So many levers are pulled in the making of a startup. One lever may look like a car driving past a record store. One may be the friendship of two college freshman. The last lever the purchase of a first office space. Eventually, the pieces fit together to equal a business. For Grooveshark, the evolution of a startup began with lever number one: Driving past a record store.
Josh Greenberg and Sam Tarantino kindled their friendship at the University of Florida nearly fifteen years ago. Josh, a tech-savvy kid, was in the Tech-Entrepreneur Club at school, while Sam had a passion for business strategy. The story goes that Sam drove past a local record store and began to wonder why there was no platform on which he could sell his mp3 items like one would a record. Thus, a concept was born: What if the world had a peer-to-peer music downloading site that paid artists, users and the website? He brought the idea to Josh.
The dynamic duo leased a small office space in Gainesville, or what may have felt like a grassroots campaign office. To their initial employees, it seemed Grooveshark would bring true democracy to the music world; to create a just ecosystem in which artists were paid for their work and listeners actively participated in the spreading this music community.
“It felt like something big was going to happen,” said former executive Jack DeYoung in an interview with Gimlet Media.
Jack explained that there was an electric energy which pulsed through Grooveshark in early days. It was an energy fueled by a shared belief that the company was destined to revolutionize the music industry. Of course, the collective passion for the startup was fueled by a common thread amongst staff; Grooveshark employees were music lovers. They were eager to become a part of the music revolution, to which Grooveshark would be the answer.
Most Grooveshark hires were close in age to founders, Josh and Sam. This meant that Grooveshark was made up of college students, mainly under 20 years old. Most staff did not have experience in the roles they played, but instead were integrated into the startup for their willingness to work hard and due to their authentic belief in the company’s mission.
“I guess I didn’t have any qualifications other than I was extremely passionate and willing to work all hours of the day, all hours of the night,” said Isaac Moredock, another initial employee at Grooveshark. He came from community college and was hired to sell ads.
In a RollingStone interview, Jack elaborated, “A lot of employees went to the University of Florida. We weren’t close to the music industry at all. We just had a great product. Everybody came in thinking we’d create this musical utopia that would really help artists, thinking the music industry would see it as this incredible product to take away from piracy. That was the prevailing view.”
Beginning employees were not alone in the the sweep of Grooveshark hype. Within year one, Grooveshark managed to raise $1 million from investors. Soon, the closet-sized office was traded out for a larger office space. What was to follow took Gainesville by storm. The startup became an inspiration to the city’s startup community. Grooveshark showed promise that a young startup culture could be successful and even optimal.
For Grooveshark, the beginning looked like an archetype for startups in their initial phases. So often, the start of a startup tends to look a lot like this story: an idea is inspired, born, and realized by a band of believers. Even if those believers are young or inexperienced, the idea, if a good one, can carry the startup to its feet.
Contributed by Meg Boria-Meyer