but in 99.9% only two people are involved and it usually happens when we have the feeling it would clarify faster as by asynchronous chat (for example when screen share is involved to demonstrate something). Actually I wouldn't even call it meetings because we mostly don't even setup a schedule, it just naturally happens (for example chatting about a specific topic, then deciding a call would be easier / faster).

It works well for us, but I think it would be a lot harder if we were more people as we don't have anyone who organizes or manages the project and the people.

Hello Joe,

I've just launched a site which has a goal to collect different companies that support Gumroad's model - https://creatorjobs.co/

I've listed your company there. Please let me know if you have any concerns about that - contact@creatorjobs.co.

I interviewed at a company under Hall Labs (https://halllabs.com/). All hourly paid employees with no benefits. Not certain about their management or meeting handling though.

I had the same question in mind when reading the other HN thread. I recently started doing contracting work and would like to try working with such a team.

Just thinking out loud here, but that may be a good target for a niche job board? That’s maybe already a thing.

Userify (https://userify.com) is similar; meetings are rare (except probably with customers). Most communication occurs in one-on-ones, with a strong bias toward the minimum number of team members for any project.

Most team members are contractors, even those working on new top-secret products, which might be because the core team is small and based in Texas and most devs are geographically elsewhere. It does seem to take up some time to build trust on new commits, which is a bit discouraging at first, but reviews are usually within 24 hours. Pay is based on deliverables, not hourly or salaried, so you don't get paid for time spent learning or experimenting, but free training and classes.

The core team seems a bit old school and conservative in tech choices (not much in the way of k8s, for example), and there's not much in the way of "team" tools like you might expect for a geographically distributed team, which seems to slow things down a bit and reduce communication velocity, but they're very responsive (this might be because it's a smaller, security-focused company). Also a rather complex 10-page NDA.

Most communication occurs in one-on-ones, with a strong bias toward the minimum number of team members for any project.

Putting my best future prediction hat on, this means only a few people know what's actually going on. If the company grows there'll be competing antagonist efforts from different parts of the business. You'll start scheduling strategy meetings to avoid this because it's a waste of money, and that will drive away your early hires who joined because there was a culture of no meetings.

That's a good point and might eventually lead to inefficiency or looser team cohesion. Management reaction to strong growth probably feels more like Apple than Microsoft, but maybe with less angst ;)

Not sure how influential you are, but one thing I've noticed is that when meetings start to feel unproductive, its due to one of two reasons.

The first is when you have NxM meetings. What does that mean? Well, you have, say, N people representing one interest, and M representing another. You put them all in a room together. This usually only happens when a decision has to be made, and it sucks (note: it's fine if you're just brainstorming, where no decision is being made). This is a great place for leadership to exist; if instead you take the lead from N, and the lead from M, you reduce it back to a 1-on-1 meeting, and then each of those individuals can go back to their teams with what was decided, and have 1xN and 1xM communication.

The other instance is where that 1xN or 1xM meeting feels unproductive. Note the nature of these meetings - they are mostly informational. They're either getting information to inform a future decision (and possibly decide on what the team's position is depending on how egalitarian the org is; I still consider these an informational meeting, since then the leader is more a representative, and trying to find out what the group believes, in order to represent it elsewhere), or they're communicating that a decision has been made. These can likely be done via some asynchronous mechanisms rather than meetings, to avoid it feeling like an unnecessary meeting (and to have documentation of the information!). If it is done as a meeting, be aggressive with providing an agenda, and ensuring only members of a single team/department/etc, and ideally hierarchy level, are included. If you have more than that, you almost assuredly are having a meeting that is 1x(N+M+...), because you're including multiple groups. And those groups have different priorities, interests, etc, and at least part of your meeting is almost assuredly going to be boring and unnecessary for them.

Chipping in as the co-founder of a job board startup - https://swissdevjobs.ch

We are:

- 2 co-founders

- 2 up to 4 people part-time as contractors

- full remote, almost zero offline retreats

- growing the user base around 10% MoM

- all communication happens on our Discord server

- bootstrapped, no founding

It's not clear if this model will scale easily, but I can see us growing to at least 10-15 people this way.

How do you make money? Only from companies posting jobs?

Yes, that's the most straight-forward model - companies paying posting the jobs.

You could theoretically also serve some relevant ads (products or services for Software Engineers) but the conversion would be probably very poor.

Speaking of long shots, I'm looking for exactly this setup with a Clojure(script) stack.

The alternative is to build what you want, that has been my current plan. My only problem is that I want to make everything open source, and have no idea how to monetize my work.

You may want to look at Ghost by John O Nolan, I believe he open sources the code while the company is making a very healthy amount of revenue.

I read the post as a Transloadit.com founder and found it to 90% overlap. We do have a team meetup once a year and Friday remote gaming sessions, and one fulltimer tho (out of 18)

Hello kvz,

I've just launched a site which has a goal to collect different companies that support Gumroad's model - https://creatorjobs.co/

Is it possible that I list your company there? If yes, please contact me with additional information - contact@creatorjobs.co.

I'm not sure you should be spamming this in response to all these comments.

Doist (http://doist.com) works similarly.

See https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/what-remote-work-looks-like... (paywalled) for a good description of it.

You'd want to survey companies that investors like https://indie.vc, https://earnestcapital.com, and https://tinyseed.com invest in.

At what revenue would it start calling a full company rather than just a side-project?

It's a little different for Gumroad because they started as a company with an office and became this, but for many side projects, they start out without meetings, without offices and remain that way earning a couple of thousand USD per month.

Not the same but a weird one is Gore. They’ve a flat structure and no managers.

Just made a tiny job board for this: unaffixed.com

Send new jobs to: jobs@unaffixed.com

Craigslist has (had?) no deadlines and no (formal) meetings.

comma.ai, a profitable AI startup that has an open source autonomous driver assistance system, called openpilot, a bit like Tesla Autopilot.

they previously raised money, and is now recently profitable.

very rare in this space.

We do! (and are hiring; although we are tiny!) https://datascienceretreat.com/

Hi! Second this- I don't find any jobs page as well. I am based in Asia, and will be happy to help spearhead the effort if your team ever wish to develop here.

Here's my LinkedIn so that you can see if I'll be a good fit for the roles you've in mind: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jie-poh-813748159/

Thank you!

Hello urlwolf,

I've just launched a site which has a goal to collect different companies that support Gumroad's model - https://creatorjobs.co/

Is it possible that I list your company there? If yes, please contact me with additional information - contact@creatorjobs.co.

You mention you are hiring, but don't seem to have a jobs page that I can find. I am not looking for a new job, was just curious, but couldn't find anything.

You'll have to be specific. Work in what way?

this article about how gumroad works was at the top of the front page yesterday.




I believe he's referring to this article[0] which was discussed on HN yesterday.

[0]: https://sahillavingia.com/work

Valve perhaps?

37signals probably.

I'd be really curious to hear Basecamp's opinion on Gumroad, and how they'd compare and contrast their own experience with it (Basecamp is the new name of 37signals).

Basecamp's CEO Jason Fried actually shared his thoughts in a tweet:

"Good read on how Gumroad experiments with work, structure, hiring, and compensation. Re: part time... Little known fact: I hired @dhh quarter-time (10 hours a week) to build Basecamp way back in 2003. That's all he had, and we made it work."


Jason Fried (CEO of BC) retweeted the Gumroad post and said a few things in a tweet

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