9 Growth Lessons from Dropbox & Drew Houston: This is basically the story of Dropbox's foundation. But Dropbox has not created anything brand new. Before Drew Houston launched its cloud storage project in 2007, there were already many initiatives providing this service. Dropbox competed strongly with these initiatives, but Dropbox was the strongest among these companies.

Let's take a closer look at the reasons why Dropbox, which has 500 million users today, is so successful.

1. Customer Acquisition

From its earliest days, Dropbox used many ways to acquire customers. The most obvious of these ways was to advertise. Drew Houston hired a successful SEO specialist and started advertising on Google to increase the number of Dropbox premium memberships.

However, the SEO and Google ad trial failed. Advertising revenue spent on just one person purchasing a product with an annual membership price of $ 99 was between $ 233 and $ 388.

In addition, although affiliate marketing was also tried, it was not successful either.

Later, Drew Houston stated that the problem is not the marketing method. Because cloud storage was not something people were actively looking for.

Dropbox eventually stopped giving paid advertising and abandoned traditional advertising-marketing methods.

2. Friend Referral Program

So if the ads didn't work, what did Dropbox do to get so many customers?

Friend referral program…

In the early days of the company, the number of members increased by 60% thanks to this program. In the period between 2008-2010, the number of Dropbox subscribers increased 4000 times and the friend referral program was very effective in this huge increase.

The vast majority of Dropbox users take advantage of the free package. So for example, when you subscribe to Dropbox, you are given 10 GB of space. However, when you sign up a friend to Dropbox, Dropbox gives you 2 GB more space. Thus, this referral cycle is solidified, and someone who signed up to Dropbox 10 minutes ago immediately tries to recruit another friend.

This referral program has become an integral part of the Dropbox experience. While signing up to the site, people are directly notified of the existence of such a program.

Twitter, Facebook, Gmail etc. from various social media tools. Thanks to the link you send to your friends, you immediately gain additional space when you become a member. So it is an extremely simple and effective method.

In addition, additional space is given to those who follow Dropbox on Twitter.

In addition to all these, the recommendation process was also gamified. How many people were invited and how many people accepted this invitation became observable from the control panel.

The referral program has greatly benefited Dropbox because it is the easiest way to convince people to try a new product. Nobody realizes that they need this service until they use Dropbox, and once you use it, they enjoy the pleasure and comfort of accessing their files from anywhere!


Dropbox users sent 3 million invitations in 2010 alone.

People were dying for other people to become Dropbox members? Was it all to gain free storage space?

Dropbox is a viral product by nature. When you send a video file to someone via the Dropbox link, that person is requested to open a free account.

Every Dropbox user also gets an advantage when someone else becomes a member. (Extra free domain)

In addition, the fact that more than one person can enter a folder provides great convenience in common projects.

You will remember sites like Megaupload, Rapidshare, Hotfile. These were sites like Dropbox, but today their names are not read. Because these sites made file sharing almost difficult instead of promoting. Non-paid members could download a maximum of 500 mb files within 1 hour etc.

But Dropbox has never gotten into such tricks and has made the process as easy and simple as possible.

4. Simple Use

This is one of the best things Dropbox does. Simple use, simple interface, one purpose.
The Dropbox homepage is very plain. For example, the 2010 homepage was like this.

Again, the tabs and buttons on the site are written in a very simple and understandable language.

Considering that people's attention spans are getting shorter, you have to explain what purpose the platform, application, program and product serve within a few seconds.
So what your site is for should be understood at first glance.

5. Intensive Testing Process

How did Dropbox set up such a seamless loop?

There is no genius or magic involved here.

The intensive testing process to make the recommendation program flawless is essential.

Intensive A / B testing was applied and it was determined which version people liked more. Recommendation and membership processes have been optimized. Based on the findings obtained from the surveys and researches conducted in these tests.

It is quite common to perform A / B testing today, but in 2009, both this test and the tools to perform this test were not developed enough!

It is impossible to explain by chance that Sean Ellis, who played an important role in the establishment period of Dropbox, later invested in the customer decision analysis company Qualroo.

6. Lean Startup

Dropbox collected feedback, comments and suggestions from the first beta users before a minimal working version was prepared.

In addition, Drew Houston asked people to comment on this beta site on social media, and very useful feedback was collected for the development of the product in this process.

This is a very fitting example of lean enterprise philosophy!

7. The Right Timing

One of the most important gains of Dropbox was that it offered a beta version for a small number of people. Thanks to the feedback received from the people who tested this site, the necessary improvements and adjustments were made.

Drew Houston shared a video of how the site works on sites like Digg and Reddit.

This video, which received 1506 positive votes on Reddit and 12000 positive votes on Digg, brought 75,000 membership applications to Dropbox.

So Dropbox has been a great success in building its own community.

The company also did not give this opportunity to anyone who wanted to try the beta version, as there was concern that the servers could not handle such heavy usage. This created a “scarcity perception” among people and led to more applications for membership.

8.Linux Compatibility

There were many platforms in cloud storage in 2008, but none of these sites were compatible with Linux.

Dropbox also launched a beta version for Linux in 2008. This was a great strategy because the Linux community is a community that adapts to new websites earlier, is interested in new technologies, and is in contact with each other. In February 2010 there were 224,000 Linux users, Dropbox members, which corresponds to 5% of the total number of members.

9.Service for Companies

Dropbox generated a total of $ 1.1 billion in revenue in 2018, and most of this revenue came from corporate subscribers. It is costly to obtain corporate subscribers through traditional advertising and marketing methods. However, Drew Houston followed a simple path in this regard.

Instead of establishing a large marketing and sales department, a partnership-based approach was adopted. Even Thomas Hansen from Microsoft was appointed head of the sales department. (Thanks to this, a person who bought a Lenovo laptop with a Windows operating system saw that Dropbox was installed on his desktop when he turned his computer on.)

Thanks to such strategic partnerships, Dropbox has managed to grow the number of corporate subscribers regularly and healthily.


As a result, Dropbox is very original, it has not offered a product or service that no one has thought of before, and in our opinion, it is extremely boring. Storage is useful, but nothing tangible like an iPhone, a Snapchat, or a Tiktok.

On the other hand, Drew Houston made Dropbox a very successful venture by establishing the right strategic partnerships, by analyzing its customers well, developing its product in accordance with their demands, without burying millions of dollars in advertising, in line with a few simple principles.

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