Tags: programmer, cofounder search, undergrad founder, hiring, VC funded, school worker, undergrad dropout, design-focused, major league player (Top 50 ranked site, Alexa top 1,000)
Overview: Grooveshark started in 2006 with the goal of competing with piracy and becoming the #1 destination for listening to music online. Having raised less than $1 million, Grooveshark consumes more bandwidth than most Internet Service Providers with over 27 million active users streaming music. Time Magazine has rated them as one of the 50 best web sites of 2010.
Can you tell me about how all of this got started for you? What was your earliest experience being an entrepreneur?
I don’t know if there is one, specific answer to that question, but at the same time, I’m constantly in search of it. It has puzzled me for quite a while: what makes someone an entrepreneur and how do you really define that characteristic? The reason I find it so fascinating is because you can see it in someone.
When you meet someone you can tell in five seconds whether or not they have it, and yet at the same time, you still can’t put it into words. It’s somewhat coupled with things like dedication, perseverance, or passion for a cause, but at the same time it is none of those things. There’s no unique combination, there’s no magical formula for entrepreneurship. I am just as lost when trying to look inward and do self-analysis, and I really don’t have any idea what makes me an entrepreneur. At the same time, I know that it goes as far back as I can remember; even when I was a little kid I was doing things that were somewhat entrepreneurial.
The first thing I ever did was in the second grade. I had collected shells on the beach and I was back at my house, coloring on them for some reason. Later, I tagged along with my mom when she went out to do errands and, for whatever reason, I asked the gas station attendant if he would buy one of the shells; he did, for a nickel. He took it out of the free change jar. I think that set off a little spark and I realized, “wow, I can do something to make money.” At the time I had no sense of the value of money. I didn’t really understand what it was, but the overall concept intrigued me. I colored more shells and started going to more places and selling them, and before I knew it I had a little jug full of change.
Fast forward a few years, I’m at my dad’s electronics repair store—where I used to go with him every Saturday—he had this grapefruit tree out back, behind the store that had begun to grow in such a way that it was a little obtrusive. Just so I had something to do, he asked me to go out and pick the grapefruit. Again, I can’t really tell you why, but for some reason once I had picked all of these grapefruits, I decided it would be a good idea to sit out front, with my dad’s colleague’s son, and sell them for a quarter each.
We made $50, went next door, and bought a bunch of video games at Blockbuster. So it’s little things like that. I really don’t know what motivated me to do them. It wasn’t financial; it wasn’t that I had some lifelong hunger for money. I suppose I just enjoyed the process of creating value.
My first, real entrepreneurial endeavor was in high school. I was 17 at the time and, by that point, I had already begun to build websites for people. It wasn’t really substantial income, I made maybe $100 here and there but, in high school, that was a lot of money.
Eventually I got a day job working at a medical management institute and my boss’ husband came in every now and then. He was a very experienced lifetime entrepreneur, and he and I would chat. I told him about my aspirations to start a company, do more web development and really get paid for it; he said, “Well, there’s nothing holding you back so let’s start one.” He said “let’s” because I wasn’t 18, so I couldn’t legally be on my own board of directors; he helped me get the paperwork signed. I think I actually ended up having my grandpa serve as chairman.
That at least got a company name behind me so instead of saying, “I’m Josh Greenberg” I could say, “I’m with DevelopedWeb, Incorporated.” I got $20 worth of business cards printed at Office Depot and that was what started everything, back then. So, I guess I took myself a little bit more seriously and that helped me to be taken a little bit more seriously, which is a requirement if you’re 17 and trying to solicit money from people.
That first endeavor got me through high school and gave me a true taste of dealing with clients and managing expectations. I was building lots of websites, here and there, maybe 50 or so over the course of high school.
Later, I went to the University of Florida for college, and I was always interested in technology but figured it would be easier to learn everything technical on the side; I wanted to learn about business from people who’ve been there before. Shortly after freshman year began, I started a project with a few other guys: an online community for sharing class notes. We wanted to make it easier for people to collaborate. By freshman year standards, it blew up. We made the local paper a few times, had 75 signups in one day, and were ecstatic. We thought it was gigantic. That gave me a taste of community building, which carried over to Grooveshark.
That experience was more of an advanced web project, and unlike my work in high school, we weren’t making a website for a chiropractor or a funeral home, we did it for ourselves, for fun, to define our value and then create it, as opposed to seeking out bits of value other people defined and seeing how we could help.
