Education: Bachelor of Science, Computer Science
College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Previous Career: Started his first company Accolade by taking a year off from college in his Junior year.
2. Origin Story
Houston credits the inception of the idea for Dropbox to the time when he left his thumb drive behind while on a bus. Frustrated, he set about finding a solution for it, by writing down code with no idea of what he was going to build.
He had a tough time explaining to investors the concept of Dropbox without an MVP. Which, given the tech-heavy nature of Dropbox, would have required years to develop. Houston then had the brilliant idea of creating a video - the video was a simple 3-min demonstration of the technology as it was meant to work. He targeted it at a community of tech-savvy early adopters. When he applied for Y Combinator, he got rejected by Paul Graham due to the lack of a Co-Founder. "Paul wanted Co-Founders...because it's kind of a an emotional roller-coaster, and so having a partner makes it so you can offset each other's...ups and downs, which I've certainly found to be true", he says.
Luckily, Houston found his co-founder at MIT - Arash Ferdowski, who reached out to him after watching the MVP video. After a 2-hour conversation, Ferdowski agreed to drop out of MIT to work with him. Together, they successfully entered Y Combinator and met their first investor - Sequoia Capital, who agreed to invest $1.2 million. Building the product took some time, since, in Houston's words, "it's a product you really have to get right". Dropbox publicly launched in 2008, and got to a hundred thousand users very fast owing to some great marketing tactics like viral demonstration videos and referral programs.
3. Other interesting points
- He learned to code when he was just 5 years old.
- In 2011, Steve Jobs met with Houston in Cupertino to make an offer to buy Dropbox. Though Jobs was his hero, Houston said no. Jobs then told him that Apple would come after their market, and push them out.
"When you're in school, every little mistake is a permanent crack in your windshield. But in the real world, if you're not swerving around and hitting the guard rails every now and then, you're not going fast enough. Your biggest risk isn't failing; it's getting too comfortable."