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Dropbox Secures $600M Credit Line Ahead of Expected IPO (bloomberg.com)
293 points by rayuela on Mar 30, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 203 comments



One concern about Dropbox I have is its inability to establish itself beyond its File Storage / Syncing software. Salesforce.com, in comparison, has been acquiring companies left and right. Notable acquisitions of Dropbox, like Mailbox, have either shut down, or are nowhere on the impact map. As Dropbox user (albeit a free one), I don't find it useful for anything beyond synced storage (if there is any new addition in their interface, I might have missed it). After I started uploading pics on Google photos, I have little to store on Dropbox.

Synced storage might be big enough problem for it to continue to grow bigger, but I wonder if it's a meaningful moat. What if the storage + software gets commoditized to an extent that it becomes essentially free for most people?


Why do they need to expand beyond that? Am I idealistic to say a company can survive just by doing something really well. Salesforce is hardly a paragon of a well-executed clear and consistent vision.

I pay Dropbox because I can rely on their backups any place at any time, not because their storage is cheap.


A company with a modest valuation can survive by doing one thing and doing it well.

A company with a very large valuation needs either very large sales figures OR large growth potential. Dropbox is squarely in the second category, which is why they need to keep expanding.


Surely if the company isn't "living up to it's valuation" that's a problem for the people who erroneously valued it at that level, not for the company?


In the abstract yes. But if the company essentially borrowed money from people on the basis of that high valuation, then its a problem. And that's what they've done. Actually, they literally did just borrow money, according to the headline, although I was thinking more of the equity raise process where although there isn't a literal loan, the investors have an expectation that they will get their money back (*N, where N >> 1) at some point.


That's not how investing works. People don't invest because they think a company is worth X, they invest because they think it will be worth X at some point in the future adjusted for the risk of not being worth X. Further, they don't necessarily buy stock from the company.

In other words startups have a small chance of being worth a much larger X, and Exxon has a very large chance of being worth a slightly larger X. If you need zero risk buy government bonds not stock.


Um, it certainly is how investing works. They think the company will be worth >X in the future ( >>X in the case of pre-IPO investing).


Stock and Bonds are very different things. A bond is an agreement with a company to hand back X amount of money at time Y. Stock is an agreement to share in future profits.

Importantly, when you buy stock from a someone other than the company then the price you pay has little to do with the company. But, again my point is risk is an inherent part of the process. If you invest in a startup and they use all of that money to buy government bonds and then fold in five years you would be pissed because they avoided risking your capital.


I think you are talking past each other because you are not talking about the same party when asserting whether there is or isn't a problem. It's true that the investors don't have a problem if Dropbox fails to live up to its valuation. Venture capitalists expect that most of their investments will fail. But a company that has accepted venture capital is beholden to its investors and will almost certainly have a problem if it fails to live up to their expectations. Remember that investors are part owners, and get to make decisions about how the company should be run. The more dissatisfied they become, the more drastic the changes they will demand.


Hah. It becomes a problem for it's users. When they are chasing quarterlies and the focus shifts from providing a good experience to making numbers, you'll feel it. Most companies DNA is pretty baked in by the time they offer publicly.


Evernote is a good example of that.


The people who erroneously valued it are shareholders in the company, the company exists to benefit its shareholders, ergo (the shareholders would say) it's a problem for the company.


Basically people jumped on Dropbox to make money out of Dropbox's success. If Dropbox remain conservative and just continue to do remote storage/syncing well then those people won't get [as much] free money.

Those people aren't investing they're speculating. They're not there primarily to see Dropbox succeed they're shareholders because they want to get rich from other people's work.

So yes that's a problem for the company. Ultimately this model of "investment" can kill a business that is technically succeeding because the speculators don't see a high enough return. That's also a problem for society as it creates instability and prevents technologically successful companies from prospering long term.

At least that's one narrative that appears to fit well with my observations.


On the other hand if the speculators also reward people doing the work, they incentivize lots of them to do that work. Hence startup economy, where many companies blatantly lie that they care about users, where in fact those companies are only vehicles for the founders to get a good exit.


If investors have to risk money in order to [potentially] earn money, that doesn't sound so "free" to me.


Free as in no time or labor spent by themselves. At least that is what I think he meant


It turns out being an institutional investor is a fulltime job. It's quite ridiculous for GP to believe otherwise.


Be that as it may, this is pedantic quibbling outside of the point the GGP post author was actually trying to make: speculative pressure by investors (lazy or otherwise) conflicts with the aim of stable long-term equilibrium doing +/- one thing well.

If you actually care about building a sustainable business, not Unicorns and moonshots and other things investors want you to become and do, don't take investment, or at least not much.


Plenty of investors are risking other people's money, though. Venture capitalists themselves are prime examples of this.


So what? That's literally their jobs. In fact, both parties entered into that contract knowingly with the expectation that it will be mutually beneficial.

How is that money "free"?


"When you owe the bank $1000, you're in trouble. When you owe the bank $1,000,000,000 the bank is in trouble"

Similar mechanics apply to having a large valuation, no?


I recall this being something pointed out in "Silicon Valley" where an offer/valuation was way over the top and would leave the team in this same kind of situation. Dropbox had to accept the offer, so they did agree to the terms that put themselves where they are now.


They can survive, but from an investment standpoint they need to be able to expand and grow for it to make sense.


I think we need a better storage backup system. I've got data on iCloud and on multiple desktops and laptops. My iCloud doesn't have all the photos because I'd run out of space and be paying dozens of dollars monthly [1]. I was helping my friend to select a disk backup solution a while ago, and not that many really came to my likings. Backblaze[2] is probably the only one I would say pretty good for a monthly backup fee at $5. Dropbox's 1TB was enough for her so I went with that solution, but for my use case I won't be able to benefit from it. Amazon [3] also has a backup offering product, but I don't see any real attractions / news since its launch. I did some work with Box.com and APIs weren't so easy to use (this was back in late 2015, early 2016) and pricing wasn't very competitive for a home user. S3 would be an ideal backup but I'd need to code up the system to manage revision and life cycle, that becomes a job which I might as well create my own Dropbox...

Sync storage is very important when you have a media center PC and a bunch of PCs you own and needs the files around. Not just in the cloud (that's for on-the-go and DR), but I would want a local copy too (using a NAS server). So if Dropbox offers local backup + cloud backup at a reasonable monthly / annual price, I would give that a try.

[1]: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201238

[2]: https://www.backblaze.com/cloud-backup.html

[3]: https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/home


Arq is a well-supported piece of commercial software. It's a one time $50 license, but works with a half dozen different cloud services. Another commenter mentioned the open source Duplicati, which sounds similar. I haven't looked into it, but probably would if I wasn't already set up with a decent solution.

