(Founder Stories) How Dropbox Got Its First 10 Million Users

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Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston has one of the hottest startups in the game. With $257.2 million in funding and a $4-billion valuation it’s poised to triple an already impressive user base of 45-millon. So when did Houston know he was sitting on something pretty? Erick Schonfeld finds out in episode III of Drew Houston’s Founder Stories interview.

Houston says there “were a couple of important inflection points.” The first occurred after Dropbox released a demo video that captured Y Combinator’s attention and helped Dropbox secure an invitation to join the exclusive startup program. Milestone two occurred a year later when Dropbox released a separate video on Digg during its private beta launch.

In that second video, Houston says his team layered “easter eggs… aimed at the Digg audience” into the otherwise mainstream presentation. The splash of creativity worked. Within 24-hours Dropbox “had 75,000 people signup for the wait-list.” They were expecting 15,000, tops.

Not wanting to risk testing a buggy product on all 75,000, Dropbox carefully screened who could kick around early versions by extending invites through “a Gmail style closed beta.”  Their strategy paid off. Just seven months after public launch Dropbox hit 1-million users. Roughly a year later they counted 10 million.

With success in hand, Houston offers this advice to founders: “Research what other companies have done” but be cognizant of the fact that “often what works for one company is just completely the wrong thing for another company.”

Make sure to check out the entire video for additional advice and watch episodes I and II of Houston’s interview with Schonfeld.

Past episodes of Founder Stories featuring Alexis Ohanian, Fred Wilson and Kevin Ryan are here.

Episode IV of this interview is coming up.