I went on to found my second company, a little later in my freshman year. We were still doing web development but we were reaching further. Instead of going after lots of little mom-and-pop websites, we tried to do a few big sites, and we were successful in landing a few. I spent most of my freshman year developing a few web applications for some local companies and entrepreneurs. All of that ended up leading to the start of Grooveshark.
I was involved with an entrepreneurship club at UF and I was looking for someone who had the next good idea, so I could help them on the technical side. I heard a lot of ideas, most of which were not too inspiring—kids wanting to start a website to sell Gator merchandise and things like that. It was sort of what you’d expect, but nothing groundbreaking.
Then I met Sam, my cofounder and partner at Grooveshark, and he pitched me this idea on revolutionizing the music business and competing with piracy by offering a better product. I found it fascinating and he and I hit it off from day one. We were both kind of interviewing each other at the same time without calling it an interview. I could tell—not only that he had his stuff together—that he was very passionate about his idea, he truly believed in it, and I knew from the moment I met him that he was going to make this happen one way or another.
At first, the way that we approached each other was that I would be building Grooveshark and selling it to him, and I’m glad I didn’t; that would have been a terrible mistake. After getting to know each other a little better, we decided to partner and we realized there was definite synergy between us.
Were you taking a heavy course load that freshman year?
I was taking a pretty average course load. I went into college with just enough AP credits. I ended up figuring out that taking a very steady course load of around 13 credits per semester would allow me to graduate on time, which is what I was looking to do.
I didn’t want to get out early. I was enjoying the college experience, because at the same time I was also making connections and I knew I was going to be working a hell of a lot through the whole process. I didn’t need to cram four years’ worth of college into two, and then not be able to really get any work done.
The entrepreneurship class I took was definitely my favorite one, taught by Professor Rossi. He had a very realistic mindset about entrepreneurship. It’s not like I came out with a bunch of notes along the lines of, “here are the nine items I need to do to become an entrepreneur.” He just gave good overall insight about what it takes, that there is a certain risk vs. reward balance—that you’ve got to be a little crazy to be an entrepreneur, but that’s what it’s all about. He bridged the gap between the traditional business classes I was taking, where we would learn about business management and marketing and all those other things that are taught as how to make a company, with the entrepreneurial mindset: throw all the rules out the door and just get it done. He served as a real point of inspiration for Grooveshark, and both Sam and I have kept in touch with him.
Did you know anyone going into UF? Did you do anything else outside of class?
I came up to UF with a lot of close friends. Many of the people I graduated high school with, came up here. I had a nice social circle going into school, but I didn’t have any business connections. I was doing the whole Ramen noodles for dinner thing, for quite a while.
The entrepreneurship club was the only organization at UF that I was ever affiliated with, and I’m very glad I picked that one. If I hadn’t joined the entrepreneurship club, Grooveshark wouldn’t exist because I wouldn’t have met my cofounders, and I think of that organization, in particular, as the thing that really got everything started.
How did you pay your way through school? Did you work while you were there?
I worked on the side, building websites, but I didn’t have a day job up here. I also had some financial aid when I started at UF, but aside from that, from the time I got up to Gainesville until now, I’ve just been self-sustaining by building websites for companies, and now from Grooveshark.
Did you take time to relax or was it mostly academic?
I definitely made time to keep my social life going. My freshman year was when I was really trying to get everything off the ground at once. I had this project I mentioned before, where students could share course notes online. I had my second company up here for doing larger web development projects where we would actually be bringing in tens of thousands of dollars at a time, and then I also started Grooveshark.
So, during most of my freshman year, I don’t know how, but I was balancing all that. I had a girlfriend and I had a social life. When my sophomore year started, Grooveshark went from a cool idea and fun brainstorming to, we have an office and we need to start hiring people; as soon as that happened, things really started to change.
I went from working 10 hours a day, to 16. A few months into my sophomore year, Grooveshark was my life. I would do Grooveshark and sleep, and that was about it. On weekends I’d still go out and have fun, but Monday through Friday, if I was awake, I was doing Grooveshark. Obviously, school was missing from that equation.
Sophomore year I almost exclusively took online classes or classes where, at the very least, I wouldn’t get penalized for not showing up. I was passing them all, but after passing by like that for two semesters, I realized my heart was no longer in it and, more importantly, there was nothing I was really chasing after. I didn’t feel like I would get anything out of a degree that I had earned without paying any attention to the underlying material.