Folks often end up with a tonne of excess space either on a paid Dropbox account, or Google Suite via their university or company. You can also get unlimited space on ACD for $60/a (some people on /r/datahoarder claim to have uploaded over a petabyte), and Glacier is quite affordable on a per GB basis. It's pretty easy to get reliable versioned encrypted cloud backups on different providers that run overnight without requiring a lot of attention from an end user.

The biggest gap I have left is that most of my photos are on iCloud and if you don't have space on your Mac to store local copies to back up to somewhere else, it's easy to end up with only one copy of vital data.


> Not just in the cloud (that's for on-the-go and DR), but I would want a local copy too (using a NAS server).

Syncthing with a node on the NAS, and then use Duply to backup to the cloud. There's clients for everything, and you can keep history too.


Yes, that's possible, but I was indicating that if Dropbox would move into a full backup business it would be a big move and might worth consider.


>S3 would be an ideal backup but I'd need to code up the system to manage revision and life cycle, that becomes a job which I might as well create my own Dropbox...

Might be worth looking into Duplicati [1]. You choose the backend, and it does the other things you mention ("Backup files and folders with strong AES-256 encryption. Save space with incremental backups and data deduplication. Run backups on any machine through the web-based interface or via command line interface. Duplicati has a built-in scheduler and auto-updater.")

[1]: https://www.duplicati.com/


It's $20/month for unlimited storage on Dropbox.


Yes, but for my friend who is a low-income earner, $20 is difficult for her, so we just went with a one-time investment going with a separate HD and using the free Dropbox tier until she outgrows the storage space.


Dropbox is remote backup and cloud storage. It solves a rather different (larger) problem from a local backup.


As others have pointed out, I was not aware there is a 3-license minimum.

Neither the pricing page nor the plan comparison page state this minimum. You have to click into the business section to actually see that.


Does anything stop you from uploading 10s or 100s of TB? I recently crossed 1TB of storage use on S3 (which costs around $20/month) and am in the process of exploring alternatives.

I've never really understood how companies can offer "unlimited" storage at low prices.


"Unlimited" space in any online service almost always means "there is a soft cap where we start threatening to shut down your service, but we won't tell you what it is ahead of time".


Actually quite an interesting point. Consider S3. They provide unlimited storage, but their software has to be able to keep up with the insane growth of data, albeit the hardware storage demand as well.


S3's cost to the consumer scales with the amount stored. That's different from Amazon, Dropbox, or Google, who offer enterprise-facing non-developer storage options at a flat rate for "unlimited".

They can do this because these enterprise-facing products offer fewer performance guarantees relative to their developer-facing products. But, ultimately, "unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited, in literally all of these products.


I would think enterprise offering would have a stricter SLA than developer-facing product. The only thing between Dropbox and Amazon is that there is no independent enterprise offering for S3, except Amazon pays a penalty for violating said SLA.


You still pay per TB. So yes, if you pay, you can have "unlimited" storage.


Overage? Like they can offer 30 people a terabyte of storage for every 10TB available because very few people will use their full quota.


Simple bandwidth would stop most people from uploading that much. It would take a long time at typical ISP speeds.


Is this a hidden plan? The cheapest unlimited plan I see right now on their website is 54€/month, which is the advanced business plan for 3 users. Even if I take the annual plan and divide the price by 12 it's 45€/month. Also these prices don't include VAT, while the personal plans do. Perhaps you were unaware that the business plans can't be bought for a single user?


I stand corrected, I was not aware there is a 3-license minimum.

Neither the pricing page nor the plan comparison page make this clear. You have to click into the business section to actually see that. Super annoying.


AFAICT only if you buy 3 licenses minimum.


That's a bummer. I have a sizeable chunk of raw image files I'd love to back up somewhere without having to have it on my machine, Dropbox would be a good fit if it wasn't for the 1TB limit on individuals. Ended up uploading directly to S3 and archiving to Glacier.


Amazon Prime Photos allows unlimited photo storage (RAW included) with any $100/yr subscription to Amazon Prime. If you're already paying this for the other benefits, then it is free.


At the risk of "ruining" it for some users, Amazon doesn't appear to validate nor re-compress uploaded images. I uploaded some bits from /dev/random as a .png, and it counted towards photo storage, and I got the same bits back re-downloading the test file. So you don't even have to resort to stuffing metadata or steganography.

For the record, I don't exploit this loophole and only tested to satisfy my curiosity. At $60/yr. it's already very cheap for unlimited -- it's my tertiary backup so I'll accept the risk that "unlimited" is qualified -- generic file storage.


Correct, didn't realize that, thanks for pointing out.


You could go with something like https://www.cloudfuze.com/ But then you would end up paying 5$ a month. It gives you the freedom to choose the storage provider or multiple of them transparently.


Try Google Drive and Google Photos. Google Photos offer unlimited space for high-res photos.


Dropbox won't analyse and sell you left and right.

You cannot compare these two services. One is a service, one is an ad machine.


Okay, but that's the sort of tradeoff you have to make when you you won't pay freight on things. Backup is basically a solved problem, you just have to pay for it.


The main problem is that, if they wanted to, it shouldn't take Apple/Microsoft/Google/Amazon too much work to put out a comparable product and offer it for free.

As an anecdote, my girlfriend already cancelled her Dropbox account because iCloud provides what she needs at a much cheaper cost.

Personally, I require Unix support and also use a large portion of the terabyte of space, but I'd bet that the majority of users don't.


> it shouldn't take Apple/Microsoft/Google/Amazon too much work to put out a comparable product and offer it for free

I worked on SkyDrive/OneDrive for a few years. That's what we thought too. This stuff inevitably starts out with "seriously, how long is it going to take to make essentially a wrapper around rsync" and ends up with "Hey, guess what happens when you cross filesystem errors with distributed systems errors when dealing with unmergeable files?"

This is a deceptively challenging space, particularly if you want to do sharing and group work in a reasonably intuitive way. Which is why Dropbox has managed to remain a company instead of simply being eaten up the first quarter that appl/ms/google decided to get into this business. Note that all three have an offering, and at this point I know that OneDrive is actually pretty good, but for years it was kind of an uphill catchup struggle.


Funny, I'm a Linux and Windows 10 user and I prefer OneDrive to Dropbox because I have less problems with it as a user.

rclone is a large contributing factor, however. And on Windows, OneDrive feels like less of a system hog.


I've been looking at rclone but am always leery of trusting any new software project with my data. Have you had any issues with it? Thanks.


I am curious, why would you go into the project thinking rsync and not git? It seemed to me most of these syncing folders are really a special case of source code control.


I wasn't involved in these design discussions early on, and Skydrive certainly didn't use rsync, this was just meant as an example of "this is essentially a solved problem, we just need some UI". It isn't, and presenting it as such just gets you into a bad situation.


