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Dropbox raises about $250 million at $10 billion valuation (wsj.com)
269 points by dctoedt 589 days ago | 166 comments



Dropbox Inc. has closed on about $250 million in a funding round that values the online-storage provider at close to $10 billion, according to two people familiar with the deal.

A BlackRock Inc. BLK -0.33% investment fund is leading the deal, which also includes previous backers, said one of these people, who declined to provide more detail.

Dropbox wasn't immediately available to comment.

At $10 billion, Dropbox is one of the most highly valued companies backed by venture capitalists. The company's valuation has more than doubled since late 2011, when investors valued the San Francisco-based company at $4 billion. The company also got a higher price than expected when it approached investors as recently as November.

Dropbox raised $250 million in its 2011 financing from Goldman Sachs and venture-capital firms including Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures and Accel Partners.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Dropbox had expected sales of more than $200 million in 2013. The company made $116 million in sales in 2012, according to people familiar with the company's financials, more than doubling its $46 million in revenue in 2011. The year before, it nearly quadrupled sales from $12 million.

--David Benoit contributed to this article.

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Dropbox really needs to accelerate its enterprise sales to justify this valuation long term. Given the tight integration that Box has with so many enterprise software solutions and Box's focus on enterprise, it'll be interesting to see how these two firms fair against each other on the public markets eventually (inevitable at this point given their valuations). Maybe just being a household name will do it for Dropbox even if Box can close more/better enterprise deals.

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As a customer of Dropbox for Business, I can confidently say they have a long, difficult road ahead of them here. The way they've defined their concepts seems hostile to the very things businesses need in a product.

Even being a company that spends 50k a year gets you next to nothing wrt feature requests or support outside of what would be given to a free user, aside from speed of reply. If you want any level of control over data and sharing, you're sent over to "sookasa", a shambles of a business, or you can look at non-recommended solutions like boxcryptor (an incredible product that unfortunately carries it's own administrative overhead).

If anyone from Dropbox is reading this, the things that make my life the hardest are:

1) removing shared folders from a user's account. (Impossible unless your IT department controls every shared folder in your organization. Difficult & time consuming if they do)

2) Deleting a corporate account from all devices, removing folders. (Impossible)

3) Offering any sort of encryption (need to use 3rd party, unreliable)

4) Managing/reverting changes. Terribly ugly, difficult, and time consuming process. It's bafflingly inefficient, and in an organization of any size clueless or new hires are going to create these problems on a weekly basis.

5) Management and reporting APIs don't exist.

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John here, from rsync.net.

We don't do any of the things you list - not even close - and we don't ever plan to.

We can, however, do this:

  pg_dump -U postgres db | ssh user@rsync.net "dd of=db_dump"
and this:

  ssh user@rsync.net s3cmd get s3://rsynctest/mscdex.exe
... it's probably not for you. Cheers!

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I'm the desktop client lead for Syncplicity. We are an enterprise file synchronization solution. EMC bought us in 2012.

1) Not only do we let you remove shared folders from a user's account, I designed our remote wipe feature that can go and delete those files from users computers. (It's a best-effort approach.)

2) We also support remote wipe from devices as well.

3) I'm not sure what kind of encryption you're looking for. In general, encryption with cloud storage introduces support difficulties, and makes it hard to do web-based access. We allow you to host your files on your own servers, so that might provide enough security to address your concerns.

4) We do allow reverting a folder to a known date, but you need to contact support.

5) Unfortunately, our APIs aren't public. Our management tools are in use at many large organizations, though.

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I won't be the first to ask but: Linux client, please.

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Seconded.

Dropbox will keep me as a customer purely because my entire business is run on Linux (except for the Mac my business partner uses).

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I'm pretty amused that most of the responses to this comment is "I built a service competing with dropbox that does what you want!".

It's interesting to see the changes in the market since when Dropbox pioneered it around 2007 or so.

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Exactly. I hope people recognize our response to the "my flybynightcloudstoragefirmbuiltonaws does just what you want" lineup was meant to be funny...