I used to pride myself on how I did in school, at least to some extent. I suppose I felt that if I did want to earn a diploma, I wanted to do it right. So I took an “indefinite leave of absence” after the second semester of my sophomore year. I still say that, eventually, I’d like to go back for fun, take classes in psychology or statistics, something like that.
Did things take off your sophomore year then?
Yeah. That was when things started taking off. But that was still a very, very slow ramp up, overall. In our first meetings, we’d sit around our whiteboard; we were projecting that by the end of 2006 we would have our product out the door. Then, by the first month of 2007, we were going to have VC funding and then, I don’t know, we were going to be millionaires a few months after that. But, things did not go as planned. I had to learn that projections are usually complete bullshit, especially in an entrepreneurial environment; we had to temper all that with reality.
We founded Grooveshark on paper in March 2006; it wasn’t until March 2007 that we got our first product out the door. But it was in a very limited, test environment. That was our alpha, and it was garbage. It was terrible, but it was a proof of concept. It showed us that, at the very least, we could come together as a team and implement something. So, we scrapped it entirely and then from March until September, we were developing our beta, which we pushed out the door in early September.
Compared to the alpha it was much improved, but it was still terrible. It was basically lipstick on a pig. It looked a lot better, but the underlying functionality was not where it needed to be. By that point, we had thought about all the different components of an ideal, music service. We listed all of them and tried out every, single one. We were thinking about comments, reviews, tags, rating, playback, syncing, social, all different stuff. But we lost sight of the less is more mentality, which I think is really critical to software development. It was a tough pill to swallow but, by early 2008, we realized that the beta was not getting the type of adoption that we needed.
We went back to the drawing board and thought about what people would really want. What’s the one thing they would want out of a music service? Then we looked back at our core value, the whole reason we started Grooveshark, the elevator pitch that Sam gave me that we, in turn, passed on to every employee we hired after that: that we wanted to compete with piracy by creating a better product.
Our first attempt had been to compete with piracy by having an ecosystem where, in essence, you get paid back to download, but it was too complicated. So we thought, “okay, let’s approach this on a broader level. What if we make downloads obsolete? What if we make it so that you don’t have to download?” And that really got the juices flowing. We looked at sites like YouTube and got a lot of inspiration from that. We thought of the main silos of content on the Internet: if you want photos you go to Flickr or Google Images; if you want videos or shows you go to YouTube or Hulu; but if you think music, there is no place to go to.
There are lots of smaller sites. There is Internet radio on Pandora, there’s a social experience on Last.fm, there are artist biographies on Wikipedia, etc. But there’s no single, cohesive destination and, most importantly, there’s no destination where you just listen and eclipse the value proposition of what people get from piracy by providing a faster experience, therein, legitimately competing with and creating a business model around what pirate sites have been effective at doing. So we took that really basic concept of on-demand streaming and built up from there.
We made a visualized funnel of how people come in to Grooveshark, and how many of them get down to the actionable steps we’re looking for. We realized that for every, let’s say, thousand people who visit Grooveshark.com, a certain number of them would understand the marketing message that we had posted and would keep going; a certain percentage of those would decide they want to request an account; and a certain percentage of those would come back after they got approved; and it keeps going down, down, down and we isolated each one of these drop-off points, and removed most of them. We made it so you don’t have to sign up, you don’t have to download a helper application, you basically don’t have to do anything. You just go to the site, enter a query, and you’re playing a song in two seconds.
When we launched that version of the service on April 15th, 2008, Grooveshark went viral. Ever since, we’ve been growing steadily and our graphs all look like hockey sticks.
Just to backtrack a little, how did you come up with the idea for Grooveshark?
The credit definitely goes to Sam. Sam’s vision was to compete with piracy. He drove by a buy-sell-trade CD store and the first thing that popped in his head was, “I wonder if we could do that, but online.” We obviously had to deviate a bit from that initial concept since the economics of the physical world and the digital world are worlds apart. We thought about how there is zero marginal cost online, and how that affects things.
By the time we met he had already broadened the concept from solely “buy-sell-trade, but online” to “let’s compete with piracy”—this can’t be impossible. That’s when I started adding a lot of the technology aspect, thinking about the way that different services like iTunes and Rhapsody work, the way all the legal sites work; identifying what each of them really do well and what they don’t do well. We realized it’s not impossible to compete with free. It sounds impossible, so much so that the vast majority of our competitors completely ignored piracy—attempted to turn a blind eye to it, and only competed with each other.