But Dropbox doesn't handle any merging of changes; any conflicts are left for the user to resolve. In this way it's basically an automatic version of Unison, which is exactly "some UI" around a "solved problem." Right?


It doesn't handle merging of changes within files, however, if you take a step back, consider that you're essentially merging lists of metadata (with hashes of blobs), not just uploading these blobs; and because the systems that need to be synced are distributed, not always connected, and users want to read/write all of them you get the limitations of the classic CAP theorem.

E.g. the quite feasible scenario with two computers, both partially synced, and both getting files changed/added/removed/moved while the sync is happening. Consider applications creating temporary files while a document is being edited, and expecting to be able to create those files... and then it results in some app being unable to open the same document because it's "already open" on another machine. There are all kinds of interesting conflicts and race conditions possible, and you need to resolve them all in some way that doesn't weird out the users.


I'm not familiar with Unison, and have no idea how successful it is, nor where it falls down.


Stock git explodes when dealing with binary files that are above a certain size or are changing frequently. So forget about photo collections, shared Photoshop files, or any other non-text document formats. The workarounds had a lot of pain points for a while (that maybe are fixed now in 2017, haven't explored that recently).


I was more thinking the concept of source code control than the specific, but used a specific since a specific file transfer program was mentioned. Some source code control programs handle binaries just fine.


Nobody can seem to do it very well, despite all of them having one. Every major provider has some sort of cloud drive product, but all of them, save for Dropbox, have some annoying limitation.

Apple iCloud Drive: Unusable out of MacOS.

Amazon: Unclear storage limits with potentially catastrophic consequences for going over them. No free tier. No Linux client.

Microsoft OneDrive: Individual file size limits. No Linux client.

Google Drive: Stories of unreliable syncing behavior, app instability, and so forth. No Linux client. Google history of killing non-core products.

--

Not only did Dropbox get there first, they did it mostly right, to the point where their competitors can be described as also-rans.

The other thing is that Dropbox has "good file sync service" as their entire mission, while every other provider of note has it as some value-add into their other services, meaning it's subject to the whims of what those companies are doing on a particular day.


Also, Dropbox is the only one that offers delta-sync which is a godsend when editing multi-gigabyte PSDs/Media Files. Other providers would simply not work for this use-case with my 100KB/s upload speed. Seems very wasteful as well, uploading every file from scratch for every edit.. kinda curious how users on these providers deal with it?


For iCloud, you actually can use iCloud Drive via a web interface from other OSes - I think the biggest limitation is actually that you can't share arbitrary files, only certain types of files (Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Notes, Photos).

I could easily go all in on iCloud Drive if I could make arbitrary files available to other users.


Apple also has a Windows client for iCloud Drive, and you can use standard Word/Excel/PowerPoint files and still edit them through Pages/Numbers/Keynote on a different Mac.


I was all in on iCloud Drive, except when I discovered you can't share folders. So I had to go back to Dropbox...


rclone serves as a great Linux client for OneDrive. I run it in a cron on my home server and at-will on my laptop.


And that's fine for you and me, but limits its adoption (hence appeal, hence longevity) to people that download unofficial, unsupported third party clients and manually set up cron jobs.

The reason Dropbox is kicking ass is that nobody wants to deal with the manual work. Download a program, put stuff in folder, stuff appears elsewhere. No thought required. Simple.


I had to stop using Dropbox because it was unusable on Linux. It leaked memory, hogged CPU cycles, and cranked up IO Wait times.

It was simple and thoughtless, for sure; and that reflected in its decrepit behaviour.


I've been using Dropbox on Linux for many years, and it's definitely had some occasional issues with memory leaks, and its general CPU and memory usage has definitely increased. Used to be it never went over 100 MB RSS, but now it's always well over that, at about 250 right now.

Anyway, I run it at nice 5 and "ionice -c3", and even though I'd like to switch to something else, I still haven't found anything better for Linux use. Everything I've looked at has some issue that makes it a non-starter.


> I run it at nice 5 and ionice 18

No thought required. Simple.

;)


Oops, I meant ionice -c3, not 18. I run a backup client at nice 18.


> Google Drive: Stories of unreliable syncing behavior, app instability, and so forth. No Linux client. Google history of killing non-core products.

OverGrive is great. Not official, but it handles and looks just as well as the macOS client.


> The main problem is that, if they wanted to, it shouldn't take Apple/Microsoft/Google/Amazon too much work to put out a comparable product and offer it for free.

Apple[1], Microsoft[2], Google[3], and Amazon[4] already do have comparable products, with comparable prices[5].

1. https://www.apple.com/icloud/icloud-drive/

2. https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/

3. https://www.google.com/drive/

4. https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/home

5. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/onedrive-dropbox-google-drive-an...


> it shouldn't take Apple/Microsoft/Google/Amazon too much work to put out a comparable product and offer it for free

This kind of thinking is exactly why Apple/Microsoft/Google/Amazon will never deliver something better.

Yes - they can deliver something better for free but they think "it shouldn't take a lot of effort" so whatever they deliver is not adequate.

They also do not have no business reason to do it since valuable engineers and time can be better spent on other business sectors. For example, Amazon Cloud Drive is just a checkbox (look you can save you photos and videos also on our storage) from point of view Amazon management. Google Drive is the same. Microsoft has the same thinking: look here is OneDrive - but we really want you to buy Sharepoint.

So do not expect anything of Dropbox quality from these companies.


> it shouldn't take Apple/Microsoft/Google/Amazon too much work to put out a comparable product and offer it for free.

OneDrive is perhaps not quite as polished and its Linux support is lacking/unofficial/nonexistent depending on your viewpoint, but Microsoft's push to Office365 means that if you subscribe to it you're getting at least as much storage as Dropbox offers at a monthly cost that's ~70% of Dropbox for a single user, or 5x that (5 * 1TB/user) at the same annual price as Dropbox. On top of that, you get the assorted Office apps.

One notable weakness of the non-Business version of OneDrive is the lack of version history, so if that's important or you have no other forms of backup then that could be a deciding factor.

I'll leave out of it the question of whose servers data resides on and passes through.


OneDrive supports version history for Office documents but not other file types.


You'd think so, but it's not that easy.

Even the big service providers, like Dropbox and Microsoft have run into issues of scale that result in price increases or reduced storage quotas, later in the product cycle, forced onto existing customers. Typically a result of poor early planning or lack of insight into actual resources required per user.

Or bait and switch to grow fast quickly.

Dropbox, recently (quietly) raised prices on their Business plan, forcing existing Business customers to choose between a fixed storage space quota or a price increase. The decision will be forced on users on renewal in 2018, which is why we haven't heard much about this yet. https://9to5mac.com/2017/01/30/dropbox-smart-sync-and-paper/

Microsoft had to do similar a year ago. Forcing all users off their unlimited plan, and reducing storage quotas for free users. It was painful. http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/microsoft-onedrive-un...

