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Why Dropbox's Founders Said No to Steve Jobs

The file-sharing service wants to be as big as Apple, but they turned down a buyout from Steve Jobs. Here are a few other things you might not have realized.
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Dropbox, the free cloud-based file-syncing service, now has 200 million users saving more than a billion digital files, photos and videos every day. But Dropbox's founders want more.

In Marcus Wohlsen's piece in Wired, the start-up's co-founders, CEO Drew Houston and CTO Arash Ferdowsi, revealed their plan to grow as big and influential as Apple, Facebook and Google. The MIT duo believe their new Datastore API feature will make Dropbox a "pervasive data layer." They hope developers will integrate this feature into products, which could shepherd a wave of syncable apps that enable users to share all kinds of data on any device.

"What we're talking about is not just sync or new features," Houston told Wired. "This is really an important step in fixing a lot of what's wrong with technology."

Beyond their grand ambitions, here are three other intriguing details the story revealed about Dropbox.

They turned down Steve Jobs.

In 2009, Steve Jobs asked to meet Houston and Ferdowsi in an effort to buy Dropbox. According to Wired, Jobs said they had a "feature, not a product." In 2011, when Apple released its inferior iCloud, Dropbox got an additional $250 million in funding. 

They've assembled a fleet of tech superstars.

Dropbox has filled its ranks with talented engineers. Last year, Ruchi Sanghvi and Aditya Agarwal came on board as the VP of operations and VP of engineering, respectively. The husband-and-wife duo also built Cove before it was acquired by Dropbox and were integral employees at Facebook. There, Sanghvi (who was the first female engineer hired by Zuckerberg) helped build the News Feed, and Agarwal wrote the initial Facebook search engine. 

Another key hire was Guido van Rossum, who came from Google. In the late 1980s, van Rossum invented the programming language Python ... which was used to build Dropbox.

They've never been just a cloud storage company.

Dropbox's true goal was always accessibility, not just data storage. In 2007, when Houston was getting on a bus in Boston, he realized he'd left his thumb drive at home. He started building Dropbox then and there, in an effort to make sure his files were always where he needed them. 

Bryan Schreier, from Sequoia Capital, told Wired, “When you heard the vision, it was easily misunderstood as being about storage. But you realize it’s not about storage. It’s about accessibility. It’s about availability.” So Dropbox's desire to become "the default file system for a multiscreen world" isn't far from Houston's original vision. 

Last updated: Sep 23, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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