We were entering into a space that was unbelievably fragmented, but that’s not a bad thing. That’s the way that search was, before Google entered. We saw all of these different companies that were competing for a tiny slice of a gigantic pie and we realized the money isn’t in creating a better iTunes or a better Rhapsody, it’s in taking 1% or 2% of the pirate market away; then we’ll be bigger than iTunes plus Rhapsody plus all the other legal services combined. So the idea definitely had to evolve quite a bit from its early days.
We went through a lot of different iterations but we kept a laser focus on competing with piracy and, over time, we kept having all these different epiphanies that continued to assure us that, it was indeed possible. One was when we came up with a great analogy that we used to use in our early pitches. Often, when we’d go pitch a potential investor, they’d offer us a bottle of water or something, and we’d always accept the water and then use it as a prop because when we’d say “yeah, we want to compete with piracy” we would always get laughed at and told “okay, well it’s impossible to compete with piracy, everybody has tried this, you can’t compete with free.” That comment always opened the door for us, we’d say, “Well, what about this bottle of water right here, did you pay for it? Why did you pay for it? You can turn on a tap and get it free”, and I really love that example, because value is a funny thing.
Value is really in the eyes of the beholder, it comes down to whether or not someone is willing to pay. There are a lot of reasons why someone would be willing to pay. In the case of water, it’s not because they can’t get it for free, it’s because there’s the convenience, there’s the packaging, there’s the perceived quality, and any of those ‘reasons’ could be applied to traditional music. So, even if CD sales are tanking—and now downloads are hitting a plateau—that doesn’t mean that there isn’t money in music. When I think of all of the friends I have who haven’t bought a DVD in years and they pirate their movies all the time, those same people are the ones that, every single Friday night, will spend $10 or more on a movie ticket to see it once but they won’t spend $5 to own a copy forever.
The Internet has definitely turned traditional economics on its ass, and the way that every single monetization issue should be approached, is from a starting point—from zero, because the way things used to work just does not apply anymore. All of that said, the position that we’re in right now, as a global community, is that more people are listening to more music than ever before, and there is money in that somewhere. So, we’ve been in an endless pursuit to make sure that we are on top of finding it and providing that value to users and artists and labels.
How do you guys get growth? It’s certainly impressive that in a couple of years you’re now one of the top-ranked web sites. Do you spend money on advertising?
We have never spent a dollar on advertising. As far as we’re aware, at least for much of the past few years, we’ve been the fastest growing music service on the planet—not counting piracy, because those numbers are really hard to get a handle on.
I think the real reason is because we created something that people want and in early Grooveshark, back when we had the alpha and then when we had the beta, we had a marketing team; we weren’t doing advertising but we would send a guy dressed up as a shark onto the UF campus. We would see little spikes every now and then, we would get a blog to talk about us and would see traffic go up, but then it starts to go back down. And we thought that what we were doing wrong was poor marketing. But at the end of the day, marketing includes product. It’s the core of all marketing, and because it’s the core, it’s also the starting point. You can’t market something that people don’t want. That’s not sustainable; it only works in the short term.
What we really had to do was to make something that people wanted and once we did that, we’ve relied on word of mouth. We certainly could have grown faster, especially back in the day, if we had done a lot of advertising and really pushed it harder, but, we were a startup, so operating on low amounts of capital made us less inclined to make that decision in the first place. Beyond that, I really do like the fact that the vast majority of people that hear about Grooveshark, hear about it from a friend. You don’t hear about Grooveshark because you’ve seen an ad on TV or because we’re constantly talking to the New York Times. No, you hear about Grooveshark because your friend opens it up at a party, or says to you, “you haven’t heard about Grooveshark yet? Check it out”, and that is the best marketing we could ever ask for.
Tell me about the fundraising process. I’m sure a lot of VCs have been skeptical especially considering you’re in the dreaded music industry; you might sound like just another Napster to them. Was fundraising a positive or negative experience for you guys?
It was negative in the short term, positive in the long term. It’s never good when you’re first getting started, you’ve never pitched a VC before, you’re a little bit intimidated, you don’t know what to expect and you go in and they say “no.” It’s especially negative because, usually, they don’t even say no, they imply no but they want to keep the door open in case something changes.
It was a new experience and we were getting a bit disheartened at times, seeing that people weren’t interested in investing. But we did end up finding investment, so it was by no means the end of the world and, more importantly, it gave us a lot of perspective. We didn’t come out of most of those meetings thinking, “god this sucks, maybe Grooveshark isn’t right, maybe I should have stayed in school.” We came out of those meetings thinking, we need to do a better job at pitching, we’re not explaining this well. We’ve had the utmost confidence since day one that there is a problem that we see and there’s a solution that we have in mind.