At the same time you've got a race to the bottom from big companies targeting the consumer market. These providers most likely have no hope of generating revenue directly from the cloud storage itself, and instead use cloud storage as a loss leader for other channels and products.

For example, Google integrating free "unlimited" photo storage into their products, Apple iCloud integration and significant price cuts. If these loss leading experiments fail there will be another round of forced price increases or reduced storage quotas. Only time will tell.

So far it's a good bet against "Unlimited" free services:

Near-Unlimited Cloud Storage Service Copy.com Is Shutting Down: http://lifehacker.com/near-unlimited-cloud-storage-service-c...

Bitcasa kills infinite cloud storage plans, increases pricing as much as 10x http://www.geek.com/apps/bitcasa-kills-infinite-cloud-storag...

Then you've got Amazon cloud drive, offering unlimited Storage, but only for non-commercial personal use, with all sorts of restrictions. Sole practitioners and small businesses not welcome.

Using Your Files with the Services. You may use the Services only to store, retrieve, manage, organize, and access Your Files for personal, non-commercial purposes using the features and functionality we make available. You may not use the Services to store, transfer, or distribute content of or on behalf of third parties, to operate your own file storage application or service, to operate a photography business or other commercial service ...

And this open-ended goodie:

The Services are offered in the United States. We may restrict access from other locations. There may be limits on the types of content you can store and share using the Services, such as file types we do not support, and on the number or type of devices you can use to access the Services. We may impose other restrictions on use of the Services.

https://www.amazon.com/cd/tou??ref_=cd_unlimited_tou

And finally most consumer grade cloud providers offer little protection in terms of encryption. Google, Amazon and Microsoft might get big brother on your data. You might even have real people looking at your files for whatever reason.

Our Use of Your Files. We may use, access, and retain Your Files in order to provide the Services to you, enforce the terms of the Agreement, and improve our services, and you give us all permissions we need to do so. These permissions include, for example, the rights to copy Your Files, modify Your Files to enable access in different formats, use information about Your Files to organize them on your behalf, and access Your Files to provide technical support https://www.amazon.com/cd/tou??ref_=cd_unlimited_tou

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored. https://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/

Big brother with good intentions:

Microsoft Anti-Porn Workers Sue Over PTSD - ex-employees of the company’s online safety team say they had to watch horrific online videos of child abuse, bestiality, and murders—and that Microsoft ignored their PTSD. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/11/microsoft-a...

Finally, as a few others in this thread have stated, the underlying technology behind syncing and sharing is quite complicated. Cross-platform compatibility and maintaining backwards compatibility with older operating systems is mind boggling difficult.

In this regard in might be better to choose a cloud provider that offers end-to-end encryption, and has been in business for more than a few years (to ensure they've got the business model worked out).

Here's a few that come to mind:

https://www.spideroak.com https://www.sync.com https://www.tresorit.com


Interesting. I had to sign something saying that I would be exposed to terrible stuff during the course of my job at MSN, and I wouldn't sue the company for damages. This was back in 2003. Maybe they stopped asking employees to sign this document?


DropBox has the same Big Brother clauses in their terms of use.

https://www.dropbox.com/terms#acceptable_use

* you must not even try to ... sell the Services unless specifically authorized to do so; publish or share materials that are unlawfully pornographic or indecent, or that contain extreme acts of violence; advocate bigotry or hatred against any person or group of people based on their ... *

https://www.dropbox.com/terms#privacy

we store, process, and transmit Your Stuff—like files, messages, comments, and photos


Why is synced storage such a hard thing to disrupt with an open source app? Like nextCloud?

And before you say "open source is only for geeks to install" consider this: Firefox is open source, and it was beating IE.

So my question is, what's really so hard about making an open source app that will sync to ARBITRARY servers AND encrypt everything, and those servers all run nextCloud?


IMO open source projects need a critical mass of developers to achieve "polish". All the edge cases and so on that isnt' a matter of writing clever code, but sitting there for days writing tests or manually investigating corner cases, or putting in resources for good crash reporting, seamless updates and things like that. I have yet to see an open source project that deals well with this (Firefox doesn't count because they have a lot of $$ and can employ devs to work on all these things.)

When you reach a scale of millions of users, all these tiny details start to affect a sizeable amount of users.


I think part of the challenge is manufacturing and handing out a distributed system to nontechnical users and then trying to debug their issues without having central control. (Or any control, really)

As someone who built an OSS synced storage server, scratching my own itch was pretty easy but responding to bug reports that are far outside of my use cases can get tedious. And somehow it feels like there are just so many, compared to other areas.

Edit: git-annex supports encryption and webdav remotes (and thus, ownCloud/Nextcloud/others) and it works pretty well.


I think it's most about awareness/marketing. Just go out in the streets and ask people if they know about nextCloud. If they do, ask them if they run it. Most don't because it takes time and effort to run things. nextCloud is squarely in the enterprise space. nextCloud-as-a-service is a supremely hard market to enter because you need investment from day 1 (storage has to be very high and pricing has to be very low since it's the first thing people will compare against).


I agree with you about doing one thing really well. A little off topic, but: I think DropBox is missing a revenue opportunity by not having a yearly package for something like $20/year, for perhaps 20 or 30 gigabytes. I am not a paying customer because my use is well within the free tier, but I would pay for a smaller package if it was available.


I'm also frustrated by their tiers. I think they're worried that casual tiers would eat into their profits, so they only offer "slightly not enough" or "way too much".


Normalley I'd say - "There's nothing wrong with that and they can do what they want."

but... .they're filing for an IPO.. so their shareholders are going to start hitting them with the "If you don't always make more money than last time we'll fire you and find someone who will."

If you don't want to expand your business far beyond what it's already doing then you don't IPO and take on shareholders.


To this point, Dropbox does an excellent job of what they set out to do. I haven't seen anybody do it better and I'm a happy paid user. Being able to pay $10 / month for 1TB of fast, instantly synced and versioned online storage integrated directly into the filesystem is hard to beat.


The place where Dropbox is spectacularly bad is multiple account support. Google does a good job of multiple account support - you log in to the relevant multiple accounts and things work.

Dropbox expects you to pseudo-merge exactly one personal account with exactly one business account. You end up with a mess. It gets even worse when trying to unmerge them. And is not useful should you have more accounts than exactly one of each. That mess will keep coming back to bite you almost every month as Dropbox doesn't do what you'd expect.

Dropbox is lucky that that they do two things their competitors don't: they support Linux and syncing generally works.


Huh. I have a personal account and a business account but I'm glad I've never tried to pseudo-merge them. I just shared a folder from one account to the other for the one set of files I wanted to share.


I could see that. I'm _only_ using it for personal so I haven't really run into the issues that you're talking about.

