The Beginnings of Dropbox: Starting out as a Minimal Viable Product


This article is about how DropBox started as a minimal viable product, its application and the story behind it.

Drew Houston is the CEO of Dropbox, an innovative business that provides an extremely easy-to-use file-sharing tool. After installing its application, a Dropbox folder appears on the user’s computer desktop, and any files in this folder are uploaded instantly to the Dropbox service while replicating across all their computers and devices. The team behind Dropbox was made up of talented engineers, as the product required significant technical knowledge to build. Furthermore, it needed integration with various computer platforms and operating systems, and this gave Dropbox a competitive edge.

For Houston and his team, getting customer feedback was a top priority, as they wanted to test if their superior customer experience was enough for people to give their product a try. Although Houston received a lot of rejections from venture capitals, he did not give up. He thought up an unusual but effective way to validate the concept – a three minute video.

This ingenuous video demonstration was aimed towards a community of technology early adopters. The video has Houston himself narrating, while clicking and dragging files with his mouse. He designed his video with a lot of clever, subtle jokes that the early adopters found quite amusing. His smart strategy ended up paying off, as the video drove hundreds of thousands of people to their website. Their beta waiting list multiplied from 5,000 people to a staggering 75,000 people within a day.

Drew Houston was smart enough to recognize the significance of validating the viability of his product before investing too much into it. This process helped the founding team understand their customers’ wants, and their product has been doing incredibly well ever since. His techniques have made him one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and have earned him the respect of many. He has been a guest speaker at multiple conferences, sharing his success stories and lessons to aspiring entrepreneurs. His inspiring and creative approach to starting a business has made readers ponder how differently they can apply the principles of the Lean Start in their own projects.