The Young Innovators

Sam Tarantino & Josh Greenberg


Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:21 p.m.

At just 26 and 25 respectively, Grooveshark CEO Sam Tarantino and Chief Technology Officer Josh Greenberg are the fathers of Gainesville's student startup movement. The company has unofficially served as an inspiration to dozens of young entrepreneurs by showing that it is possible to start a successful company and do it here. Officially, they have trained entrepreneurs and computer programmers through their Grooveshark University classes, Summer with the Sharks internship program and as partners in the Founders Pad technology company incubator.

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Sam Tarantino and Josh Greenberg of Grooveshark at their office in Union Street Station.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer

Facts

Downtown affiliation:
Founders of Grooveshark
Their contributions to downtown:
Office in Union Street Station employs 70 people. Holds internship programs and classes for entrepreneurs and computer programmers. Partners in Founders Pad tech company incubator.

What they predict to see downtown within 10 years:
Tarantino sees Gainesville following Boulder, Colo., where a startup ecosystem creates a few success stories that lure big employers and the restaurants and other businesses to serve them in a full urban pedestrian environment.

The founders, who are both from the Tampa Bay area, started the company while meeting in the UF computer lab as 19-year-old freshmen in March 2006. The original business model was to offer a website that allowed people to sell MP3s to other music lovers, with revenue shared between Grooveshark, the seller and record companies.

With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, they foresaw downloads becoming obsolete and switched to a music streaming model that did not require users to download or install anything. Advertising provides most of the revenue, which they share with copyright owners. The company built up to 40 million users and 145 employees before three of the four major record companies sued for copyright violations in November 2011.

“We shrank dramatically due to all the bad press and advertisers being scared and employees leaving,” Tarantino says.

They dropped to 60 employees and 12 million users and were in crisis mode for several months, he says.

Momentum shifted again in June 2012 with two developments. Although the lawsuit is still pending, Grooveshark won a ruling in the court case that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which protects them from the activities of their users, applied to pre-1972 songs. The company also launched a version that works on any mobile device.

Grooveshark is back up to about 20 million users and 85 employees, with 70 in Gainesville and another 15 in New York City.

The company had offices on South Main Street and Northwest Sixth Street before moving to Union Street Station in summer 2007. After growing into three separate offices on the west side of the building, the company consolidated into one large space on the east side last year.

Tarantino says their first priority was to be near UF since a lot of student employees did not have cars. They grew to love being downtown.

“This has really good proximity to nightlife, to restaurants, to some good apartments around here, like Arlington Square,” Greenberg says.

Since they moved in, the downtown tech community has boomed. Events for entrepreneurs used to draw six or seven people and now draw more than 100.

“There are enough people now that if we go down to Starbucks we'll run into tech entrepreneurs,” Greenberg says.

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