I think for Dropbox to operate in a pure filesystem-native-first experience they're probably approaching it from the 1 computer = 1 person standpoint (or one logged in user on the computer at least).


I've got one colleague who mistakenly let Dropbox psuedo-merge his personal and business accounts several years ago. He still hasn't completely fixed it!

I was around when they introduced the "multi account" support, and it was very easy to see how/why they did it. Instead of updating their clients to support multiple accounts (which they should have done), the client just keeps supporting only one account. Then on their back end they return "merged" content to the client. You can easily see how this can create chaos, because other people can also be updating your personal and business content, and untangling it all is a mess.


Same thing for me. I think I have 2 or 3 accounts (by accident) that I created over the years. When I login I never know what files to expect... that being said I don't use DropBox that much, but occasionally someone shares something via DropBox and I almost inevitably have a login issue.


Paper is a great little part of Dropbox that is showing some real potential. They recently added task dates and assignments, and some nice formatting options (like code blocks with syntax highlighting).


I was a big fan of dropbox until I bought a Chromebook and got T's worth of space in Google Drive for free. I don't think I've used my dropbox in a long time. I don't think I know too many people who use them either.


I was a big fan of dropbox until I bought a Chromebook and got T's worth of space in Google Drive for free.

Just FYI in case you don't know: unless you have a paid GSuite account¹ or an educational GSuite account, Google's privacy policy allows them to mine data in your Google Drive for advertising purposes. Even if you pay for extra storage.

This may or may not be acceptable to you, but for a lot of people it isn't.

1. Former Google Apps for Work.


> One concern about Dropbox I have is its inability to establish itself beyond its File Storage / Syncing software.

On the flip side, it works really, really well cross-platform. Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS - you name it, they have it. And it's 100% hassle-free.


Why must these things always be looked at through the eyes of business? Why can't Dropbox just do file sync really effing well?

Companies need to stop trying to take over the world, and focus on product/service mastery


Because when you raise VC, you have made a pact with the devil to take over the world.

Your customers aren't just your customers, but also your financial backers at that point.


One of the hardest at things my teams have struggled with is the fact that for large parts of the software world, the user is not the person with the checkbook.

Getting both of them what they want is a constant challenge, full of compromises.


That's exactly why I cancelled my account.

There were rumors they were going to launch an email service, then a basecamp competitor, then it was a race against iCloud and Google drive...

Honestly after cancelling my account I've never looked back. I get more storage per dollar with google and iCloud and the Dropbox macOS integration is a joke.

With all the acquisitions Dropbox has made in the past decade, they couldn't have created a more useful macOS app? Read a blog post by any former dropbox employee and you'll hear the same thing over and over:

Dropbox is littered with management problems and their leadership has no idea what the future of the company and will look like because cloud storage is a race to zero.


> a race to zero

That's a much nicer phrase than the one I used to use: "complicit in your own destruction". One is too bland, the other too strong. Certainly there's got to be one in the middle.


Maybe just having one good product is okay.


Not at the crazy level they've let their valuation rise to. VCs won't accept that.


If that was a real concern, doesn't Google and Facebook also face this same issue? Isn't like 80% or more of their revenues come from ads?

The other business units and moonshot projects are just rounding errors on their balance sheets.


I just presented a deck on this topic today. The 30 year evolution of the document goes something like:

Paper > Word Processing > Email Attachment > Collaborative (Google Docs) > Cloud Storage > Meta Information

The last part, Meta Information, is the ‘conversation about the document’ and represents the evolution from a physical piece of paper that I hold in my hand to having a conversation around a document that I might only view as a file name in a folder and never open it up (or just click on the preview).

Box notes is a good first phase of this evolution, however Conversational UIs will lead that next evolutionary phase. Dropbox needs to support the communication pathways that are formed around the documents that people are storing.


I don't mean to offend or be crass but I couldn't help but laugh. I think you are overanalyzing documents. What you said could be word for word out of the Silicon Valley show script.


As I prefaced in my comment, I presented a deck (the need to move enterprise IIOT towards conversational UI) and the evolution of documents was a part of that. I don't sit around thinking of documents in such a lofty manner ;-)

If you disagree about the evolution, I'd love to discuss and learn more from your POV. Much like documents, I'm looking to evolve into meta conversations.


That's why they're focused on the Enterprise now. I agree their acquisition strategy has been lackluster.


Steve Jobs said it best:

"[Dropbox] is not a product, it's a feature."


While this may seem like an obvious observation, I have yet to see a cloud storage service that does it as well as Dropbox. And that includes attempts by huge companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple.


He did say that. He was also the CEO of a company that still sucks at solving these kinds of problems. Guess it's harder than he gave them credit for.


[Disclaimer: I used to work at Dropbox.]

TL;DR: The only actual news here is the new line of credit. The folks involved in securing that line of credit only noted that it was secured since the previous line of credit had expired.

There's no real tie to any IPO news here, and the quotes about an IPO come from "potential advisers" and seem to be entirely unrelated to the line of credit news.

> While the company hasn't set specific timing, potential advisers believe it will be ready to go public by the end of this year. Dropbox and its lenders declined to comment.


Another interesting nugget that I think is material to the conversation:

"For the banks involved, taking on the risk of lending to an unprofitable private company can help them win a role underwriting an eventual IPO."

It's fascinating to watch how we're building the stack of cards this time.

The bankers on SNAP made $85,000,000 in fees on the IPO - which is very high margin activity.

The same bankers provided ~$1.2b in credit to SNAP as part of the courting process (1).

I'm not going to wave the doom and gloom flag, but credit lending on unprofitable companies to secure speculative IPO rights is probably something that will show up in HBR case studies after the next downturn.

(1) http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/03/snap-ipo-what-wall-street-ban...


This is a really good point. Although: even if I may not agree with the revenue potential, the market does and that is basically what allowed those banks to rake in during SNAP's IPO. I mean, nobody knows for sure whether SNAP will every be profitable, but the market thinks that it will. Or maybe the market is too gullible ...


Lots of negativity in here, but I'll say I really enjoy how incredibly simple Dropbox is and has remained since it launched.

It's so easy to explain how it works to my non-techie parents ("It's just another folder on your computer, except it backs up your data automatically").

I hope Dropbox continues to thrive.


Hacker News has always been negative towards Dropbox. Dropbox was dismissed since day one around here. Still they continue to grow in leaps and bounds. At some stage, we must just admit that we don't understand Dropbox as a business. They are solving a problem that we take for granted because we are techies. I also wish they continue to succeed.


