This upcoming weekend will mean a lot of things to different people. Children may have their sights set on that one masterfully hidden Easter egg while hoping to devour an entire chocolate bunny before breakfast. Some families will gather for church services while others may have soccer tournaments, dance rehearsal, date night, or a long-awaited lazy Saturday on the weekend agenda.
But for the startup community based in a small college town in North Central Florida, this Sunday comes with both a sense of heaviness and hope. Seven years ago, then-Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy declared April 17 Josh Greenberg Day — in honor of a local tech startup founder, community mentor, and friend to many, who died unexpectedly at the age of 28.
In 2022, the city continues to celebrate Josh’s contributions to the Gainesville startup community, including his entrepreneurship, mentoring, and generous giving of his time, talent, and money.
Celebrating the Life, Legacy, and Entrepreneurial Leadership of a Local Hero
Most notably, Josh Greenberg was Co-Founder and CTO of Grooveshark, a now-defunct music-streaming service that, at its peak, had more than 35 million members and boasted $65 million in revenue from a mere $3 million in venture capital funding. He was a founding member of the Gainesville Tech Council, helped start the Gainesville Dev Academy, and served as a mentor to numerous startup founders, including that of HostingAdvice’s parent company, Digital Brands.
Josh’s mission was to transform the city of Gainesville, Florida, into a place where startups could stay and thrive. He cared passionately about fostering entrepreneurship, mentorship, and giving back to the city he loved.
“Josh himself was very involved in the community. He was responsible for a lot of initiatives that helped other startups and inspired others to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit,” said Will Richardson, a former Grooveshark employee who went on to co-found another Gainesville-based company, Admiral.
In response to Josh’s passing, several initiatives, including the ONWARD & UPWARD catchphrase and T-shirts, a benefit concert, and scholarship opportunities, were created to continue his mission and memorialize the impact he had on the community he left behind.
“(Onward and upward) was Josh’s thing,” according to former Grooveshark investor Todd Chase. “Wake up every day and — onward and upward.”
The coined phrase is now echoed throughout the Gainesville startup community.
“For anyone who didn’t get to meet him, just realize that this person, Josh, is the type of person you want to emulate,” said Rich Blaser, Co-Founder of Infinite Energy, in an interview for a video memorial made for the Josh Greenberg Day website.
April 17, 2022, Marks 7 Years of Josh Greenberg Day
When Josh Greenberg was found dead in his apartment one tragic Sunday morning in July 2015, hearts ached throughout the city of Gainesville.
On April 18, 2016, hundreds gathered at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the life of a local startup founder and friend. It was a Monday, the day after what would have been Josh’s 29th birthday, and then-Mayor Ed Braddy read a proclamation declaring that April 17 would henceforth be known as Josh Greenberg Day.
“Josh left an indelible mark on the future of Gainesville that will continue in perpetuity in the work and passion of those he touched,” the proclamation said.
As Josh’s friends and family prepare for the seventh anniversary of his death, the city of Gainesville celebrates his life through fundraising, community outreach, and strategic efforts to commemorate his passions. According to Josh’s best friend and Grooveshark Co-Founder Sam Tarantino, Josh’s work is definitely not done.
Anyone can celebrate Josh Greenberg Day and further Josh’s legacy by:
- Contributing to the ONWARD & UPWARD Grant on the Josh Greenberg Day site
- Getting involved with the Gainesville Tech Council
- Participating in a local charity donation drive
- Donating your time and/or talents to form, fund, or further a startup dream
The ONWARD & UPWARD Grant is a crowdfunded $5,000 award given to first-time startup founders to see their entrepreneurial vision come to fruition. Donors who give at least $100 will receive a complimentary ticket to the annual celebrateGNV event, where the grant recipient is recognized each year.
Visit the JoshGreenberg Day website to donate or learn more. Donations of more than $5,000 help ensure Josh’s legacy will live on for years to come, according to the website.
The Gainesville Tech Council is one of several industry councils under the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce umbrella. Contact Staci Bertrand at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
If you’re looking for a philanthropic avenue to celebrate, consider The Amazing Give. This annual fundraising drive benefits multiple organizations, including Partnership for Strong Families, PACE Center for Girls, and GRACE Marketplace, a one-stop resource center for those experiencing homelessness in Gainesville.
From 7 AM to 7 PM Eastern time on Sunday, April 17, 2022, all donations toward GRACE will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $20,000 — doubling your impact on the Gainesville community.
ONWARD & UPWARD: Josh Lives On In the Startups Thriving in Gainesville, Florida
For those who knew Josh Greenberg, their lives have been forever changed. Those who chose to plant startup seeds in Gainesville, Florida — and remain there — have Josh to thank, at least in part.
“He hunkered down in a small college town, raised a bunch of money here, and was super committed to what he felt like the future of Gainesville represented,” said Chad Paris, CEO of Parisleaf. “His legacy is our company and the companies we inspire to stay in Gainesville.”
Former University of Florida President Bernie Machen spoke fondly of Josh, his impact on the Gator Nation, and the impression he left on Gainesville as a whole.
“His greatest gift will probably be his teaching and his mentoring. Innovation Square is a tribute to Josh,” Machen said. “Without him, I can truly say I don’t know if we’d be where we are today.”