Dropbox hasn’t spent a cent of US$250m funding raised – Drew Houston

1 Nov 2013

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston at the Dublin Web Summit last night. Illustration by Think Visual

Cloud giant Dropbox is profitable and has yet to spend a cent of the US$250m war chest of funding it amassed last year, CEO Drew Houston told yesterday’s Dublin Web Summit.

Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Houston and CTO Arash Ferdowsi after they were frustrated with working with multiple computers and decided a way had to be found to allow people access the files they needed from any machine.

The company has so far raised  over US$257m in total.

The company was originally seeded by Y Combinator with follow on seed funding of US$1.2m from Sequoia Capital and Pejman Nozad.

This was followed in 2008 by a US$6m funding round led by Sequoia and Accel Partners.

A monster US$250m funding round last year saw U2 rockers Bono and the Edge join Sequoia, Accel Goldman Sachs and a consortium of veteran Silicon Valley investors including Greylock Partners and Benchmark as investors in Dropbox.

Yesterday at the Dublin Web Summit Houston said: “Even when we raised US$250m we haven’t spent it – we were already profitable. We don’t need capital so we have the flexibility. It certainly helps in terms of currency and makes it easier to acquire companies, but the list isn’t long,” Houston said referring to the company’s acquisitions of Foundry Hiring, Endorse, Mailbox, TapEngage, Snapjoy, Audiogalaxy and Cove.

Houston said that the focus of the company is currently on making the Dropbox product even better as well as recruiting key hires.

When motivated to make acquisitions like that of Mailbox, Houston said he was inspired by the need to change email for the better.

“I hate email, it hasn’t really evolved since the 1970s when it was born,” Houston said, adding that some of the functionality in Mailbox like swipes herald a better future for the medium.

“Imagine how many lifetimes of pain are lost by people dealing with inboxes,” Houston said.

Solving such problems, he added, is what led to the foundation of Dropbox. “I was working in my first company and it drove me nuts exchanging files and so it was really that frustration, solving problems for work. All of that has been in our DNA from the beginning,” Houston said.

Spying on internet companies: not cool

On the revelations to come from Edward Snowden concerning the US Government’s NSA spying on the servers of internet companies in the interest of national security, Houston expressed his frustration.

“We’re p****d off about the situation,” Houston told the audience.” Dropbox wasn’t a part of PRISM and various other things. We wanted to create the most trustworthy home for your stuff and that means fighting off anyone who wanted to access it who isn’t you.

“We joined Google and Yahoo and others fighting for transparency. It’s frustrating to have a company in the US and have this kind of thing happening. We should be able to have an adult conversation about it – the Government shouldn’t be listening to your conversations,” Houston said.

Illustration in main image by Think Visual

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years