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The problem is when it gets upvoted above the other responses it just becomes confusing.

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Hi there, awakeasleep.

I think all your points are very solid. I would, however, disagree with you about Dropbox or any other cloud provider implementing their own, in-house, encryption.

They're the one with the data and having the key to open your data as well is, to me, a conflict of interest. I've share my thoughts on this a while back (http://vuongnguyen.com/personal-business-cloud-security.html).

Now, if you haven't had a chance to use nCrypted Cloud, give us a try: http://ncryptedcloud.com. We do client-side encryption and work on top of Dropbox and shortly other cloud providers. We're free for regular consumer. The enterprise clients we have a usually more interested in the integration, management and control mechanisms we have in place.

Thanks,

-V.

PS: Please feel free to contact me if I could be of any help. My email is in profile.

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Keep your eye out for upcoming updates to Dropbox for Business. Looks like upcoming features will cover most of your points: https://www.dropbox.com/business/two-dropboxes

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We'll see. The only thing that actually looks new is "sharing audit log" and an audit log is a long way off from being able to effectively control sharing. Changing someone's password to log into their dropbox, delegate ownership of the folder to a shared account helpdesk controls, and then have helpdesk go through every shared folder to remove a terminated employee, then sending the original user a password reset, then requiring a helpdesk touch for every sharing change in the future isn't a valid business workflow. Furthermore, in the past Dropbox's audit logs have been paginated lists you click through online. Not the sort of thing you can automate. Here's hoping for a change.

Also, notice the phrasing: "With separate Dropboxes for personal and work, administrators can have the control necessary to secure company data, and you can still have your most important stuff at your fingertips." That sounds suspiciously like a sentence that says nothing at all, considering it's already easy to run two dropboxes, and all the problems I listed concern fully administered business accounts.

Remote wipe will be nice though.

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I work on a product that solves most of these issues you mentioned. Shoot me an email at marknutter at gmail dot com if you are interested in hearing more.

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box.com?

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What you are asking for is the "management" of distributed unencrypted data - it's probably impossible, but likely a major rethink in how we distribute data.

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Unless they (knowingly or unknowingly) are going to follow Apple's iPhone path where "private", home users started pushing their employers IT departments to switch to iPhone from BB. At the beginning, iPhone was not considered "secure" for financial and medical applications, but as iPhone market share grew, Apple started investing in "enterprise" features (Outlook integration, etc) that it became feasible to do the swtich. Every few months we get an email from our employers telling us that we cannot install Dropbox on our office computers. Eventually, some higher-up who's using Dropbox at home will make enough noise that s/he cannot sync his work docs from home that it will become "ok" to do it (and the org will switch to it)

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I think bittorent sync might be a serious threat in this space.

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BitTorrent Sync on mobile seems pretty amazing actually, even just for point-to-pointing data between devices.

I wouldn't want to use it for all my files, but I'm setting it up for syncing photos and content to my PCs (i.e. things which are simple and don't get multiple offline edits and the like).

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>> Dropbox really needs to accelerate its enterprise sales to justify this valuation long term.

My first reaction to this was "How can anything justify this valuation long-term ? It's just cloud storage FFS" Then I found they have revenue of 200m 2013 (through growth rate is slowing). Which actually surprised me - and then I realised that I am getting Dropbox links for people who would previously have mailed me a file.

It's slowly dawning on me that "cloud storage" is likely to be something as ubiquitous as smartphones - everyone will have a small slice. I still suspect 10bn is waaaay over the top, but they are the clear leader in what I revisionist style realise is going to be a big (if frustrating) industry.

Which is weird as I started at Demon Internet and we "gave away" 10MB of web space and stopped in the early naughties as no-one used it or cared :-)

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> we "gave away" 10MB of web space and stopped in the early naughties as no-one used it or cared :-)

It's not about the storage, it's about the client (be it desktop or web).

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10mB of space? Wow, that's insane for the time. I remember when my Yahoo mail inbox was 4mB.