There were a few instances where we just had serendipitous moments of self-assurance, which came out of nowhere. During one pitch that we were giving, a VC told us, “You will never see DRM drop in your lifetime, I guarantee it”, and he was referring to DRM on downloads because, at the time, every single major service had it. A week later, one of the four major labels, EMI, announced they were dropping DRM, and we thought, “okay, so maybe we are onto something—these guys do have millions of dollars and they have experience investing in companies but our gut seems to be right. Things are really moving in the direction of what we are talking about.”
It was a challenging process finding the right fit on the investment front, but the same thing goes for hiring. At the end of the day, the type of investors that we’re looking for are investing in people; not in our idea, not in our product, not in our potential to earn the money, at least not just in that. Not every investor fits that bill. There are a lot of investors out there who do invest for other reasons but, in my opinion, the really good investors are the ones who invest in teams.
How do you explain how all of this is legal to a user or investor? I still don’t think a lot of people understand it.
First off, I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll do my best to speak on this subject. Essentially the main governing law is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is very long and very complicated. But there are a few parts of DMCA that, in particular, govern over services like Grooveshark, Myspace, Google, YouTube, eBay, Craigslist, Facebook—any place where users are posting content or sharing information in certain ways. Prior to this law going into effect, there was a paralyzing amount of ambiguity regarding the rights and responsibilities of consumers, service providers, and content owners. There were no defined parameters for services to operate under.
The way that the DMCA arbitrates everything is basically by saying that content owners have a right to their content at the end of the day. So, if a content owner points to a specific piece of content on a service and contacts the service provider using specific parameters, then the service provider has to take that content down.
There’s also a lot more to it, including obligation for service providers to notify infringing users and to ban repeat infringers. I think what everything boils down to, is that the law recognizes that in a community of millions and millions of users, some will end up breaking the rules, but at the same time, content owners always have a right to point to their content to have it quickly removed; service providers have protection from what their users are doing as long as they comply with certain responsibilities toward content providers; and users have an obligation not to pirate or upload infringing content.
So do you guys make that explicit? Do you say, “don’t upload to the site”? What happens there if a user uploads and they’re not supposed to, can they get into trouble?
Yes, we do make our policies explicit. Our terms of service tell users what they can and can’t do with Grooveshark but, naturally, there are a lot of people who don’t read them, or just decide to ignore them. So, if we ever do get a take down notice for content someone uploaded, we notify them immediately, we do follow the take-down procedures, we follow the repeated infringer procedures. A lot of times, the process can be scary to users, but it’s still our obligation to carry it out.
How do you guys get your money? Is it advertising?
We make money through advertising and through subscriptions.
Was there a point where revenue just started to take off?
I think, to some extent, we need to hit a critical mass on the monetization front for it to be really effective. If you’re a small service, you don’t really have enough ad impressions coming in, and there aren’t many advertisers who want to give you the time of day. Once you get to be big enough, you attract more of them. Then, you can start setting price floors and having different advertisers bid against each other, which really drives up overall revenue. So, the scale of Grooveshark really helps. As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to monetize much more easily.
There was also a learning process. Early on, we didn’t really know how to balance our remnant versus premium, or how to handle ad operations for when we’re implementing a campaign, and making sure it doesn’t fall apart midway through. It was basically trial by fire.
Were there any points in Grooveshark’s history where you thought, for whatever reason, either Grooveshark is going to fail or stress levels were really high?
To the former, no, to the latter, yes. At no point in Grooveshark’s history did I ever believe Grooveshark was going to fail. The same goes for Sam. Grooveshark is more than our product and Grooveshark is more than our ideas. Grooveshark is the group of people that we have in the company. If tomorrow, every record label and every large technology company all partnered up and launched a service that they’ve secretly been developing for ten years, that is Grooveshark but a thousand times better, and for whatever reason we couldn’t compete with it, we would turn on a dime.
We’d have a meeting tomorrow and we would both come in together and we’d say, “okay, the bad news is this business model isn’t sustainable. The good news is we’re all still here, so what are we doing now?” and that would really be it. I’m a very big fan of Jim Collins and I loved his philosophy on business, about how everything comes down to the team. Over time our team has only gotten better, the people that we’ve had since the beginning have only gotten sharper, smarter, and more honed in on their abilities; we’ve obviously also expanded and added a lot of people.
