At Dropbox, Over 100 Billion Files Served–And Counting

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Once upon a time, in the year 2007, Dropbox consisted of two engineers coding in their boxers out of a shared  apartment in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. To co-founder and CEO Drew Houston, launching a successful company, “looked like a never-ending trail up Mount Doom and there is all this fog ahead of you, and nobody tells you what it’s like.”

Despite a flair for the dramatic, Houston appears to have emerged from the fog in good shape.

On Monday, Houston shared the latest Dropbox figures during a presentation at the second annual Startup Lessons Learned. The day-long event in San Francisco was designed to bring together entrepreneurs and engineers interested in the lean startup movement.

Last year, the file-storing startup claimed a staff of 20 employees and 5 million users. Today, Dropbox has more than 60 employees and over 25 million people using the service in 175 countries. It’s attempting to translate Dropbox into a whole host of languages, starting with French, Japanese, German and Spanish.

The system has saved an astounding 100 billion files. As of today, people are saving 300 million files a day.That’s 100 million more files than users uploaded in April. And a fun fact from Houston: people save more files on Dropbox than there are tweets on Twitter.

As Dropbox grows, Houston said he’s had to spend a lot of time thinking about the company’s vision, corporate culture and organizational structure–or what he used to think of as “Office Space bull s***,” referring to the 90s cult-classic movie about draining cubical culture.  He says a large amount of responsibility at Dropbox is in the hands of a small number of people. The company employes 25 engineers, all organized in small, loosely coupled teams.  On the infrastructure management side, just three managers handle thousands of servers. And the site’s visual designer was actually hired as the Dropbox community manager. In fact, he had no professional experience as a designer.

“With startups, you just kind of have to get lucky and find the right people,” Houston said.

He says one of the biggest challenges to growth has been something banal– inter-office communication.

When the team was small enough to fit in one room, information just spreads naturally, Houston said. “But as we grew larger we had to start deliberately trying to figure out how to get the right info in the right people’s’ hands.”

However, when it came to attracting the right team, and getting everyone prepared to scale up, Dropbox resorted to a strategy similar to others before it. “We spent a lot of money and time making the office nice.” he said, “And we stocked the place with good food.”

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