Dropbox – The Power of a “Value Based” Startup

Drew Houston, CEO/Founder of Dropbox, gave an amazingly forthcoming presentation at the Startup Lessons Learned Conference chronicling his team’s path from idea to their current position as one of today’s hottest startups.

Because of the importance of protecting user data, they modified the “launch early, launch often” mantra to “learn early, learn often.”  And they aspired to gain the “best understanding of customers as early as possible.”

My favorite quote from Drew’s presentation highlighted the power of focusing on what is really important: “If you make a feature matrix of Dropbox versus all the other products out there, we’ll never come out in front.  We wanted to do a few things [really] well as opposed to a lot of things kind of well, presented in a way that’s confusing.”

Dropbox struggled to find effective paid marketing channels, but Drew states: “The one thing that saved us was that we put all of our effort into something that worked, that was an elegant solution.”  They then empowered extremely gratified users to spread the word about Dropbox.

The result: In 15 months, Dropbox attracted 4 million users.  In the last 30 days users have sent 2.8 million direct referral invites.  Watch the video, you’ll definitely learn something.  During my time with Dropbox, I learned how to build a sustainable startup (and business in general) the right way.

Watch live video from Startup Lessons Learned on Justin.tv

4 thoughts on “Dropbox – The Power of a “Value Based” Startup

  1. Hi Sean,

    We have been looking at the launch early motto very critically and really have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t necessarily apply to all the lean startups. In that respect I also found Drews insights encouraging. I think difference is if your are going into an existing market then people expect that your product does at least what evrybody else can do. How do you see the MVP in this respect here?

  2. Hi Khuram, I think Drew’s point was not that they delayed launch to add more features, but that they wanted to ensure Dropbox worked flawlessly. He addresses the feature question directly when he said that Dropbox would never be at the top of a matrix comparison of companies in the space.

    Personally I think it’s a big balancing act between launching early and launching stable. An early launch gives you the ability to respond to and iterate on real user feedback. But the big question is how stable should the product be before you launch? It’s probably different for every category.

  3. Pingback: Do zero a milhões de usuários – as lições de marketing da Dropbox | Manual da Startup