“If I tell you about Dropbox, you get some extra space, I get some extra space. We had this kind of currency to work wit

Author : ealimkhanki
Publish Date : 2021-01-07 10:36:36

“If I tell you about Dropbox, you get some extra space, I get some extra space. We had this kind of currency to work wit

Drew quickly abandoned the idea — as legal restrictions around online poker were becoming stricter — but he did learn his first big lesson: passion isn’t enough; you have to be obsessed with your idea.

His plan was to take his external hard drive onto the bus, and do the things he needed to do during the 4-hour ride. Except that… he forgot the hard drive at home. Out comes the idea of a cloud-based file sharing solution that would seamlessly sync all of your files to all of your devices in the background.

File storage wasn’t exactly a new topic in 2007. There were external hard drives you could carry around. There were virtual hard drives you could upload your files onto. There were programs designed to make the two work together.

To test his idea, Drew put a Craigslist ad, offering people $30 to try his product. The results shocked Drew: from the initial batch of 5 users, none of them could figure out how to share a Dropbox folder.

One of them is that Drew Houston came up with the idea while waiting for a bus. He was invited to spend a weekend with friends in New York, but he’d promised his co-worker that he would do a bunch of work stuff before.

“It had to be something that was deeply technical. At heart, since I was a little kid, technology is what I really love. I would love for whatever company I start to have technology as its core source of competitive advantage.”

Meanwhile, Drew saw one friend after another launch successful companies. Adam Smith, a roommate of his, got $5 million in funding 3 months after moving to California. Another MIT student, Justin Kan, had just created a live-streaming website that would eventually become Twitch.

“I wanted something that I could explain to normal people in a bar or coffeeshop. There were a lot of elements of software and particularly enterprise software that rule that out.”

“We could see that a lot of people would sign up and not start using it. […] We would record people, just trying out the product. We found all these hidden things that were stumbling blocks. After you install Dropbox, in a sense, it just puts you into this empty folder. The only interaction you could have with it is through this icon in the corner of your screen. People didn’t notice the icon.”

The demo video helped Drew get a much-needed kickstart. It went viral on Digg and Hackernews, which got Dropbox 75,000 subscribers to their waiting list. However, it wasn’t a sustainable marketing strategy. Something had to be done.

One crucial marketing strategy Dropbox used to take off was their referral program. Namely, Dropbox offered its users free storage space if they brought a friend to the platform.

Over the years, MIT has given birth to many inventions we now take for granted — including GPS, fax machines, and the World Wide Web itself. However, it was MIT’s low-profile file-sync system that gave Drew the idea for a multi-billion dollar company.





















nates US$1 for each article published in our platform. This story contributed to Bay Area Black Designers: a professional development community for Black people who are digital designers and researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area. By joining together in community, members share inspiration, connection, peer mentorship, professional development, resources, feedback, support, and resilience. Silence against systemic racism is not an option. Build the design community you believe in.

Drew’s MIT-inspired solution was as elegant as it was confusing. A single folder would appear on your desktop — blending in with other folders. Once you put a file into your Dropbox folder, it would be instantly uploaded to identical Dropbox folders on your other computers.

“We had this system called Athena, where you sit down at any of the thousands of computers across campus, all your stuff is in front of you. […] Nobody really built that for the rest of the world.”

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