Drew Houston Berkeley eTalk Highlights

Drew Houston, the founder & CEO of Dropbox gave a talk tonight on the UC Berkeley campus. I could only attend the last half of the talk and there should be a video later (watch Hacker News for it). Here are my favorite bits in no particular order:

  1. Own your name

    Dropbox has always been called Dropbox but until recently, their main domain was getdropbox.com. If you don’t own yourcompany.com, everyone from Paul Graham to Sequoia partners will tell you to fix that. If you have money, that means get it. If you don’t, that means get a new name. What does that say for the Lighthouse’s (lighthouseapp.com) and Basecamp’s (bascamphq.com) of the world? Drew says: just do the math on how much business you lose and how many emails are bounced because people hear about your great company but end up at the wrong domain.

    I’m thinking of applying this to every new project I start: pick a good name that’s available, buy the domain, and name the repository after it. After all, how many companies have successfully navigated the branding nightmare of a name change?

  2. Metrics are vital

    Drew championed Dave McClure’s AARRR model as one of the key ingredients to the way things are done at Dropbox. I’ve been following the Lean Startup movement since Spring 2009 so these ideas aren’t radically new to me, but Drew got at it from another perspective: in a startup, you’ll spend considerable engineering effort on things that are not your product. He said Dropbox has a full-time engineer devoted to metrics & analytics.

    For more, see the talk McClure just gave this Monday to the Lean Startup Circle.

  3. Product/market fit before everything else

    You can get a lot wrong and still come out on top if you have passionate users that believe in what you’ve built. Your biggest demo might go wrong, Google may slowly threaten to enter your space, your competition could be heavy, you might not even own your company’s domain name (see #1), but none of it matters if you don’t have users that care about you. The engineer in me found it cute that Drew referred to squabbling over titles and how stock is divvied up between founders as a form of premature optimization.

The talk was brought to Berkeley by CSUA eTalks. Thanks to Jessica Mah and Brandon Liu for putting it together!

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  1. #3 – users that love you resonates the most with me. Using the phrase ‘premature optimization’ to describe founder squabbles definitely puts a smile on my face. I think liability and risk are scary, but no one’s going to sue you if #1 they don’t know how to get to your site or #3 they don’t care about what you’re doing.

    #2 non-product engineering is both interesting and frustrating to me. It’s interesting because of the unexpected challenges a unrelated problem may bring, but it can be frustrating to waste your cycles thinking about problems that don’t appear to help your business. While metrics are not Dropbox’s core competency, at least metrics directly affect the business. On the other hand, something like a database encoding bug is neither related to your product nor helpful to the business; Stuff that like really irk me.

    • artvankilmer
    • February 15th, 2010

    UPDATE: Videos of Drew’s talk posted here: http://startup.berkeley.edu/2010/02/01/drew-houston-of-dropbox/

  2. Hello, the whole thing is going sound here and ofcourse
    every one is sharing facts, that’s really good, keep up writing.

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