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.”
Past episodes of Founder Stories featuring Alexis Ohanian, Fred Wilson and Kevin Ryan are here.
Episode IV of this interview is coming up.
Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. Frustrated by working from multiple computers, Drew was inspired to create a service that would let people bring all their files anywhere, with no need to email around attachments. Drew created a demo of Dropbox and showed it to fellow MIT student Arash Ferdowsi, who dropped out with only one semester left to help make Dropbox a reality. Guiding their decisions was a relentless focus on crafting a...
Drew Houston is CEO and Co-Founder of Dropbox, and has led Dropbox’s growth from a simple idea to a service relied upon by millions around the world. Drew leads Dropbox’s activities, and is actively involved in its business and product decisions. Before founding Dropbox, Drew attended MIT where he studied computer science. He took a quick leave from school to form Accolade, an online SAT prep startup, and also worked as a software engineer for Bit9. After graduating from...
Erick Schonfeld is a technology journalist and the executive producer of DEMO. He is also a partner at bMuse, a product incubator in New York City. Schonfeld is the former Editor in Chief of TechCrunch. At TechCrunch, he oversaw the editorial content of the site, helped to program the Disrupt conferences and CrunchUps, produced TCTV shows, and wrote daily for the blog. He joined TechCrunch as Co-Editor in 2007, and helped take it from a popular blog to a thriving...