Photo: Kristen Bartlett/The University of Florida
Are your parents pushing you to be a Doctor, Lawyer, Economist or some other bull that you could care less about?
There is hope for you
This was the founder of Grooveshark.com, an amazing way to listen to your favorite music online. With 1.5 million registered users we’re talking remarkable growth–like 20%–last week! Under30CEO got the chance to talk with Sam Tarantino the 22 year old, music obsessed economics major at the University of Florida who founded Grooveshark after driving by a record store that still had a sign out “Buy, Sell, Trade CDs”. Clearly recognizing the fact that music has gone digital, Sam figured there had to be a better way to exchange music on the internet legally. This was Sam’s chance to get out of his rutt, get his parents off his back who had recently cut him off and show his parents he could make something of himself, just not necessarily as an economist. It was time to turn the digital world upside down.
“Lets throw the traditional path out the window, and lets do it, forget working up corporate ladders… I could have stayed in school, got my econ degree and came out screwed like the rest of my classmates,” said Tarantino, but instead he attacked a problem head on. The music industry is clearly shifting and the old guys are no longer in control. While they are busy suing the pants off of 11 year old girls who downloaded the Mariah Carey CD 4 days early, Sam and his team of 25 are out innovating.
“They are desperate, the most difficult thing in the corporate world, is for them to fail. If Grooveshark fails, screw it, I’ll start another company tomorrow,” Sam said speaking of big record labels. Sam’s mentality fascinated me in a way that led me to believe young people are at the forefront of opportunity, not struggling to reach the bottom rung of the career ladder like BusinessWeek has recently suggested. Any “down on your luck economics student” can go out and change the way the game is played in an industry they are passionate about. Sam knew his passion lied in music, so he went out and chased his dream.
Don’t worry you don’t have to know everything
“Servers? Well, I knew they blinked and that’s about it,” said Sam. Success is clearly not about knowing the ins and outs and every detail of your business. What is important is that Sam had a vision and he went for it. “It’s all about finding the right people and having that gut feeling that they will take on responsibility in your company, not just view it as a job.” Sam got a lot of inspiration from Jim Collins’ Good to Great that focuses on finding the right people for your company. He quoted Collins several times talking about how it is much more important to have an A team and a B idea, rather than having an A idea with a B team and how capital and ideas are secondary to people.
Sam met his co-founder Josh at a local entrepreneur networking session and then went looking for his very own “Mr. Miyagi.” “You meet people throughout life who become super key influencers, you need to collect those awesome people.” Sam’s new school attitude is all about having confidence in knowing that someone out there knows the answer to his question; he just has to find them. Sam stressed the importance of mentors and finding someone with experience to guide you along the way.
That was actually the last time Sam mentioned the importance of experience. As a guy who does things on his own terms he was sure to add in the fact that on the East Coast our fancy MBA programs and stuffy executives are all “harping about experience, experience, experience, but our best coders learned this stuff because they love this stuff.” A true inspiration to anyone who wants to go out and create opportunity for them-self instead of letting life happen to them. “It’s so amazing that a group of people, in the middle of nowhere USA can make this happen.” GrooveShark is based in Gainsville, Florida not Palo Alto, California.
It’s our time now
Think of the mega empires that spawned from the Great Depression. Ford Motor company came out of the depression with a vengeance, State Farm and All State were both founded during the 20s and 30s. Believe it or not Hewlett Packard was founded during the Great Depression. Wrigley’s Chewing Gum famously sent everyone in the American phone book a stick of gum and as soon as these people had money to buy, Wrigley’s profits soared. It’s a known fact that during down economies opportunity levels are high and this is what young innovators are taking advantage of today. Our grandparents generation built empires during these hard times and so can we.
Sam turned into a bit of a Mr. Miyagi himself when he spoke about how ripe the world is for innovation. With the entire world waiting for Gen Y to fail, people like Sam are realizing that there is “Such a huge opportunity for our generation, when the ashes are fertilizing the forest, it’s ready to explode with growth…People don’t know what they are capable of. It’s time for them to make their own realities.”
While the old guys are out doing business their traditional way, there has never been a better time in history to innovate. What do we have that previous generations had never even heard of? The answer is the internet–our global resource to accelerate change and create opportunity. At no time in history could companies be created in a just a few short years and have a speculative value of $10 billion like Facebook. You can create an app like iBeer and have people pay 99 cents, thousands of times per day or get involved with a fast moving internet non-profit. What is important is that we do something we are passionate about and that we carve out the way in which we want to change the world. Sam Tarantino is a perfect example of someone looking to leave his impact.