You know you’re doing something right when Silicon Valley rock stars are ditching cushy jobs at Google and Facebook to join your startup. This year’s Founder Of The Year Crunchie goes to the talent magnets at Dropbox, CEO Drew Houston and CTO Arash Ferdowsi.
From an MIT dorm room to rejecting huge acquisition offers and their second San Francisco office they just leased, Drew and Arash have built the cloud storage service into one of hottest ventures in the world. You can get a feel for Drew’s candid style from my Disrupt on-stage interview with him last year.
In 2013 alone, Dropbox grew from 200 to over 500 employees. It acquired popular email app Mailbox plus teams from smaller startups like Endorse, Snapjoy, and Sold. Dropbox threw its first developer conference and overhauled its For Business product in anticipation for an enterprise sales push. To fund that and new storage innovations, Dropbox is said to have raised a hefty $250 million round with investors trying to bet even more on the company.
Still, the real reason Drew and Arash won this award is for the company culture they’ve created. Employees love how their CEO sets clear goals but gives people the freedom to achieve them in their own ways. Meanwhile, Arash focuses on the details, pushing employees to a high standard of excellence. I’ve heard tales of the CTO sending emails at 3am when things break…like whatever caused that little outage last month.
Both are said to be highly approachable, giving the emerging giant the feel of a much more intimate company. That’s critical when building towards a big but nebulous vision of a world where our data is always at our fingertips.
Drew and Arash faced stiff competition in the Founder Of The Year category from other finalists like fellow storage king Aaron Levie of Box; Tumblr’s David Karp who sold the company to Yahoo; web performance phenom CloudFlare’s Matthew Prince; Michelle Zatlyn and Lee Holloway; and e-commerce fire starter Deena Varshavskaya.
But Dropbox’s founders have done something truly impressive. Together, they’ve turned something as dull sounding as cloud storage into an inspiring place to work. That’s because they see past what their product does to what it means. Dropbox isn’t about saving people’s files, but protecting their cherished memories.