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yeah, I think that was why it was a big surprise to the organisation to learn most people did not care (it was obvious from usage rates but organisations don't learn what they don't measure-promote)

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I'm not convinced they are strictly going to keep the file syncing business any more than Amazon has kept to only selling books. Drew has bigger things in mind besides just making the existing product more enterprise-friendly. He used to write poker bots during college after all, and wasn't Dropbox business number 2?

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Maybe just being a household name will do it for Dropbox even if Box can close more/better enterprise deals.

Maybe, but "Box" evokes "Dropbox". I saw some ads for Free 50GB of storage on Box! and the very first thing I thought was, Is that slang for Dropbox?

So, with the way Box is immediately reminiscent of Dropbox, that may reduce Box's disadvantage in terms of being a household name. Even though it's a new company, it feels familiar.

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You may be in for a surprise: Box was founded a few years before Dropbox (2005 I think) and is still bigger, at least in terms of number of employees. I actually had a Box account before Dropbox's. Box also seems to be more popular with enterprise.

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Which makes me wonder why Box never sued to protect their trademark. It's probably too late for them now.

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This appears to be their UK trademark record, http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmcase/Results/4/EU005097555. [The USPTO trademark search is too blunt a tool for me to be bothered hunting that registration down at the moment.]

This http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmcase/Results/1/UK00002215537 is a registration of the trademark "box" for the relevant computer and communication classes (inter alia 9, 38, 42) which was filed about 7 years before Box UK filed their application. TBH I can't see how the later one was granted RTM status except that this one appears to be an image mark.

"Box" is widely used as a trademark and other companies are using it in the same class. Box presumably can't make the case for infringement of their mark without also making the case that they're infringing someone else's - Boks™ belonging to a Norwegian company for example. It's pretty generic as a term for storage/term in computing.

That aside Dropbox would only be problematic if there was genuine confusion. For example Box UK had a series of offerings with trademarks using "box" as a suffix. If Dropbox were considered infringing, for example, Xbox would also be infringing as they operate within the same class - Box presumably haven't challenged the use of Xbox [which probably predates their use anyway].

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Given the focus on enterprise the name differences are not that important. Sales are not done through clever advertising but via hardcore sales.

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I'm wondering if Dropbox could start using a slogan like "Add it to the box" or "Add it to your box"

Box is sufficiently generic that further commoditizing the word box as vernacular with respect to online storage would get people to use the word box (all lowercase) associated with Dropbox first.

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_Drop_ it into the box?

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Here's a link to story without paywall: http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702303...

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50X sales. That makes HP's purchase of Autonomy look cheap.

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Maybe not the best comparison, since HP later accused Autonomy of accounting fraud related to that acquisition.

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Doesn't that imply revenue growth is slowing?

$46m -> $116m (+152%) -> $200m (+72%)

Then again "more than $200m" is probably conservative.

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"Doesn't that imply revenue growth is slowing" do you really expect a constant growth of 152%? of course the percentual growth will slow down, that by itself says nothing.

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Or speeding up, depending on how you look at it

$46m -> $116m (+$70m) -> $200m (+$84m)

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I don't really know how these numbers are generated, so I really have no idea what I'm talking about - but just back-of-the-napkin:

100*($200 million / $10 Billion) = 2%

So assuming no growth, the investors are back getting 2% a year? So basically matching inflation...

So does this indicate that the market is split on whether they'll continue to grow or not?

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So assuming no growth, the investors are back getting 2% a year? So basically matching inflation...

No, because the $200M is revenue. In the long term scenario it's profits which get paid out to shareholders.

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On a long-term broad (across industries) basis, stock market investors tend to expect a 10% annual ROI. This is different for VC investors, but only slightly by the time they get to a $10B valuation.

The fact that the $10B valuation is 50x revenue implies an extremely high expectation of future growth. They'll look at future earnings potential (profit, not revenue) and try to figure out the probability for Dropbox eventually earning 500m/year, 1b/year, 5b/year etc and discount it according to how long they think it will take them to get there.

