Startup Company Spotlight

Spotlight on Hutchison PLLC

Spotlight on Hutchison PLLC 1051 700 startupGNV

Like bread and butter, some things just go together. So often, satisfaction comes with making a perfect pair and what is a better match for aspiring entrepreneurs than a law firm dedicated to helping startups?

For Hutchison, a law firm formed to serve entrepreneurs, Gainesville is the perfect fit with its fruitful startup scene. The firm opened an office in the city in 2015, moving into the community due to the heavy concentration of startups and uprising university talent pool with a promising future.

Hutchison was established over twenty years ago in Raleigh, North Carolina, where its headquarters are still located. When choosing where to extend their hand to business owners, they landed upon Gainesville, as the city was home to numerous pre-existing clients. Hutchison had helped North Florida clients for over a decade before moving to town. By 2015, they not only had roots in the area but an understanding of Gainesville culture on a social and professional level.

“The firm’s DNA is built on representing emerging growth technology companies,” said Justyn Kasierski, managing partner at Hutchison PLLC. “Of course, the University of Florida is renowned for spinning out those types of companies. That is what first attracted us to the area back in 2005. What we found after working in Gainesville is that there is an entrepreneur ecosystem flourishing more and more everyday.”

Since coming to Gainesville, Hutchison has watched the city entrepreneurially transcend over the years they’ve been in town. The startup scene continues to grow in Alachua at every phase of the business life-cycle. Though there is a steady drip of early-stage startups, an increasing number of local companies are also migrating into the growth phase and beyond. That’s where Hutchison comes in, providing guidance at every stage of a startup life.

Moreover, Hutchison’s belief in the city’s promise is ever growing. “Our firm spends a lot of time in entrepreneurial ecosystems like Nashville, Atlanta, and more. We feel Gainesville is right there with that DNA, minus the size difference. Gainesville punches above its weight when it comes to entrepreneurship. Success breeds success, and we believe Greater Gainesville’s collaborative ecosystem will continue to nurture and accelerate the formation and growth of companies here,” said Kasierski.

What exactly are those advantages that Alachua has to offer? Take Gainesville’s affordable and available office spaces, warehouses, manufacturing areas, and lab spaces. Then, there’s UF and Santa Fe, which provide a highly-educated talent pool in Hutchison’s eyes. On top of it all, the cost of living is relatively low in Gainesville, meaning that companies’ payroll can also be lower, there are incredible incubators and accelerators, and there is no state income tax. One may say Gainesville is a breeding ground for startups, providing quite the advantageous environment for entrepreneurs.

The folks at Hutchison are business attorneys, rather than attorneys practicing business. In other words, their entire practice focuses on business as opposed to being a law firm that handles business law as only one of many other sectors. Their singular focus on business law means that they understand what it means to grow an organization from the ground up, making them a perfect match for entrepreneurs needing legal guidance.

Kasierski explained that Hutchison’s entire business model is focused on startups and rising entrepreneurs. “What makes us unique as a firm is our focus on serving entrepreneurs. There are a lot of great law firms in Florida, but we think we are unique because of that mission. We feel like it’s something we need to be present in – the Gainesville ecosystem – so we are.”

As it grows, Gainesville is likely to further transpire into more of an entrepreneurial hub than we see today. Standing by is Hutchison, ready to facilitate the growth of the entrepreneurs that transform the city.

The Grooveshark Story Pt. 3 | A Legacy

The Grooveshark Story Pt. 3 | A Legacy 800 500 startupGNV

What’s good doesn’t always last. Yet the ripple effect stemming from a good thing can be a powerful force that reverberates throughout a community indefinitely. Grooveshark, the Gainesville-based music streaming service, was in many ways a startup success story. One of the company’s founders, Josh Greenberg, used his position as a local thought leader to lift up students, aspiring entrepreneurs, and the startup ecosystem in Gainesville. Grooveshark and its founders kick-started a community built and influenced by startups. Still, after years of enjoying a global user base and bringing in both revenue and fame, Grooveshark’s hay day came to an end with a lawsuit. The startup had failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the music on Grooveshark’s website. The company forfeited its intellectual property to record companies and urged users to sign up and pay for legal streaming services like Spotify. In a day, Grooveshark was over. Boxes were packed up and the office vacated. Still, the influence of Josh Greenberg and Grooveshark continued to serve and mold Gainesville as the startup hub we know today.  

