Lessons on Money and Success from self-made Billionaire Drew Houston
When I start researching a millionaire or wealthy business owner to profile, I first look to see if I can draw some sort of a lesson or example from their accomplishments. This could be in the area of innovation, invention, business philosophy or even simple strategies.
When I began reading about Drew Houston and how he founded the online file storage site Dropbox, which now boast over 150 million users, I wondered how I could relate his success to someone who is just now looking for ways to make extra money or ways to start a business and create wealth.
I was reading one of the countless interviews Drew has given about the creation of Dropbox when I came across something that really caught my attention.
Drew Houston, an MIT graduate with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, was talking about the issue of sharing files between computers. Drew stated that there were already solutions in place which were acceptable to just about everyone. Specifically, Drew was talking about how everyone was running around with USB flash drives that made moving files around between computers easy and relatively cheap. You could also just email a file to yourself. Plus there were already hundreds of cloud-based file sharing programs such as Send Big Files, etc. As far as the cloud-based file sharing programs, Drew could not seem to find too many people who were actually using them. He even tried a few himself and found them clunky and not very user friendly.
But here is the point that caught my entrepreneurial attention. While just about everyone else seemed to be content with the current options for sharing files, Drew Houston was absolutely not content with the status quo. This concept can be applied to almost any industry or business start-up. Just because there is one, or a hundred solutions already, does not meant that people won’t flock to an even better solution. For Drew Houston that is 400 Million people that have flocked to his solution so far.
Drew thought it was somewhat archaic, at least in the modern computing world, that he had to email a file to himself to get it from, say his computer at work or school, to his home computer. Or worse yet, that he had to download it onto a small device such as a flash drive that was capable of being forgotten or lost.
In fact it was this latest scenario exactly that caused Drew to take up the challenge of creating a better way to share files. Drew was on a four hour bus trip from Boston to New York and went to reach for his flash drive to work on a project, and he did not have it with him. The business idea that has gone on to make Drew Houston worth an estimated $600 Million was born at that moment.
Drew Houston the early years- before becoming a millionaire/billionaire
Drew is originally from Acton, Massachusetts where he attended Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. After high school he was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
It was while attending MIT that Drew would meet his future business partner and co-founder of Dropbox, a guy named Arash Ferdowsi. Drew credits Ferdowsi with much of his success and the success of Dropbox.
Drew was still a teenager when he first began flirting with computers and code. He was only 14 when he signed on to beta test an online game, and quickly began finding security flaws in the game’s code. Drew was quickly hired by the company as their networking programmer, in exchange for equity. By this time Drew already knew that he wanted to run a computer company when he was a grown up. He continued to work at various computer companies and start-ups throughout high school and college.
After graduating from MIT with his degrees in hand, Drew continued to work as a software engineer for a number of companies up until the moment he founded dropbox.
Starting a multi-million dollar company and finding financial backing
Dropbox was founded in June 2007, but officially launched at 2008's TechCrunch50, an annual technology conference.
In laying out the foundation for his new company Drew had a somewhat simple model to base his concept on. While attending MIT he became familiar with how the university’s network was configured. He knew that a student could log on to the network from virtually any computer on campus, and any changes they made on their desk top, would be reflected at any other computer they logged into at a later time. Even simple things such as moving an icon or creating a new file, were made across the network. This would become the basis for his new company.
Drew began to work on the coding for his new technology. He had but one goal, and that was to seamlessly sync files over the web. Drew knew he could not do it all on his own so he teamed up with his old MIT friend, Arash Ferdowsi. A few months later Drew hopped a plane to San Francisco to present his start-up idea to the people of Y Combinator, a seed-stage startup funding firm. Drew did get initial seed funding from Y Combinator but over the next few months and years received about $257 Million in venture capital funding from other investors such as Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners.
Houston and his team have since been able to turn his start-up company Dropbox into a platform used by more than 150 million people across the globe in just six years.
More recent estimates by some financial analyst have put Dropbox’s valuation at closer to $5-$10 billion.
In 2012, Drew was named to MIT Technology Review’s TR35 list honoring the world’s top innovators under 35. He was also included in Fortune’s “40 Under 40.”
That folks is what can be accomplished when you don’t settle for the status quo!
Ways to make money- Talking points
In business, innovation and invention we often talk about filling needs; “find a need and fill it” the experts all say. Take care of other people’s needs and don’t worry about the money; the money will come. While these catchy little phrases are still accurate and true business axioms, it is not the whole story.
It is wholly possible to create a need with your highly innovative product or service, or as in the case of Dropbox, fill a need that people may not even know they have! Just about everyone else was satisfied with the file sharing solutions that were already in place. But once a better solution became available, over 150 Million people have found that it is a better solution.
Is there anything in your life or sphere of influence that you believe you can improve upon? Have a great idea but not sure how to move forward? Find a partner that has the skills you don’t have. Drew Houston did just fine taking on a partner and now enjoys an estimated net worth of 1.2 Billion.