I mean, I don't really agree with Dropbox strategy if their goal is to continue growing, but I want to say congrats on the progress toward IPO. I sense it's been a long time coming. I saw Drew Houston talking to Sam Altman and talking about the books he reads and his approach to things. I have something of a new sort of respect for the guy. He strikes me as someone whose best ideas are still ahead of him. Like someone who found himself in a world far beyond his ken, and is now learning and incubating to make the next big move. I certainly hope that's the case, for Dropbox's future strategy to make it long term viable ( if long term viability is a workable goal for the Dropbox stakeholders ).

I don't know how to reconcile the negativity toward Dropbox with how what Dropbox did was very very technical and hacker-ish. Basically they spent 5 years just tracking down obscure operating system bugs and making their app work seamlessly across all platforms. I mean they really did the hard slog. A kind of slog I thought technical people here would respect.

If I really look into it I'd have to say the negativity here toward Dropbox stems from people thinking, "But I could do that! But I do that already!" And sort of having this bitterness that something so "their-territory" was done successfully by someone else. But I think, "don't they realize the hard slog Dropbox did to actually make that work everywhere?" I think in the case of Dropbox, it was that obsession with the details, that is a driving force of their culture and business. If people fail to appreciate that, and are negative based on the impression they get with that obsession omitted, they're not seeing Dropbox clearly, in my opinion.


I agree. It just works, and it works really well. My only complaint is that they don't yet have Smart Sync [1] (aka Project Infinite) for premium home users.

I love it though, and I use Cryptomater [2] to sync my docs folder across machines without having it be on Dropbox's servers in the clear.

[1] https://venturebeat.com/2017/01/30/dropbox-launches-smart-sy...

[2] https://cryptomator.org/


I like the cross platform support. Linux, Mac, Windows, Android, it works on all of my devices. I'd be afraid that platform specific sync options (iCloud, OneDrive, etc...) would neglect their software client on competing platforms.


It does work. Most of the time, for most people.

But, at least on Windows, only being able to sync 1 folder is a serious limitation.

Again at least on Windows, CPU and disk utilisation goes through the roofnon start-up, rendering your machine all but useless for half an hour.

And the final nail in my Dropbox coffin - it seemed to quite often choose the wrong file when there were conflicts, and at times it mistakenly deleted a lot if files. I just couldn't trust it.

Oh, and support via their forums was rubbish. Dozens of people would report the same problems, and they'd be ignored for years.


What have you switched to?

Every other sync service I've tried has major bugs, from Google Drive URL-encoding the filenames in an entire directory tree and deleting the original to Bittorrent Sync silently corrupting large files...


You can use symlinks (mklink on Windows) to overcome the "one folder limitation". Not perfect, but helps in some cases.


Funnily enough, I used to use OneDrive OneDrive (SkyDrive back then) with symlinks and it had a bug in its earlier version that basically fucked up your backups if you used symlinks and upgraded OneDrive. It ended up creating file_1 file_2 etc multiple versions of all my files and was a pain to sort through.


And it works on Linux well, from early on.


Dropbox for Business has really changed my view of Dropbox the company. With AzureAD SSO integration, and the new Smart Sync feature, it's now possible to run a small company completely in the cloud, with terabytes of data in the cloud accessible to everyone without them synching it all to their laptop.

Smart Sync is their game changer.


I think Google Drive's new features (Team Drives & File Stream) are going to win at least some of this market, too. Drive wasn't compelling for any sort of enterprise data management before, but it's slowly evolving some appealing features. If you add something like AODocs, you can get 80% of what even most large companies need out of an EDM platform.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinmurnane/2017/03/14/google-...


This. Many people fail to see just how well Dropbox works for business that want a reliable, user friendly cloud storage solution. Sure its "just" a file sharing solution, but they do it really really well.


Used to use Dropbox for Business. Shared tons of files. A glitch happened on syncing and it deleted over 60,000 files. I had to restore them a folder at a time. We stopped using it the next week.


I've stopped using Dropbox for a few years already. Their software was good when I used it but I decided to boycott them after Condoleezza Rice joined their board. I just couldn't trust them with my data after that.

Plus, the fiasco they had with their Mac app comforted me in not trusting them


I'm hoping someone can help me with this. DropBox is valued at $10b. Their closest competitor, Box, has a market cap of just over $2b. Does Dropbox really offer that much more than Box?


I use Box but Box has some flaws compared to Dropbox. Sync is broken and they don't care. On Dropbox you could have the windows client installed and open a Truecrypt file, make some changes (add/rename/delete/change files within the container) and when you close the Truecrypt file it syncs the changes properly. Do the same on Box and it looks like it's working but it's silently losing your changes; no errors, warnings - nothing. I reported this and they don't care. So you can only trust them with whole files. That's fine, once you know, for a free product, I guess. The version control can be seen as a deletion with no undo too; if you accidentally increment the version number of a file (by uploading a new file of the same name, I think this is what I did) then the earlier version is there but you can't get at it with the free service. Not even by deleting the newer one and reverting. So be very careful what you do. Still, it's better than nothing as a free secondary backup.


I think Dropbox has many more users.


Not really. The latest crop of unicorns have done a really poor job of managing capital and they're getting slaughtered at the public markets(see twitter and snap). Dropbox has probably set themselves up for a similar fate


I love that they do one thing really, really well. Further:

"Dropbox is the fastest SaaS company to reach $1 billion in revenue run rate" - given that, I don't care if they are profitable or not. They got to $1B faster than Salesforce, as long as they keep this up they'll be just fine.


I'm failing to see their competitive advantage. Is it the file history? Linux client?

Genuinely asking, I pay 7 € / mo for OneDrive (1 TB) and I get a desktop license of Office along with that too.


Same here. I'm a paying dropbox customer, but I plan to switch in a month before my annual subscription renews. Amazon drive offers more space for only $60 USD a year.

Plus google apps offers more space than dropboxes business plan.


I tried to switch quite many times. Problems are typically: refusal to sync some files, excessive memory and CPU use (last time I tried OneDrive it used ~700MB RAM when storage was nearly empty), no LAN sync (speeds up things considerably when sharing with family/colleagues), no block-level sync (touch a small part of a 300MB file and it gets completely resynced), no Linux client.


No I feel you, I do agree their sync tech is the best. I switched back to Mac so I no longer care about the linux support.

I've really gotten into photography. Shooting in raw means I easily add 10-30 GB of data a week. Just want a cheaper option for more than 1 TB.


rclone plus Amazon Cloud Drive might be an option. They do seem to have no limit when it comes to uploading data, but you can apparently run into soft caps if you try to download it all at once. Apparently Amazon has a lot of spare downstream capacity at their datacenters.


The thing in Dropbox is the syncing. It works very well and it is very fast.

This does not matter for everybody but if you for example work on multiple computers with same files this can be quite handy.


Dropbox has been super stable and is much faster at syncing large files the OneDrive. That in itself makes it worth it for me. Also they're doing some pretty clever stuff with Smart Sync which I'm hoping will get rolled out more in the near future and is likely to be a pretty killer feature.


