Five influential start-up leaders who died prematurely
The death of Grooveshark’s founder Josh Greenberg brings the focus back on leaders who had similar fates
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Mumbai: Earlier this week, 28-year-old Josh Greenberg, a founder of online music streaming website Grooveshark, was found dead in his apartment in Gainesville, Florida, on Sunday. While the police haven’t said how he died, they have ruled out suicide and foul play.
Once a major force in the free online music streaming space—with millions of users across the world it was dubbed the Facebook of music—Grooveshark was shut down by its founders earlier this year due to hefty financial penalties from record labels who owned the music the website streamed.
Greenberg and his friends were in the process of moving on and looking at new projects.
Here’s a look at some other leaders in the start-up community who died way too early and the influence they wielded.
Faigy Mayer—founder & CEO, Appton
Mayer, the founder and CEO of Appton, a mobile and web solutions application designed to cater to CEOs, committed suicide by jumping off the roof of a 20-storey New York city building on Monday night. She was 30. Close friends claim she had been suffering from depression after separating from her Hasidic Jewish family a few years ago—she thought the religion was too restrictive. Mayer had a master’s degree in accounting and a certificate in data science specialisation from Johns Hopkins University. She was also working for an organisation which helps those who want to break free from a Hasidic Jewish environment and adapt to a more secular lifestyle.
Dave Goldberg—CEO, SurveyMonkey
Goldberg, husband of Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, died at the age of 47 in Mexico while vacationing with his family in May. He died unexpectedly in a gym accident. He had taken over the leadership at SurveyMonkey in 2009, when it had already completed 10 years but had not seen much success. Goldberg, a beloved Silicon Valley veteran, nurtured SurveyMonkey from a small shop to a start-up valued at $2 billion, employing more than 500 people.
George Tang—co-founder & CTO, Kitchit
Tang, 24, was one of three co-founders at Kitchit, a mobile application that connects private chefs with diners who want to hire them. He died early last year after a car accident. Tang, who had a degree in computer sciences from Stanford University, was the chief technology officer at Kitchit. When new employees enter the San Francisco-based start-up, they are told about Tang and his contribution to Kitchit, as the other co-founders feel it is essential to honour his memory.
Hansoo Lee—co-founder, Magoosh
Lee, an MBA from Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley, died at age 33 in March 2013, after a 15-month-battle with lung cancer. Lee, along with his classmates Bhavin Parikh, Penjam Pour-Moezzi and Vikram Shenoy, set up Magoosh, an online test prep start-up. The company today serves students across 185 countries and has over 1 million hours of video lessons to offer. The start-up provides preparation for various online tests, including GRE, GMAT and TOEFL. Parikh has helped set up the Hansoo Lee Fellowship to provide a stipend and mentorship for entrepreneurial aspirations of Haas-Berkeley’s students.
Aaron Swartz—partner and developer, Reddit
Swartz committed suicide in January 2013 at age 26, faced with the prospect of having to serve six months in prison for data theft. He is remembered for his significant contribution and participation in efforts to avert the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was introduced by US lawmakers to control copyright violations online. Swartz criticised the Act on the grounds that it would put undue powers in the hands of lawmakers who could in effect shut down entire websites without prior notice. The Act was killed after significant protests. Swartz became a partner at social networking, entertainment and news website Reddit after it merged with his company Infogami. He was posthumously inducted into the Internet hall of fame.
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