Most Grooveshark employees had been on staff for years, and many had seen the startup from its inception to its end. Those individuals had, possibly for the first time, seen the potential of startups and their influence in a city. Take Paulo Da Silva for example, one of the first employees at Grooveshark.

Photo by Skyler Slade

“I walked up to the door for my interview. A business card was taped to it with Grooveshark’s name and logo. Josh opened the door for me. From there I stood in a ten by ten room with no furniture except for maybe an old couch and some cardboard boxes used as desks.” Paulo said, discussing his initial meet and greet with Josh. Years later, Paulo was leading Grooveshark University – a program that took in nearly one hundred college students to gain professional experience and the chance to become a Grooveshark employee. By then, Grooveshark was nearly 150 staff large and Josh was curating several civic ventures in the community. One of those ventures was a mentorship group through which Gainesville entrepreneurs could come together as mentors and mentees.

“Josh proved that with great power comes great responsibility. He had this innate understanding that we’re successful when we work together to be bigger than ourselves. He wanted to give back by being civically minded,” said Abhi Lokesh, co-founder of leading glass photo printing company Fracture. Abhi was in the same mentorship group as Josh. Also in that group was Kristen Hadeed founder of Student Maid. She later helped Josh to found the second mentorship program.

“Josh had a gift that made you feel listened to,” Kristen explained. With the mentorship group, she and Josh asked the question: “How do we keep people in Gainesville and help people start and maintain a successful business?”

Both Kristen and Abhi are now founders of large local companies. Alongside Grooveshark’s rise, Student Maid grew into a successful cleaning business in multiple cities with a scheduling tool, MaidSuite. Meanwhile Ahbi founded Fracture, which prints photos directly on glass, has gained a national customer base, and employs over 70 employees.

“We had twenty to twenty five talented engineers all in one place without anywhere to go. That’s a unique thing.”

Josh’s fellow peers were not the only ones to help raise Gainesville’s startup community. After Grooveshark’s doors closed, former employees came together to discuss next steps. They sat in a room and discussed how to fill the gap that Grooveshark had left behind.

“We had twenty to twenty five talented engineers all in one place without anywhere to go. That’s a unique thing,” said Will Richardson, once Grooveshark employee. Reflecting on the company’s immediate end, Will explained how former employees came together to brainstorm the very question, “What do we do now?”

“The group whittled down to five of us who were willing to take a risk and start a new company. We wanted to keep the spirit of Grooveshark. Working at Grooveshark was all about the willingness to believe in the mission, it wasn’t about the money. Starting anew, we weren’t thinking of making money but instead wanting to continue the culture and experience of working at Grooveshark,” said Will.

“I credit Grooveshark with inspiring me to want to go forward and try my own entrepreneurial venture.”

Former Grooveshark workers that were part of the original team that started Admiral.

Over the next few years, those individuals evolved into the founders of two startups that are now flourishing companies with national influence. Will went on to begin Admiral, a locally-based company which specializes in adblock revenue recovery and website visitor relationships. Today, Admiral now has offices in both Gainesville and New York and has raised over $5.1M in venture capital. Another former Grooveshark employee, Travis Whitton, CTO and co-founder of SharpSpring, launched the company shortly after Grooveshark’s end. SharpSpring now employs 200+ people and was acquired in 2014.

“I credit Grooveshark with inspiring me to want to go forward and try my own entrepreneurial venture,” said Travis. “Josh was really good at getting people excited and motivated around a cause… and I took that spirit with me as Sharpspring evolved.”

So, here we are in 2019. Grooveshark days are over, but one can still feel its presence in Gainesville. Amongst the conversations at local food joints – whispers of the startup that started it all still linger. Walking downtown, one passes the companies run by the individuals who once worked at Grooveshark. The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in Gainesville, now a startup ecosystem birthed by leaders like Josh Greenberg and his company, Grooveshark.