They were the first big player, they have a lot of brand recognition, and network effects help also.

That being said, it would be interesting to see what marketshare the various players have. I bet Dropbox is 50% or less.


I'll never understand why a company has to keep growing. Obviously I don't have a degree in economics, but why can't a company do well and then continue being so without having the need to innovate all the time? Sorry if I'm missing something big.


If you start a company and you break even then you're free to not grow. As long as you're happy with the money you're making and you can pay stuff, rent, insurance, equipment, services, surprises etc then you don't need to.

But if you can do it, someone else can do it, and if they are criminally inclined, sly, lucky, or are prepared to pay people less or provide a lower quality product, or they have money to burn or are backed by people with money to burn then they can take you on and, until they are caught/run out of money/lose business due to their business practices catching up with them, they can take your business. Companies which are set up with other people's money and/or which go public are going to have to answer to the people who "own" them about why they're not making more money this year than last year and the people notionally running the company will be out of a job if they can't explain this.


They took venture capital, the investors want to see as big of a return on their investment as possible.

I think you'd have to look at self-funded companies to find one that is "ok" with stagnant growth.


dropbox is a startup and investors invest in startups to generate outsized returns (with commensurate risk). outsized returns require outsized growth (specifically in free cash flows, but many proxy metrics are used to forecast free cash flows, aka future profits).

so the growth rate of a company is one of the biggest factors in its valuation, and higher valuation means more wealth generated for investors, including employee-shareholders.

in DCF (discounted cash flows, a fundamental valuation method), revenue growth rate is typically an estimated input, and the model is highly sensitive to it. the outputs of the model are the present value of future free cash flows, otherwise known as the valuation of the company.

(see the growth rate in the DCF sensitivity chart on this example of DCF analysis on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discounted_cash_flow#/media/Fi... )

higher growth rate => higher valuation, all other things being equal. investors are looking for the largest delta between initial valuation and final valuation they can get, and growth is one of the most reliable ways to achieve that.

companies that don't grow can generate nice returns for the current owners, but they don't generate outsized returns over time because as growth rate goes to zero, valuation becomes a constant, i.e., no delta in initial vs final valuation (all other things being equal).


What you're missing is you're looking for too abstract of an answer.

A company has to keep growing because of unique demands on that company. A different company doesn't have to grow because it has a different set of demands.

Most you read about on here have a relatively similar set of demands based on the VC investments they took.


It only does if it cant pay the bills.. right now some of these unicorns have large amounts of debt, or similar obligations, that they cant payback unless they grow.


It doesn't. It's a choice the owners/shareholders can make, which increases (hopefully) the value of the thing they own.


Still surprised Dropbox doesn't apply their UI/UX talent to taking S3 to the cleaners.


Doesn't Dropbox run on S3? Or is that the company that recently moved off AWS into their own datacenters? If so that was a good case study. (I'm an all 5 certified AWS guy and while I love it, I like seeing the counterexamples to keep my Kool-Aid ingestion in check).


They used to. They migrated off of it because cloud is too expensive. 2 big components to that :

1) traffic to the rest of the internet from the cloud is "wtf" expensive compared to the alternatives. If you can do your own peering (like dropbox does), this goes double.

2) Actual disk storage is too expensive as well. It doesn't compare favorably with what you can get by building a blackblaze pod [1] (just an example).

3) Cloud does not match their usecase. They are write-heavy instead of read-heavy. So as the cloud optimizes for internet serving, it actually moves further away from their optimal price point.

There's an episode of software engineering radio that has a lot of details from the horse's mouth:

http://www.se-radio.net/2017/03/se-radio-episode-285-james-c...

[1] https://www.backblaze.com/blog/open-source-data-storage-serv...


https://www.wired.com/2016/03/epic-story-dropboxs-exodus-ama... has an interesting story around their custom storage hardware solution.


"Dropbox it's not a product, it's a feature". Don't get me wrong, I'm a Dropbox user myself, but I don't see their actual moat. Isn't cloud storage a commodity nowadays?

IMHO they should have spent money in investing in other productivity companies in order to diversify and be able to offer a complete productivity suite.


It seems to me you're looking at this from a technically proficient developer's perspective.

It's easy (trivial) for a technically proficient person to setup any trivial cloud storage system they like on just about any provider's platform they like.

It's not so easy for anybody else (read: the vast majority of other users). Dropbox's value proposition isn't commodity storage on somebody else's servers: it's the UI/UX that backs it, and the particular implementation details.


Dropbox isn't installed by default on any platform.

Apple, Microsoft and Goole all offer 'cloud' storage services (they aren't a product, stop calling it that) and all have a user-facing platform on devices: macOS/iOS, the various Windows, Android/ChromeOS.

Dropbox is effectively a feature. That isn't to say they can't remain in the market and possibly even become profitable, but just making a sync client whose biggest recent news is the skeezy install process on macOS isn't going to cut it.


It's effectively the only cross-platform solution that works very well on all 3 major desktop platforms and both major mobile platforms. It seems like no one else has the incentive to take other platforms seriously. Especially, for anyone who collaborates or shares files with many small groups or clients. Even though it's not first-party it is the lowest-friction option, because you can't count on all your collaborators being on the same ecosystem.

Over several years, my experience of trying to use Google Drive or OneDrive on the Mac has been very frustrating, with significantly more CPU and RAM usage. It's ridiculous that OneDrive still doesn't do differential sync. AFAIK, neither has official clients for Linux.


If the market treats them like a product, they are a product. Also the number of people outside of techie communities that care about either Apple computers or "skeezy" installs on them is tiny. Mac has a tiny, tiny fraction of the computing market and the vast majority of MacBook users are about as tech savvy as the vast majority of windows laptop users: that is they aren't savvy at all.


> If the market treats them like a product

A product is something you buy once. A service is something that is provided to you over time to use, usually in exchange for money. My issue was people calling cloud based storage a 'product'. It isn't, it's a service.

You seem to be somehow ignoring the little glass-faced elephant in the room: iPhones/iPads. The number of people who use these devices is not tiny.

The people who don't care about Apple but are still potential Dropbox customers are still using an OS: either Windows, Android or ChromeOS. The manufacturers of those OS' also compete with Dropbox. So what's your point about Apple exactly?

Non-technical users are exactly my point. Why would grandma use Dropbox, when its almost certain the device has built-in cloud-syncing storage from the OS manufacturer?


Exactly. What happened to Google Maps market share on iOS when Apple make Apple Maps the default option (even considering that at that point GMaps was way better than Apple's alternative)?


I see, but is it really that better than Google Drive or Onedrive? Also, if you sign up for these services you get a bundle of other apps (office).


Well that's a different question. Do non-technical people think of these as the same as Dropbox?