Another way to look at it, which is one step removed from valuing on future earnings, is to guess what other people will value it for at IPO. If they think Dropbox has a 50% chance of IPOing at $50B in 2 years, they've made a pretty good bet at the current $10B valuation.

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No, the investors are buying 2% of the equity, and by paying $200 million they indicate that they estimate that all of the equity together (the whole company) is worth $10 Billion.

Return on investment would mean that the investors expect the valuation to rise, or that they derive some other kind of profit from owning the shares (sometimes patents, knowledge, influence etc).

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EDIT: "benmanns" pointed out the point of confusion. thanks!

I don't think we're disagreeing.

Sure they bought 2% not 100% of the company, but that's not really relevant. The $200M/yr they currently make is I assume profit - which is either payed out as dividends or invested back into the company. It's not really important which ones b/c the two are in the grand scheme of things equivalent. An investment increasing the worth of the company and therefore the worth of their share of it.

I feel like in the end it still represents an expectation of 2% growth...

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No. The expectation of growth should be roughly similar to growth of similar tech companies. Typical return on equity of an S&P 500 company is about 15-16% per year, so investors should expect probably at least that much and more like twice that

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Well why doesn't that square up with the valuation then? Did Dropbox lowball themselves?

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No. You don't pay 50x revenue for 2% growth. That is a huge valuation and it means they are expecting more like 50-100% growth for a few more years.

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I think the commenter was referring to the $200 million revenue (not even profit) over the $10B price.

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Assuming no growth for an investment in Dropbox is like assuming no air resistance when designing a jumbo jet.

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My anecdotal sample size of one makes me wonder how Dropbox means to sustain itself.

I'd been on a $20/month plan with Dropbox for a few years now. I recently cancelled down to the free tier because...

* I didn't want to pay more to store/sync even more data.

* All my apps that add great convenience by leveraging Dropbox for sync will work fine and consume just a fraction of the free tier space.

This is actually the "killer" feature right now. If I had to pay to keep this functionality, I'd probably pony right up, but it would be tough to start demanding payment for that.

* Dropbox is actually pretty slow.

Sure, I'm just one person, but their percentage of paying customers has always been small. Just a few years ago, there weren't many if any viable alternatives - now there's a whole slew of them and Dropbox hasn't changed much if any in that span.

Also, since it seems to come up so often. I've seen nothing in the way of moves by or significant interest in Dropbox in the enterprise. Meanwhile, Microsoft is pushing SkyDrive, Google has Drive and Box is stating that they're fully enterprise focused.

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Our startup uses and pays for Dropbox for Business. All the alternatives (including Google) believe that Linux isn't worth bothering with. Dropbox has a decent client, both graphical as well as command line for Linux. We keep a lot of stuff in Dropbox, as well as having various tools produce reports and similar into it.

The single biggest headache with Dropbox is that it doesn't support multiple accounts. This is a problem when people have both personal and work stuff on the same machine (we do lots of BYOD). There are unreliable hacks for desktop operating systems, but no solution on mobile.

Other than that they want people to individually "subscribe" to shared folders rather than letting the admin set the defaults. This is unpleasant and does not scale well consuming too much people time.

Last on the list would be allowing/using signing in using Google accounts.

They have asked how things are going every six months or so, although I get the vibe the question is more of "what can I upsell you on today" rather than anything that results in any action (so far nothing has happened with any of my feedback from 12 months ago).

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Not all the alternatives: http://copy.com/ has a decent Linux client.

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Their last blog post was 5 months ago, the website footer is copyright last year, you are the only person to mention them in all these comments, and their website seems to say the only thing they offer over the competition is being cheaper. That is going to be a big hole for them to climb out of!

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I had no idea :-) they seem to work well enough...

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I've got only one complaint, but it's a big one : IOS client and long filenames. AAAARGH.

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+1

I think I was on the $20/month plan. My overall impression of Dropbox was that it was always there when I didn't need it / never really there when I wanted it.

1. Most of the stuff I need to share with myself or others lives in Github.

2. When I want something to sync with my laptop (usually when I'm running out of the house) it's often behind of bunch of other files and means it will have to sync over a mobile connection if I'm going to get it. This usually means using a thumb drive rather than deal with syncing.

