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Startup Lessons Learned Drew Houston @drewhouston
Background ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Some context ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
How we applied lean startup  principles at Dropbox (sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident)
Paul Graham: Early and often Joel Spolsky:  When it doesn’t completely suck (avoid “Marimba Phenomenon”) When to Launch?
2006: Dozens and dozens of  cloud storage companies
VC: “There are a million  cloud storage startups!” Drew: “Do you use any of them?” VC: “No” Drew: “…”
Building a bulletproof, scalable, cross-platform cloud storage architecture is  hard
[object Object],From competitor’s support forum:
Learn early, learn often
Dropbox’s minimum viable product: 3 min screencast on Hacker News (Apr 07): Lots of immediate, high-quality feedback
Simple landing page: capture interest/email address
Private beta launch video    12,000 diggs;  beta waiting list jumps from 5,000 to 75,000 in one day (Mar 2008)
What we learned ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
When “best practices” aren’t best
Public launch (Sep 2008): Time to get real
Public launch (Sep 2008): Time to get real ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Experiment: Paid search ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Cost per acquisition: $233-$388
Cost per acquisition: $233-$388 For a $99 product. Fail.
Experiments failing left and right ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
But we were still doing well…? ,[object Object],[object Object]
What we learned ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
What we learned ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Fourteen Months to the Epiphany
Why were conventional techniques failing,  yet we were still succeeding?
AdWords wasn’t the problem ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Typical Dropbox User
Steve Blank & Market Type ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
New strategy: encourage WOM, viral ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Trailing 30 days (Apr 2010) : users sent  2.8 million direct referral invites
Results ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Wrapping up ,[object Object],[object Object],[object Object]
Thank you! Questions? @drewhouston

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Dropbox Startup Lessons Learned

Editor's Notes

  1. Unusual aspects
  2. A few examples/stories
  3. As a founder lots of questions
  4. Back in 2006 the cloud storage market was insane
  5. Investor meetings had an interesting pattern
  6. (as I spent the bulk of my 20s discovering) This is not your typical rails app that you can bang out in a weekend.
  7. One thing I ran into over and over again was products that half worked. I promise you, if they did, I wouldn’t be here, I would be using that instead. But these were the guys who launched early. And now most of them are dead, not because of Dropbox but largely by self inflicted wounds.
  8. So, launching early and joining the pigpile of halfassed storage products was not terribly appealing
  9. So shipping code was out of the question YC app – ship in 8 wks vs 18 mos Prototype worked; video could show product in best light; get much of the same feedback as if we shipped working code
  10. YC’s motto
  11. As engineers
  12. We ran a bunch of experiments; adwords example -- everybody else is doing it
  13. - SEM is an example, but others – guilt to do what everyone else is doing -- to hire a product person, or a VP of whatever, or make an analytics dashboard, or a PR firm, etc. Often these are great things to do but that’s not a license to blindly do them
  14. To do something well in general you’ll be doing something else poorly