The case for a minimalist business: Two entrepreneurs chose to get rid of the parts of their businesses that didn't spark joy--and that saved them during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Author:Griffin, Elle
 
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SAHIL LAVINGIA RAISED $8 MILLION between Seed and Series A rounds, opened offices in San Francisco, and managed 23 full-time employees. He planned to build a billion-dollar company and he was well on his way to doing so, all he needed was a $15 million Series B.

For Lavingia, during the six years he spent in San Francisco his business, Gumroad was his whole identity. He did nothing but eat and work, and he can't recall going out on a single date during that time. He read business books on the weekends and had an office in SOMA. He was flush with cash and there was always the enticement of more coming.

And it worked, for a time.

The problem was, revenue wasn't doubling fast enough. Though he had plenty of customers and $2 million in monthly processing volume, the product his company offered was still somewhat niche. He would have to find a new, larger product-market fit to justify raising more cash.

In the end, Lavingia wasn't able to do so. In 2015 he reduced his staff down to three people, got rid of his offices, and kindly asked his backers to write his company off. He wouldn't be able to make them their return on investment, he said.

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"At some point, I had to ask if it was an ego thing--did I just want to have the biggest event space and the biggest creative space? Yes, that's exactly what it was," says Michael Ori, describing his vision for two buildings in Salt Lake City's granary district.

The plan was to take Studio Elevn, his creative studio space, and Ori Media, his photo and video production company, to a whole new level. At one point there were plans for 45,000 square feet of mixed-use office space, event space, studio space, courtyards and rooftop gardens--even a swimming pool.

His plan was to create an artistic hub in Utah where artists, photographers, and filmmakers could gather and work. His mortgage was going to cost him $90,000 per month, but he would more than be able to cover it with the creative entourage who would rent the space.

A chance encounter with the architecture point on the project made him reconsider. "He started really digging deep into what drives us and what we're really good and what we're really passionate about," Ori says. In the process, he realized his true passion was the creative part: photography and videography. Taking on unique projects and working on indie films.

As it turns out, Ori actually didn't like being a manager--or a landlord. He hated hosting events. And here he was trying to build...

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