Makeup. Guitars. WordPress. Heaters. If you’re wondering what all of these words might possibly have in common, it’s tutorials. You can, at any given moment, find a surprising number of tutorials on YouTube for any one of these things, among millions of others. It’s quite possibly one of YouTube’s greatest libraries of content. Video itself has long been gaining momentum in the digital space, and according to YouTube, more than one billion users watch hundreds of millions of hours of video every day.
Given this information, it should come as no surprise that in its early stages, DropBox was able to leverage this reach to gain its own momentum. Founded in 2007 and headquartered in San Francisco, CA, DropBox is the brainchild of founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. Houston, who studied at MIT and coded in his free time, had once again forgotten his flash drive while on a bus from Boston to New York. Since the work he’d planned to do during the length of the ride was now inaccessible, he began coding a solution instead.
Why is it called DropBox?
The solution was a platform that would enable anyone to access their personal files from any device in any location, wifi permitting. It would eventually be called DropBox, for the sole fact that it would enable users to drop documents into a virtual box and then access them whenever and wherever they’d need to. By March 2007, Houston was ready to introduce his idea to the masses – and to Y Combinator. He shared his goals within a Y Combinator Hacker News thread: “My YC app: Dropbox – Throw away your USB drive,” he teased, along with the URL getdropbox.com, but it was a basic demo video that launched DropBox into unrivaled success.
Of the video, Houston told Forbes, “It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away.” The audience reacted in part because of a need for the product and in part because of the founders’ humorous approach. “To the casual observer, the Dropbox demo video looked like a normal product demonstration, but we put in about a dozen Easter eggs that were tailored for the Digg audience. References to Tay Zonday and ‘Chocolate Rain’ and allusions to Office Space and XKCD. It was a tongue-in-cheek nod to that crowd, and it kicked off a chain reaction. Within 24 hours, the video had more than 10,000 Diggs,” said Houston.
In a year’s time, DropBox had raised $7.2 million but the team remained small. Instead of spending hard-earned money on advertising, DropBox grew its following steadily through its existing customers. They offered 250 megabytes of free storage as incentive to users who referred just one more person. According to Forbes, this is how the company gained 25% of all new customers and a $4 billion valuation less than three years later.
SEE ALSO: Why is Flickr Called Flickr?
Using a freemium model, wherein basic users get two gigabytes of storage at no cost, DropBox now includes a user base of 400 million people and 150,000 business around the world. While there are more and more competitors, Houston has never been fearful of them (he even turned away an esteemed Steve Jobs in an early meeting.) Even in the face of iCloud’s release, which could have been detrimental, DropBox did not falter. Perhaps because, as TechCrunch alleges, the founding team of engineers made certain of the seamless integration across operating systems.
It seems that even from the beginning, the founders intended that DropBox would do everything but drop the ball.
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Annelise Schoups is a contributor at Rewind & Capture. With a degree in journalism, experience in public relations, and an education in travel, she is passionate about cultivating knowledge and storytelling.