BBCTechnology

‘It was pretty crazy’

The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles a different business leader from around the world. This week we spoke to Drew Houston, founder and chief executive of US cloud storage company Dropbox.
Drew Houston says it felt as if he had just two weeks to find a complete stranger to marry.
Back in 2007 the then 24-year-old was desperate to secure funding to get his idea for a cloud storage business up and running.
One of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious backers of new start-ups – Y Combinator – were prepared to take a gamble on Mr Houston and Dropbox, but there was one catch – they demanded that he get a business partner.
Their argument is that new companies are far more likely to succeed if they have more than one founder, more than one person to make decisions and cope with the workload.
Mr Houston’s problem was that he was a one man band at the time, and for various reasons none of his friends were able to join the business. So he had just two weeks to find a complete stranger to become his co-founder.
“It was like getting an email from the dean of admissions to your favourite college, but the application deadline was in the next couple of weeks, and you need to get married in that time, not just find a date,” he says.
Moving very quickly Mr Houston managed – after a chat lasting just two hours – to persuade a 22-year-old student called Arash Ferdowsi to quit university and join him. Mr Ferdowsi was a friend of a friend, but he and Mr Houston had never met before.
That was 11 years ago. Fast forward to today and San Francisco-based Dropbox is valued at more than $12bn (£9bn). while Mr Houston’s net worth is calculated at $3bn, and Mr Ferdowsi’s at $1.3bn.
Not bad at all for a company that many said would never be successful, and one that Apple’s late Steve Jobs is widely reported to have said he would destroy.
Inspiration for a new business can come from anywhere, and for Mr Houston it was on a bus between Boston and New York in late 2006.
As a recent computer science graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT) he was intending to use the six or so hours long journey to work on some earlier business ideas. But as he sat down in his seat, Mr Houston realised that he had forgotten the memory stick that contained all the files.
“I was so frustrated because I felt like this kept happening,” he says. “I never wanted to have the problem again, so having nothing else to do… I started writing some code [to find a solution], having no idea what it would become.”
What Mr Houston came up with was the idea for Dropbox – remote storage that users can access online wherever they may be. Within two weeks he had created the prototype, and come up with the name.

Source: BBC
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