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HOW I DID IT

How to Raise $1.2 Million in Venture Capital

Drew Houston literally didn’t know what to do with his first million dollars.
Drew Houston, Dropbox

Courtesy Subject

Drew Houston, co-founder of Dropbox

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Drew Houston is the co-founder of the cloud-based file storage service Dropbox, which recently signed up its 25 millionth user.

In September 2007, my partner, Arash Ferdowsi, and I learned we had gotten a meeting with Sequoia Capital. We were reluctant, because we were only looking for a few hundred thousand dollars. And we were intimidated—it was like applying to Harvard.

On a Friday afternoon, we walked into the Sequoia offices, and on the walls were the original stock certificates of Apple and Cisco. It was daunting. I was thinking, Holy shit, I'm just some kid. What the hell am I doing here?

We walked through the pitch, shook hands, and went home. The next day, legendary investor Michael Moritz came to our apartment, and we pitched to him. My only regret is that I didn't get to see whatever kind of hovercraft he arrived in.

On Monday, we were invited to dinner with another investor, Sameer Gandhi, and it was time to talk numbers. We came to terms that made sense, and that was the green light. It was surreal.

We got an e-mail a few days later from Sequoia, requesting instructions for the wire transfer. Arash and I just looked at each other. We thought, It'd be really embarrassing if we started—or quick-ended—this relationship by not even knowing how to get the million dollars into our bank account.

We went to Bank of America, and when we walked in, there were the tellers, and there were the people in the leather seats. We looked at each other and said, "Yeah, this is probably a leather-seat problem." We went over to this woman and sat down. She asked, "How can I help you?"

"Well, is there a limit to how much money a bank account can hold?" I asked.

She asked, "What do you mean?"

"Can it hold a million dollars?" I asked.

"Um, yeah," she said.

It's hard to describe the feeling of looking at your checking account online and continuously hitting Refresh, watching the balance increase from $60 to $1.2 million. You really have $1.2 million. And now it's up to you to figure out how to use it.

From the July/August 2011 issue of Inc. magazine

J.J. MCCORVEY | Staff Writer | Inc. Reporter

J.J. McCorvey is a reporter at Inc. magazine, where he covers a wide range of topics, including technology and business research. He has covered metro news for The Detroit News, and his work has been featured in Men's Fitness.




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