Actually box.com has several nice features by which they totally outperform Dropbox. One is for example the complete mess many Dropbox folders become, because you can drag an drop them around yourself, rename them etc. Look at anyone's Dropbox folder and things get quite messy rather quickly.

The problem with box.com is that there's no business support at all (nobody answers any emails). And in that regard Dropbox has been doing a really good job and put some effort into it. The product itself is not superior to box.com, quite in contrary actually, but the support is much better. (it's also quite easy since with box.com it's non-existent).


Cloud storage is a commodity business and race to the bottom: hard drive prices already got there as local backup. Failing to see what the ipo upside is here.

A bit melodramatic but the cloud is very new and untested against natural events such as a coronal mass ejection, which could wipe put huge amounts of stored data...the sort of thing that arguably should be in IPO risk lists but isn't...yet... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronal_mass_ejection


If only it didn't use ~1GB of RAM, I used to be a huge fan of Dropbox and I'm still looking for that feature in coding. Something like an auto-github diff upload. I saw some stuff with this I think regarding the particular text editor that I use.

My computer's are garbage that's why 1GB to Dropbox is a lot to me.

Edit: I'm curious how OneDrive compares. I have Windows on a junk laptop I have but I don't use it to work on (too weak). Maybe it has better idle RAM use.


Hmm, I see 3 Dropbox processes two take less than 1MB and one takes 62MB of memory. Not saying Dropbox is super light but it is not too heavy.

Does Dropbox memory usage grow with storage? Asking because I am only using 5GB of storage.


Finally an IPO that makes sense to me.

I can understand the value of Dropbox. Stuff like Snapchat being worth billions just make me feel like I don't know how anything works anymore.


Dropbox is a utility/product/feature. It can be replaced.

Snapchat is a network and therefore is open to network effects, i.e. the sum becomes greater than the parts.

I think in ten years time Snapchat will look the more justified valuation, providing they execute.

Dropbox are going to struggle unless they can innovate ontop of the current business model.


> I think in ten years time Snapchat will look the more justified valuation, providing they execute.

They execute what, exactly? I looked at their investors page. Doesn't make any sense. It's a sexting app!!!


I don't know about Dropbox but for example Twitter is still losing money since 2012. Twitter is way overvalue in the market and has lost around $2 billion since inception. Obviously it's not the same as 2000, these companies have revenue, but some of the are not making even a profit. If they continue to throw tech companies with revenue and losing money as IPOs prepare for the next tech bubble. It will burst.


If you read the article, Dropbox is bringing in a billion a year and is almost profitable.


It's bewildering to me how a company can have $1B in revenue and not able to make file-syncing profitable.


Why? Amazon made billions in revenue for years and only recently became profitable.


>"Why? Amazon made billions in revenue for years and only recently became profitable."

Do you think the complexity of Amazon and Dropbox are even in the same universe?

Disclaimer: I like both companies.


And that was purely a tax-avoidance strategy. Top employees have always been compensated via stock instead of any form of profit sharing. Now that Amazon literally can't spend their money quickly enough, they're doing stock buybacks for the exact same reason: it's a technique to distribute dividends without causing a taxable event.

We'll see when Dropbox files whether or not they are executing the same strategy. My guess is they are, since it's hard for me to believe you can't attain profitability on $1B in revenue for a file-syncing platform.


I assume their two biggest expenses are employees and the free product.

Drop employees and they are insta profitable, but innovation slows.

Drop the free plan, and they lose the cheap marketing they have going on.

What is the right play for them? Seems tough.


> Drop the free plan, and they lose the cheap marketing they have going on.

Is it cheap though when combined with wages it's more than they make?


Almost profitable is not profitable.


They're free cash-flow positive.

Consider that Amazon is also mostly not profitable but has staggering amounts of positive free cash flow.


> They're free cash-flow positive.

Do you know that for a fact?


Dropbox's CEO declared it as a fact last year and it has been widely reported:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-14/dropbox-c...

https://www.wsj.com/articles/dropbox-ceo-were-cash-flow-posi...

https://techcrunch.com/2016/06/14/dropbox-says-it-is-cash-fl...

But I have not personally inspected their financial statements and conducted an audit to confirm this with my own two eyes, if that's what you're asking.


They just built out their own data centers to transfer off AWS. I'm guessing that long term bet cost a few $$$


I love dropbox but I ended up on google drive. I happen to have a business email address with them and I got 30G free then updated. Dropbox is better than Google but I was already on Google. If they offered some sort of package like Google does, they could have more people onboard.


Way to go Dropbox. Just be prepared for when Operating Systems start shipping this functionality built-in. If you can prepare for that inevitable reality (by, say, providing modules or something for specifically that) then it'll all go great. Great werk so far. Started using dropbox in college and I am an extremely satisfied user. Let me just cue up some Fleetwood Mac


It appears like Dropbox has ~2X the revenue of box with possibly higher costs in marketing and sales, since their investors are pushing for growth. Assuming these higher costs to be nullified by operating their own datacenters, their (fair) valuation is ~$5B. Anyone still wondering why they aren't hurrying to an IPO, what with a plum $10B private valuation and all


Steve Jobs said when his acquisition proposal was refused by Dropbox founders: it was a feature, not a product.

This is the sword of Damocles for Dropbox.


I think it means the opposite. If a public offering is head, why do they even need line of credit?


Thought they were cash profitable??


Why can't regular folks seem to get in on an IPO? (Admittedly, I don't understand how all the stock stuff works. It just seems like only big investment firms are the ones that are able to do initial investments.)


You usually can't get in on the discounted opening price because those favorable prices are in exchange for large investment banks buying enormous blocks of shares (and thus limiting the IPO company's risk that they won't raise enough cash from the IPO), but you can certainly buy the shares from those banks at the market price. If you have $100M+ to invest you'll get lots of preferable pricing deals...


I think it's somewhat the point of an IPO. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initial_public_offering


Yes, regular folks can get in on an IPO. That's kind of the point - floating the shares publicly. Sign up for IPO's through your broker.


IIRC Google's IPO did some sort of auction. But I don't know if it was available to regular folks or not, or how it turned out in the end.


It was bad for Google and the investment banks, good for investors. It got an astoundingly low price, in part because banks boycotted the IPO to punish Google for the auction -- share price nearly doubled in the first 2 months, tripled in the first year, and kept growing.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/stockdetails/history/fi-126.1...

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB109036846726869268

https://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archiv...


It's like how regular folk can't buy food or clothes at wholesale prices.


Why can't you?


What can I use for free photo gallery storage if I do not want google or dropbox?


Flickr


Investing in Dropbox to me sounds like investing in some other dinosaur like Blockbuster Video or Office Max. Eventually I just don't see people needing Dropbox.


Can't say I'm a huge fan of Dropbox


There's lots of things I can't say.




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