Josh Greenberg Co-Founder of Grooveshark Tells How the Company Found Success

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  1. BusinessStories

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    Grooveshark is arguably the top music streaming website in the world. I’ll be you didn’t know that the idea for this mammoth site was conceived at a college entrepreneurship club meeting…by two freshmen.

    Josh Greenberg and Sam Tarantino were the original team who built Grooveshark on a foundation of being the easiest to use, legal music site. Founded in 2006, the site now boasts more than 35 million users, Josh and Sam have grown years now, and have learned a lot along the way.

    What would you say is the best thing about Grooveshark?

    The best thing about Grooveshark, hands down, is our team. A great company is not defined by its ideas, nor its products — great companies have great people who continue to innovate at times when it would be easy to otherwise become complacent.
    I take pride in our ability to pivot quickly and adapt to change, and that’s a direct result of the creativity and entrepreneurial nature of our team.

    What’s the story of the founding of the company?

    I met Sam, our CEO, in the Entrepreneurship Club at the University of Florida. We were both freshmen at the time, and he approached me with an idea about revolutionizing the music business by competing with piracy differently.
    His thesis was that despite so many large companies (Apple, Microsoft, etc.) competing in the digital music space, no one had yet adequately created a service that was good enough to draw users away from pirate sites.

    Our theory became simple: the issue with digital music wasn’t that legal music was paid and illegal music was free — indeed, even back then, there had always been various forms of free legal music. Rather, the real problem was that illegal services simply provided a better overall service than what anyone had yet offered legally. And that presented a huge opportunity!

    We realized that most large players in the space were competing to replicate old models, like the traditional record-store model renovated as iTunes, and that if we thought about things differently, we could compete with piracy in new ways.
    We thought about why people downloaded music illegally so often, and we realized it was primarily because piracy was simply the path of least resistance. Any service that presents barriers between people and music will fail.
    Our goal became to remove all of the barriers, so that we could create something genuinely better than what was available illegally — and in doing so, to compete with piracy head-on, rather than turning a blind eye to it.

    How are you dealing with competition from Spotify, Pandora, and Iheartradio?

    Most other legal music services compete with us indirectly rather than directly. Spotify is a great iTunes replacement, Pandora has awesome Internet radio stations, and iHeartRadio is good for people who like what traditional radio has to offer. We don’t aim to be any of those things — we aim to be the “YouTube of Music”.
    We aim to bring to the Internet era what radio brought to the world decades ago — and we believe this to be significantly different than the routes that Pandora and iHeartRadio are taking, since the Internet is all about on-demand control being in the hands of the user.

    There are a lot of great music services out there, and we think there’s still room for many more. Consumers should have options.
    Our goal is to compete with piracy rather than to compete with any of those other services you mentioned, because at the end of the day, piracy still accounts for a bigger overall percentage of music consumption than Grooveshark, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and many other services combined.

    Has it been difficult to scale Grooveshark?

    It was difficult in our formative stages, because we didn’t yet have a product that people actually wanted to use. Those times were tough — we didn’t want to face the reality that our product just, frankly, wasn’t yet good enough for primetime.

    We kept iterating, though, and eventually found our path when we focused on the web-based streaming model. From there, our scaling issues have mainly been centered around handling our own growth — writing more performance-friendly code, moving to better-connected data centers, and so on.
    Scaling the team has been challenging, too, because we’re certainly a different company at 100 employees than we were at 10. But there’s an analogy to be drawn here: you’re the same person now that you were as a kid, and yet at the same time, you’re not the same person at all — our company’s culture has scaled in much the same way.

    We’ve grown up, we’ve learned, we’ve become more experienced, but we’ve maintained our core focus and vision of competing with piracy by creating a better product.

    In the early days, how long did it take to gain traction? Did you ever have second thoughts?

    It took about two years to really gain any traction. And while we certainly had a natural air of entrepreneurial paranoia, we also have always had a steadfast determination to get the job done.
    The music business is fiercely competitive, and oddly self-destructive with so many entities constantly suing each other out of existence before any mutually-beneficial relationships can solidify. Still, we haven’t wavered from our mission over our six years in existence.

    We take the chaos and complexity of the industry around us to be a strong sign of the need for real change, and our vision of a better digital music ecosystem keeps us moving forward through any brief moments of doubt.

    What do you think of incubators?

    Incubators are fantastic. I love them. I support anything that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, especially in the Internet or Technology space. People need to be reminded that you don’t have to go get jobs — you can create them, too.

    If you could have one super power what would it be?

    Mind reading. Wait, invisibility. Wait, no, the ability to fly. How about the super power to come up with more super powers?
    If you were going to be stranded on a desert island, what’s the one thing you would bring?
    Another person. Otherwise things would get pretty boring.

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