DropBox it just works

Topics: File sharing, File hosting service, File system Pages: 31 (7638 words) Published: November 23, 2014
9-811-065
JANUARY 19, 2011

THOMAS R. EISENMANN
MICHAEL PAO

Dro
opbox: "It Jusst Work
ks"
h
a formu
ula: Limited life experiencces +
Paaul Buchheit, creator of Gmail and FriendFeed, has
overgeeneralization = advice. Let’s say you hire a product manaager as employyee #3, and you u succeed. Doees that
mean that the product manager droove your succeess, so every staartup should hire one early? — Drew
D
Houston
n, Dropbox Co-Founder
C
& CEO
old co-foundeer and CEO of
o Dropbox, a downloadab
ble application
n that
Drrew Houston,, the 27-year-o
allow
wed users to ea
asily synchronize and sharre files acrosss personal com
mputers and smart
s
phoness, saw
the fo
og rolling oveer the hills intto San Franciisco during his
h drive up US
U 101. It wass June 2010 an
nd he
had ju
ust finished a board meetiing. Things were
w
going weell: Dropbox had plenty of cash in the bank,
activaations continu
ued to ramp
p, the compan
ny’s freemium business model
m
was working
w
welll, and
Dropb
box was wideely viewed ass a leader in itts space. How
wever, Housto
on had plenty
y on his mind..
Hee reflected on
n the board’s discussion of
o Dropbox’s product straategy. The com
mpany stored
d and
trackeed tens of billlions of files for a user baase of severall million userrs, two-thirdss of whom reesided outsid
de the US. Drropbox, found
ded in April 2007 and lau
unched to the public in Sep
ptember 20088, had
reached this scale without cond
ducting much
h formal marrket research on users and
d their prefereences.
port forums su
uggested thatt many custom
mers relied on
n Dropbox fo
or specific task
ks, for
Exchaanges in supp
examp
ple, backing up photos, running
r
a staartup, or collaaborating on Office docum
ments. Users were
constaantly requestting new feattures, many of which wo
ould violate the
t company
y’s commitmeent to
offerin
ng a simple, easy-to-use product.
p
Shou
uld Dropbox stay the courrse, or should
d it evolve beeyond
file sh
haring and syncing, for example,
e
by targeting
t
entterprise appliications or th
he needs of power
p
users??
An
nother questio
on concerned
d distribution partnershipss. When Drop
pbox was youn
nger, Houston had
tried to negotiate deals
d
to bund
dle Dropbox with
w
personal computers. These negotiiations had sttalled,
but with
w
the grow
wing popularrity of mobile devices, hee wondered: Did it madee sense to re-open partnership discusssions?

Com
mpany Bacckground
Ho
ouston, who received his undergradua
u
ate degree in computer sciience from MIT
M in 2005, got the
idea for
f Dropbox while waitin
ng for a buss at Boston’s South Statio
on in Decem
mber 2006. Hee had
plann
ned to work on
o a programm
ming project during the fo
our-hour ridee to Manhattaan, but left hiss USB
flash drive at his Cambridge
C
ap
partment. Fru
ustrated, he began
b
designing a service to sync and share
______________________
__________________________________________________________________________________________________ Professo
or Thomas R. Eiseenmann and Mich
hael Pao (MBA 20011) prepared this case. HBS cases are developed sollely as the basis for f class
discussiion. Cases are not in
ntended to serve ass endorsements, so
ources of primary data,
d
or illustrationss of effective or inefffective managemeent.
Copyrig
ght © 2011 Presiden
nt and Fellows of Harvard
H
College. To
T order copies or request permission
n to reproduce matterials, call 1-800-545-7685,
write Haarvard Business Scchool Publishing, Bo
oston, MA 02163, or
o go to www.hbsp
p.harvard.edu/educators. This publicaation may not be digitized, photoco
opied, or otherwise reproduced, posteed, or transmitted, without w
the permisssion of Harvard Bu
usiness School.

811-065

Dropbox: "It Just Works"

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