When Dropbox was young: the early years

Steven Loeb · January 27, 2017 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/48c8

Dropbox got to one million members only seven months after launch

As our readers know, Vator has started a series called: When they were young.

It's a look back at the modest days of startups, how they evolved in their first few years, and what traction they had at the time. In the end, we hope to have a good glimpse into what great startups looked like in their first three years.

Stories like these are always well received, because it reminds us that anyone, regardless of pedigree and environment, can rise above the noise and have great influence. They show us the value of being resilient, persistent and committed. If we can follow their footsteps, maybe we too can have similar success.

Today's segment is on Dropbox.

------ Dropbox's First Year ------ 

Founded: The first lines of code for Dropbox are written in Boston’s South Station in November 2006 while Drew Houston, then a student at MIT, is waiting for the Chinatown bus to New York.

Founders (age at the time): Houston (23) and Arash Ferdowsi (21)

Initial company description: "Dropbox synchronizes files across your/your team's computers. It's much better than uploading or email, because it's automatic, integrated into Windows, and fits into the way you already work. There's also a web interface, and the files are securely backed up to Amazon S3. Dropbox is kind of like taking the best elements of subversion, trac and rsync and making them 'just work' for the average individual or team. Hackers have access to these tools, but normal people don't," Houston writes on his application for Y Combinator in early 2007.

"There are lots of interesting possible features. One is syncing Google Docs/Spreadsheets (or other office web apps) to local .doc and .xls files for offline access, which would be strategically important as few web apps deal with the offline problem."

As a result of a dispute over trademark between Proxy and Evenflow, which is Dropbox parent company, Dropbox's domain is originally "Getdropbox.com"

Personnel, at four months: Ferdowsi joins Dropbox in April 2007. 

He connects with the company after Houson puts up a screencast of Dropbox on HackerNews. They also have a mutual friend at Y Combinator who introduces them. 

First funding, at seven months from founding: In June 2007, Dropbox receives $15,000 in seed funding from Y Combinator.

Second funding, at 10 months from founding: in September 2007, Dropbox raises $1.2 million in seed funding from Sequoia Capital. 

"On a Friday afternoon, we walked into the Sequoia offices, and on the walls were the original stock certificates of Apple and Cisco. It was daunting. I was thinking, Holy shit, I'm just some kid. What the hell am I doing here?" Houston later writes.

"We walked through the pitch, shook hands, and went home. The next day, legendary investor Michael Moritz came to our apartment, and we pitched to him. My only regret is that I didn't get to see whatever kind of hovercraft he arrived in. On Monday, we were invited to dinner with another investor, Sameer Gandhi, and it was time to talk numbers. We came to terms that made sense, and that was the green light. It was surreal."

Houston posts a screenshot of the wire transfer to Genius. 

------ Dropbox's Second Year ------ 

Traction, at one year and four months from founding: in March of 2008, Dropbox posts a video demonstration of its technology to Digg. 

As a result of the video, Dropbox's beta waiting list goes from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. Nearly 200,000 people eventually sign up.

Launch, at one year and 10 months from founding: on September 11, 2008, Dropbox officially launches to the public at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco.

Traction, at one year and 10 months from founding: in September 2008, Dropbox has 100,000 registered users.

Third funding, at one year and 11 months from founding; one month from launch: in October 2008, Dropbox raises $6 million in a Series A round Sequoia and Accel. It values the company at $29.3 million.

------ Dropbox's Third Year ------

Traction, at two years and five months from founding; seven months after launch: by May of 2009, Dropbox has 1 million members

Product, at two years and 10 months from founding, two months from launch: in September 2009, Dropbox launches its iPhone app

Product, at two years and 11 months from founding, two years and one month from launch: in October 2009, Dropbox acquires the domain "Dropbox.com"

------ Dropbox's Fourth Year ------ 

Prospective acquisition, at three years and one month from founding, two years and three months from launch: in December 2009, Steve Jobs calls Houston and says he wants to acquire Dropbox and make it a part of Apple. He says that Dropboxis, "a feature, not a product."

A potential figure at the meeting with Houston and Ferdowsi is not discussed, as Houston turns down the offer. 

Traction, at three years and two months from founding, two years and four months from launch: in January 2010, Dropbox has 4 million users.

Traction, at three years and four months from founding, two years and six months from launch: in April 2010, users send 2.8 million direct referral invites.

------Dropbox Today ------

In early 2016, Dropbox announced that it has 500 million users. Its users have created 3.3 billion connections. The company has150,000 paying business customers as of late 2015, 50,000 of which joined in 2015 alone.

Dropbox has raised over $607 million in funding, most recently a $350 million round in early 2014, which valued it at $10 billion.


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