The Grooveshark Story Pt. 2 | Growing an Ecosystem

The Grooveshark Story Pt. 2 | Growing an Ecosystem 800 500 startupGNV

“The inflection point.” This is the phrase Josh Greenberg titled the moment when his company, Grooveshark, disrupted the music industry. The startup had been in operation for just under two years with a team of young entrepreneurs all behind one mission: End music piracy through peer-to-peer sharing while paying the artists. While the mission was noble, Grooveshark’s product utilization was amiss. With roughly 10,000 users in 2008, Grooveshark was not profitable enough to go on. Investors pressured the startup to multiply their user base five-fold. The future looked bleak for Grooveshark. Yet within one month of nearing bankruptcy, the startup defied all odds. In nearly 30 days, Grooveshark had roughly 50,000 users and within the next month had nearly 100,000 users. Enter “the inflection point”.

Josh, his co-founder, Sam Tarrantino, and the Grooveshark staff sat in a room together. Josh and Sam laid it out for their team: Within two weeks the company would fail. All employees, given the option to leave, chose to spend the next two weeks in search of a solution to save Grooveshark.

grooveshark, josh greenberg

Photo by Skyler Slade

“We split into teams and began brainstorming solutions to revive the company. Grooveshark held an internal contest. The winning idea would be implemented as a last ditch effort,” said Travis Whitton. Travis was an initial employee at Grooveshark and is now the founder of local company Sharpspring. Travis’ team won with the idea to transform Grooveshark’s website into a landing page with one spacebar. The concept was simple: one could type in a song then have the chance to preview what users had uploaded. By previewing the song users had the ability to stream music without purchase. Soon, Grooveshark was a music-streaming giant.

“The inflection point opened the door for the service to legitimize itself. It got real advertisers like Honda, Samsung, and other high profile brands running full page ads on the home screen. Eventually, financial performance mirrored the user excitement,” said Travis.

In a few short months, Grooveshark’s success had skyrocketed. In many ways, the credit belongs to the employees who chose to lean into a start-up on the brink of failure. This sort of employee morale is rare. But when speaking to those former employees, it’s clear there is one source from which the morale stemmed. That source? Josh Greenberg.

“To Grooveshark staff, Josh generated an authentic and sustainable enthusiasm.”

“It was all related to Josh and his philosophy on how the company should be run, the type of people that should be hired, and how much of himself he put into Grooveshark,” said Will Richardson, former Grooveshark employee and now founder of local company, Admiral.

grooveshark, josh greenberg

Photo by Skylar Slade

To Grooveshark staff, Josh generated an authentic and sustainable enthusiasm. Travis expanded, “Josh was really good at getting people excited and motivated. He would rely on that enthusiasm to get things done. It showed that a great way to lead people is by inspiring. It’s something you can build into your culture, replicated as the team grows. At Grooveshark, everyone subscribed to a bigger picture, and still had room for autonomy and creativity.. When the team felt they had ownership, they were motivated to do things right.”

Following “the inflection point” came the building of a startup culture that was unlike anything its hometown, Gainesville, had seen.

“There were no set hours. We worked as much as we wanted to… as long as we got the work done. The office felt like a second home. We were all young employees with the same passion for music and the place we worked,” said Will.

Grooveshark became known as the office in town where staff would lounge and play video games, or where national bands would travel to for live performances. That’s right. Grooveshark’s offices held shows for their employees, showcasing bands from across the country. Still, the influence of the startup expanded beyond its office doors.

“Josh himself was very involved in the community. He was responsible for a lot of initiatives that helped other startups, and inspired others people to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Will. He continued, “Grooveshark was priority number one. Josh’s number two priority was contributing as much as he could to the startup community in Gainesville.”

Here are a few of those initiatives Josh developed: The curation of an incubator office, at which developing startups could begin their business and grow with the right tools into their own operation. Grooveshark University, a summer school at which local college students interned at Grooveshark to learn about startup culture and fully engage themselves in entrepreneurial endeavors. The Gainesville Dev Academy, a bootcamp which cultivated young engineers to lead them to successful careers. An entrepreneur mentorship group, though which young professionals and startup founders united to help better one another and their ventures.

Paulo de Salva, an original employee of Grooveshark noted, “Josh wanted Grooveshark to do well but he wanted Gainesville to do well.” Josh’s civic influence reached far beyond Grooveshark; students, fellow entrepreneurs, and a growing startup community benefited from the programs he developed and led.

