Goldberg was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 2, 1967 and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His mother, Paula Goldberg, is co-founder and executive director of the Pacer Center, and his father, Melvin Bert "Mel" Goldberg (1942–1998), was associate dean and professor at the William Mitchell College of Law. He interned at the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper while in high school. He graduated from Blake School in Minneapolis in 1985, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1989, majoring in history and government. Goldberg was an enthusiastic Minnesota Vikings fan throughout his life.
Goldberg worked for Bain & Company for two years after graduating from college. He had planned to attend law school but instead joined Capitol Records, where he served as director of marketing strategy and new business development. He founded LAUNCH Media in 1994, and led it through its acquisition by Yahoo Inc. in 2001. He quit Yahoo in 2007 and joined Benchmark Capital. He then joined SurveyMonkey in 2009.
In 2004, Goldberg married Sheryl Sandberg. The couple had two children and lived in Menlo Park, California. Prior to his death he and Sandberg were active philanthropists, signing The Giving Pledge.
On May 1, 2015, Goldberg died suddenly while vacationing with Sandberg at a private beach-front villa near the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Punta Mita, Mexico; he was pronounced dead at a hospital in Nuevo Vallarta. According to the Nayarit State Prosecutor's Office, Goldberg fell off a treadmill while exercising at a gym and died after suffering head trauma and blood loss. However, autopsy results suggested that Goldberg also suffered a cardiac arrhythmia that contributed to his fall and death.
Goldberg's brother, Robert Goldberg, in an article written by Tim Bradshaw for the Financial Times that appeared on the website of MSN News, on May 2, 2015, described his family's "incredible shock and sadness," in an online post asking well-wishers to post photos and memories to his Facebook profile page. "In lieu of donations, we want to celebrate his life in a manner that respects the family’s privacy as they cope with this tragic, life-changing event," Robert Goldberg wrote. Tributes to Goldberg were posted to social media across the Silicon Valley community. A spokesperson for Facebook said its executives were "heartbroken by this news." Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in a post that Goldberg was "an amazing person and I am glad I got to know him." "One of the truly great people on the planet, Dave was of almost unimaginably remarkable character," said Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive. "One of kindest and most generous friends I’ve known," said Jeff Weiner, chief executive of LinkedIn.
Professional poker player Phil Helmuth, who was a friend, donated his historic 14th World Series of Poker bracelet to Goldberg's family.
A memorial service for Goldberg was held at Stanford Memorial Auditorium on the Stanford University campus on May 5, 2015. The 90-minute service was attended by many members of what Fortune described as "the elite of Silicon Valley," as well as U2 frontman Bono, who performed his song "One," and actor Ben Affleck, who had worked with Goldberg when Goldberg served on the Board of Directors of a company he co-founded called Live Planet and on a philanthropy project for The Eastern Congo Initiative by helping Affleck raise funds for the non profit.
Sheryl Sandberg, Goldberg's wife, wrote a Facebook post with an essay commemorating Goldberg 30 days after his death (sheloshim period), talking about her own struggle overcoming the grief of his death and the support that her loved ones had given her in this difficult time. The post got over 800,000 likes, over 300,000 shares, and over 60,000 comments. It was also discussed in Business Insider and the New York Times.