In terms of whether or not there have been any stress points in Grooveshark, hell yes, all the time! But at the same time—and, maybe it’s just because I’m a little bit crazy, I kind of thrive off of that—I like a fast-paced environment, I like having to make a lot of quick decisions, I like being able to deal with it. I’ve been a natural procrastinator since I was a kid; I’d always do my homework the class before it was due and that kind of instilled in me a mindset in which I actually perform better when there’s a little stress involved, than when there isn’t any.
What is Grooveshark’s biggest challenge today?
Grooveshark’s biggest challenge right now, is scaling. We’re morphing from just being a small little enterprise—we could all yell across the room and see each other at the same time—to having offices in multiple cities and trying to plan for growing into hundreds of employees. It’s definitely challenging to think about, because the most important thing to me, is maintaining the culture that we have, and as we grow further and further there’s a lot more room for that to go wrong, if we don’t think about it beforehand.
How many users do you have now, on the topic of scale?
We have about 27 million people using Grooveshark, per month, right now. By traffic, we’re one of the top 500 or so websites on the Internet. Apparently, we consume more bandwidth than most Internet service providers. Because of that amount of usage, we have had to scale that operation significantly. We have two different data centers right now, and we’re thinking about opening a third one. It has been a challenge, but it’s a challenge like any other.
It’s come to us one step at a time, so it’s not like overnight we thought, “shit, we’ve got to get three data centers up.” We started off with a single server in our closet, and then that server didn’t work so we get a second one, and then pretty soon we rented a little space in the local colo facility. Pretty soon, we used up all of the bandwidth that Gainesville had to offer. We moved to Jacksonville; we used up all the bandwidth Jacksonville had to offer, then we expanded to a Denver facility, and we’ve continued to scale since.
Has anyone at Grooveshark or have you ever had any productivity brick walls or motivational problems?
We work with each person individually. A lot of times, there’s a temptation to throw blanket solutions on problems. Even widespread issues are not necessarily symptomatic of single problems, which imply single solutions. Often, it can be a single problem that requires multiple solutions. It could be multiple problems that require multiple solutions. I think it’s always best to deal with each person, individually. Whenever there’s any kind of a crisis in productivity or motivation, what it comes down to, is, there is a conversation that needs to be had that someone isn’t having.
There’s someone who feels as though what they’re working on is not what they should be working on. There’s someone who feels that somebody else in the company isn’t doing the right thing. It all comes down to communication and really, just having little, isolated instances of disagreement and discontent and taking care of them one at a time, has a huge bubble-up effect.
The opposite is also true; trying to deal with some collection of individual issues with an impersonalized touch could be very detrimental. It could leave everybody actually feeling worse off than they were before.
You’ve hired quickly, the product scales well and it’s a great product—do you have any tips for hiring?
Absolutely. It all comes down to the people. You’re not looking for a tool. You’re not looking for a set of experiences. You’re looking for a human being, and the most important thing is personality. I’ve turned down numerous people with PhD’s in computer science, who have written code for years and years. I’ve accepted many people who have never written a line of code in their life—it sounds crazy, but everything comes down to personality. When we’re interviewing someone, we’re essentially thinking, “is this someone that we want to be a part of our family? Do we want to adopt them? Do we see us hanging out with this person and going out with them at night?”
By day we all work together, by night, my roommate is a Groovesharker, the two guys next door are Groovesharkers, and there are probably 15 other people in the same complex. We hang out at night and we go out drinking together on weekends. That’s really what it comes down to. It sounds like it’s ridiculously oversimplified, but it’s not. It’s not as though experience isn’t good and technical skills aren’t good, it’s just that the starting point is personality. The personality has to be perfect and if that’s not, the person is not the right fit.
What advice would you give to an undergraduate who wants to do a startup?
Just do it. Once again, it sounds stupidly oversimplified, but I think that’s the advice that everyone who has ever done anything entrepreneurial understands, and everyone who hasn’t, doesn’t understand. There is no magic to it, it’s just a self-realization that there’s no one holding you back, and there are no invisible brick walls in front of you if you have an idea. Granted, if your idea is, “I want to build a better space shuttle”, you’re probably going to need some funding for that, so there is some variance in terms of how much time is required before your idea reaches its fullest potential. But one way or another, if you want to create something and form a startup, there is always a first step: go ahead and take it.