“Josh showed how entrepreneurs could give back to their communities,” said Abhi Lokesh, once a member in a mentorship group with Josh. Abhi is now the founder and CEO of Fracture, a local glass printing startup that now has 50+ employees.

grooveshark, josh greenberg

Photo by Skyler Slade

“What I loved about Josh was that he would bring people together and create community,” explained Kristen Hadeed, another former member of a mentorship group with Josh. Kristen founded and owns Student Maid, a successful cleaning business in Gainesville and in other cities. Most say that creating community was one of Josh’s specialties. As Grooveshark hit its heyday, Josh and co-founder, Sam, curated experiences that opened new doors for Gainesville. Those doors led to the world of startup culture.

“Grooveshark never did things quietly,” said Ahbi while reflecting on the parties and promotional events the company put on. Take the infamous Christmas Party for example. “They invited all the newest startups, their teams, and their friends,” said Kristen. Never before had the city seen a gathering of entrepreneurs and company owners all in one place enjoying boos, ice sculptures, and dancing late into the night. Essentially, work hard play hard came to life for Gainesville’s startup scene. With Grooveshark’s influential stance in town, being a part of the startup community was very appealing.

Over Grooveshark’s lifetime, Josh Greenberg inspired his staff and his community through his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. Josh’s influence also showed young professionals that startup culture enables those with varying talents and interests to unite, have fun, and grow. One may say that Grooveshark was the inflection point which catalyzed the startup ecosystem that is Gainesville today.

 

in·flec·tion
/inˈflekSH(ə)n/
noun
MATHEMATICS
a change of curvature from convex to concave at a particular point on a curve.

Help startupGNV further Josh’s mission to grow Gainesville’s startup and tech ecosystem by donating to the Onward & Upward grant at joshgreenbergday.com

The Grooveshark Story Pt. 1 | The Beginning

The Grooveshark Story Pt. 1 | The Beginning 800 500 startupGNV

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.

Photo by Skyler Slade

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.

Photo by Skyler Slade

“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

Spotlight on Paracosm

Spotlight on Paracosm 2840 1600 startupGNV

Spotlight on Paracosm


Sure, we’re a small city. Gainesville’s population is just over 100,000, but its influence is global. We have technological and cultural impact all around the world thanks to the start-ups that call Gainesville home. Paracosm, the local experts in 3D mapping, may perfectly exemplify Gainesville’s character – small but mighty. The local start-up provides 3D scanning for construction, forestry, manufacturing and well, you name it… from New York City to Brazil and beyond.

“We get a lot of really interesting clients. Cinematographers have scanned in the Amazon Rainforest … People scan shrines in Japan … Oil rigs in Norway.” Amir Rubin, Paracosm’s president, spoke to just a few of those using Paracosm’s 3D mapping equipment.

What Paracosm engineered is like something out of a sci-fi movie. You might remember this scene in Prometheus, where the alien ship is mapped in 3D. Well, Paracosm’s technology, PX-80, does just that. The unit uses LiDAR sensors (the same technology that allows self-driving cars to navigate) to spatially map both indoor and outdoor locations. It takes only minutes to scan sites of impressive scale. Despite all the power and technology behind PX-80, it takes only a single person to use the handheld device by simply walking through a site. The unit 15 times faster than tripod scanners so sites can be scanned daily, weekly, or as often as needed.

Starting in 2013, Paracosm used smaller 3D cameras to map indoor and outdoor spaces. By 2016, they built PX-80, a more powerful 3D mapping unit engineered to capture large spaces with crazy-good speed. In the time since Paracosm engineered PX-80, they have gained a lot of momentum. One of the nation’s largest spatial computing companies, Occipital, acquired Paracosm shortly after PX-80 was born. Now the local start-up has become quite a giant in the world of 3D mapping. And, it’s just the start.

“We’re planning on building out PX-80 to power entirely new workflows – whether inside construction sites,  within factories, or for building survey projects. We’re asking the question, “How can PX-80 uniquely power complete solutions” said Rubin.

PX-80 provides priority processing algorithms, allowing clients to render 3D environments in incredible detail. This means that oil rig operators, cinematographers, underground mine engineers, and data centers alike benefit from the technology. While Paracosm continues to improve on PX-80, their client base becomes more diverse.

For now, you can find Paracosm in our own downtown. Where else would you find a company seemingly from the future, providing world-wide 3D mapping, other than in Gainesville?

Article contributed by Meg Boria-Meyer