Who hasn’t heard of Dropbox, right? The cloud storage giant provides services to over 500 million people across the globe and generates billions of dollars as annual revenue. Well, did you know that it began as a two-person startup? Read on to know the incredible success story of Dropbox.
The birth of a million-dollar idea
Dropbox founder Drew Houston was a tech prodigy who started coding when he was just 5 years old. The idea for Dropbox was born in 2007 when Houston was on a bus ride and suddenly realized that he had forgotten his pen drive, which had important files on it. The incident left him so frustrated that he pledged to solve the problem once and for all. And the idea for Dropbox was born!
The evolution into a business
With the help of Y Combinator, a startup accelerator, Dropbox received its initial funding of $1.2 million from Sequoia Capital in 2007. However, there was still a lot of work to be put in to get the product right. Dropbox was launched in 2008, a year after it received its initial funding.
When Houston had taken his idea to Y Combinator, even though his pitch was well-received, the accelerator promised admission only on one condition – Houston needed to find a partner within two weeks. He turned to his alma mater, MIT, where he found Arash Ferdowski who was more than willing to drop out from college after seeing a demo video that Houston had put together.
Soon after the launch, Apple expressed interest in Dropbox with Steve Jobs even scheduling a meeting with Houston to buy the product. When Houston rejected the offer, Jobs said something on the lines of “Well, we’re just gonna have to crush you guys”! 10 years or so later, Dropbox is still going steady with a net worth of $8 billion despite cutthroat competition from Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud, all thanks to Houston’s unfaltering determination to build and nurture his own company.
Disrupting the market
Dropbox disrupted the market as soon as it launched. While there were several applications that enabled cloud storage, none of them were as stable, seamless, and robust. However, the challenge still lay in attracting as many users as possible to keep the venture profitable in the long run. Initially, Dropbox went for an outbound marketing strategy, investing in pay-per-click and PR campaigns. Unfortunately, this failed miserably, since the keywords they were bidding on were way too expensive.
This is when Dropbox focussed on adopting a consumer-first approach, going where the users were to build its own community and generate word of mouth.
Building a community
Initially, Dropbox had launched a private beta program while it was still in the development stage to generate interest in the product and gain valuable feedback to better the product. This helped Dropbox generate significant word of mouth and they capitalized on it by starting a referral that incentivized both, the recommenders and referrals with extra free space. They also rewarded their social media followers with 125 MB of extra free space. This simple initiative increased the number of new users by a whopping 60%!
Another key game changer was the use of a signup-driven homepage with clear layout and demarcations. It also had a 2-minute tutorial video to guide users through the product. This not only made the intent of the home page pretty clear but also helped anchor interest by showcasing how simple, effective, and beneficial the product is.
The key contributor to Dropbox’s success was that it solved a very basic problem. It thoroughly understood its users and the needs they had. A lot of users around the globe had already grown wary of carrying portable storage devices and wanted something that could solve their storage issues. Dropbox addressed the issue head-on by making cloud storage a simple, secure, and hassle-free experience. In the words of Drew Houston himself, “People do not choose Dropbox because it has this much space or gigabytes. They choose it for the experience.”