‘It was flattering crazy’

Drew Houston and Arash FerdowsiImage copyright

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Drew Houston (left) had never met Arash Ferdowsi before they launched Dropbox together

The BBC’s weekly The Boss array profiles a opposite business personality from around a world. This week we spoke to Drew Houston, owner and arch executive of US cloud storage association Dropbox.

Drew Houston says it felt as if he had only dual weeks to find a finish foreigner to marry.

Back in 2007 a afterwards 24-year-old was unfortunate to secure appropriation to get his thought for a cloud storage business adult and running.

One of Silicon Valley’s many prestigious backers of new start-ups – Y Combinator – were prepared to take a play on Mr Houston and Dropbox, though there was one locate – they demanded that he get a business partner.

Their evidence is that new companies are distant some-more expected to attain if they have some-more than one founder, some-more than one chairman to make decisions and cope with a workload.

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Mr Houston came adult for a thought for Dropbox while on a train between Boston and New York

Mr Houston’s problem was that he was a one male rope during a time, and for several reasons zero of his friends were means to join a business. So he had only dual weeks to find a finish foreigner to turn his co-founder.

“It was like removing an email from a vanguard of admissions to your favourite college, though a concentration deadline was in a subsequent integrate of weeks, and we need to get married in that time, not only find a date,” he says.

Moving unequivocally fast Mr Houston managed – after a discuss durability only dual hours – to convince a 22-year-old tyro called Arash Ferdowsi to quit university and join him. Mr Ferdowsi was a crony of a friend, though he and Mr Houston had never met before.

That was 11 years ago. Fast brazen to now and San Francisco-based Dropbox is valued during some-more than $12bn (£9bn). while Mr Houston’s net value is distributed during $3bn, and Mr Ferdowsi’s during $1.3bn.

Not bad during all for a association that many pronounced would never be successful, and one that Apple’s late Steve Jobs is widely reported to have pronounced he would destroy.

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Martin Klimek

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Drew Houston is value some-more than $3bn

Inspiration for a new business can come from anywhere, and for Mr Houston it was on a train between Boston and New York in late 2006.

As a new mechanism scholarship connoisseur from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT) he was intending to use a 6 or so hours prolonged tour to work on some progressing business ideas. But as he sat down in his seat, Mr Houston realised that he had lost a memory hang that contained all a files.

“I was so undone since we felt like this kept happening,” he says. “I never wanted to have a problem again, so carrying zero else to do… we started essay some formula [to find a solution], carrying no thought what it would become.”

What Mr Houston came adult with was a thought for Dropbox – remote storage that users can entrance online wherever they might be. Within dual weeks he had combined a prototype, and come adult with a name.

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Mr Houston (left) is a crony of Facebook trainer Mark Zuckerberg

Just a few months after Y Combinator voiced an interest, and Mr Houston went behind to MIT to accommodate Mr Ferdowsi, who was study electrical engineering and mechanism scholarship during his aged university.

Mr Houston, who is now 35, says: “We met in a tyro centre for an hour or two, afterwards Arash forsaken out of propagandize a subsequent week.

“In review this was flattering crazy… I’m certain his relatives had a opposite devise for him, one that concerned finishing college.

“But he was unequivocally vehement to do it. And we don’t know if possibly of us knew utterly what we were removing into.”

Moving into Y Combinator’s bottom in Silicon Valley, Dropbox launched in 2008.

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The late Steve Jobs was pronounced to have been angry that he couldn’t buy Dropbox

To attract a initial business Dropbox done promotional videos that it put adult on contention websites such as Reddit and Slashdot. The aim was to get record zone influencers to start regulating a use in a wish that they would pronounce definitely about a product, and user numbers would afterwards grow interjection to this word of mouth.

This indeed valid successful, and from 5,000 users on a watchful list, within a few days Dropbox had 75,000 pointer ups. Then it went from 100,000 users to 200,000 users “in something like 10 days”.

More The Boss features, that each week form a opposite business personality from around a world:

  • The polio survivor who says she ‘was one of a propitious ones’
  • The male who combined a $2bn ice cream organisation in his kitchen
  • The $5bn tech trainer who grew adult though electricity
  • ‘The day we was diagnosed was a misfortune of my life’
  • The trinket trainer who incited $500 into a $1bn business

User numbers rocketed even serve and faster when Mr Houston and his organisation came adult with an incentivised mention scheme. This offering existent Dropbox business some-more giveaway storage space if they could get a crony to pointer up. The other chairman would also get some-more giveaway space, and so on.

It captivated millions of new customers, and held a courtesy of a late Steve Jobs who done an offer for a business in 2011.

While Mr Houston declined to speak about this, in countless prior interviews he has pronounced that Jobs didn’t take it good when he incited down a offer. Website Business Insider final year quoted Mr Houston saying that Jobs had threatened to “kill” Dropbox following a rejection.

Apple launched a possess cloud storage use after in 2011, iCloud, though this didn’t reason behind Dropbox’s growth.

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Mr Houston is also a crony of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who is a Dropbox investor

Today Dropbox has some-more than 500 million purebred users, of whom 11.5 million compensate an annual subscription price for some-more storage than we get for free. This includes some-more than 300,000 profitable business customers.

The association floated on a Nasdaq index progressing this year, and a marketplace capitalisation – a sum value of all a shares – now stands during some-more than $12bn. Its annual revenues surpass $1bn, and it has a tellurian workforce of some-more than 2,000 people.

Technology researcher Ben Wood of investigate organisation CCS Insight says there are countless reasons for Dropbox’s success, such as a altogether palliate of use and “very importantly a fact it allows people to simply save and share photos, videos, and other large files that email servers are still incompetent to cope with”.

Mr Houston says that he and Mr Ferdowsi, who stays on a comparison government team, continue to work good together.

Regarding his specific purpose as arch executive, Mr Houston says his stream categorical concentration is creation certain that staff omit a success of a new share flotation, and instead “stay focused on because we are here – creation business happy”.

  • Follow The Boss array editor Will Smale on Twitter.
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