DropBox – From zero to a billion in a decade

I first met Drew Houston and his co-founder, Arash Ferdowsi, over nine years ago. They had been quietly working on Dropbox and were going to announce it as part of their presentation for the YCombinator demo day. When I met with them, the Young MIT dropouts pointed out they wanted to change mainstream behavior of carrying around USB sticks and make personal file sharing dead simple. They were confident that the relative ease of use of their offering would win over the masses. Good Luck, I said. Well, they nailed it. 

I became an early beta user and was super impressed by the elegance and simplicity of it. Storage, sharing, and backup should be dead simple, carry no cognitive load, and be the invisible product. Later, Drew and Arash moved into the same residential complex where I used to live. We would run into each other at our local Starbucks and talk about tech world at large and their product in specific. Those meetings gave me a lot of insight into the challenges for the young company were how to keep everything simple and keep growing.

They did that, despite many many ups and downs, twists and turns. They have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. They are a unicorn. Apple wanted to buy them, and eventually kill them. They have survived despite the iCloud, the Google Drive and Microsoft’s offerings. I was reminded of their early days yesterday when Drew shared a slide showing that they’re on a run rate to notch up billion dollars in revenues in 2017, nine years after launch. They are the fastest SaaS company ever to hit billion dollar runrate.

That is a long time — but that is usually the time it takes to figure out if an idea can become a real business. The Internet might have hastened the pace of our world. The network has turbocharged growth and expansion. However, it looks that growing into business still indexes at human scale.

In what seems to be life coming full circle, Dropbox recently moved into a new office just down the street from me. We are neighbors again, though I suspect I won’t see Drew and Arash standing in line at our neighborhood cafe, Blue Bottle in South Park!

January 31, 2017. San Francisco

A letter from Om

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