3. And this is entirely my fault: I had a handful of older projects in my Dropbox folder that weren't mirrored on Github or anywhere else. When it came time to actually dig one out it turned out that Dropbox had had some manner of sync issue and had renamed dozens of files in my .git folder. It was unusable.

I dropped down to the free plan and uninstalled Dropbox from my laptop. Haven't missed it at all.

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Conversely my business of 10+ people uses Dropbox for its file sharing! costing us well over $1k a year. That's clearly the market they're making their butter from...

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Dropbox taught me a lesson: you can be careless about security, directly and blatantly lie about security to users then handwave when caught and still be massively successful.

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I haven't kept up on things but when has Dropbox lied about security/had exploits/etc? Not saying they are perfect but other than some random people on twitter claiming they exploited them have there been other issues?

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Dropbox stated that they could not access your data ("employees aren't able"), which was simply and obviously just false. They mumbled and backpedaled and said "ok well employees can access you're data, they're just not allowed to". Instead of an immediate retraction saying their previous statements were invalid and obviously a mistake, they tried to justify it and blame users for being confused.

Dropbox also had a deploy that disabled password checking. As in, anyone could log into any account because passwords weren't checked. I suppose that's understandable - people make mistakes and sometimes you deploy things you shouldn't.

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+1 as well. just downgraded to free one or two weeks back and use dropbox only as shared storage for some iOS apps now. For actual sharing/backups i use AeroFS which works fine with off site storage (limited only by my ability to add cheap redundant disks) and is much quicker & cheaper.

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I've been using Dropbox for years and was using it for everything until last year. I didn't even bother installing it after getting new computer.

The problem with Dropbox is that it's too general, too abstract. There are now specialized services that are made for hosting source code, hosting photos, hosting music, hosting scanned documents... and each service is doing it better in its niche than general-purpose tool like Dropbox.

So who needs Dropbox on its own?

I think Dropbox will need to re-invent itself and fast. One way would be to buy other startups that are targeting specific niches and would use Dropbox as persistent storage. This way Dropbox could be offering various apps for free and make money if users run out of their Dropbox space.

Think about it, rather than paying monthly for source code hosting, photo hosting, document hosting, email hosting or whatever service separately as we do it now. All these services could be free as Dropbox apps and once you hit 2 GB limit, you pay for storage you consume as a single monthly fee.

Is this what Dropbox has in mind? Are they raising capital to go on acquisition spree of struggling startups (think Everpix.com) that have great products but not enough traction?

I would love to see that...

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For me, it's killer for photo hosting. I point it at my Lightroom library and have access to all my photos over time and can create instant albums/links for people to view without the laborious task of 'publishing' somewhere in Lightroom. My only gripe is it doesn't display camera raw files at all (ok since I don't shoot too much raw anymore). I guess I would like my photo adjustments visible too, but I wouldn't expect that really.

The rumors of a Lightroom cloud sync are interesting, and if true, would have my reconsidering my interest (though, adobe does not have great track record for reliable data storage).

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Isn't this what their developer API platform is for? You store users data on dropbox, but create your own UX with your app.

https://www.dropbox.com/developers

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Yeah but 3rd party apps will probably need to charge end-user for usage on top of what Dropbox is already charging for storage.

If Dropbox would do these services themselves, they could make them free because they make money from storage.

Not only that, Dropbox would effectively lock-in their users into Dropbox platform. Right now it is extremely easy to switch from Dropbox to competitor. Once you start depending on so-called Dropbox apps, you can't leave just as easily.

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What do you use or would suggest for hosting photos, music and scanned documents?

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I noticed a few weeks ago that I have stopped using it as well. I haven't installed it on my current primary system, I just forgot to and didn't really notice the loss.

I can't say why exactly it is, but I do think that it may be some isolated evidence that Dropbox needs to be careful of customers simply losing interest in it over time. I thought that I needed it much more than I actually did.

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I stopped using it as well; for me, Skydrive is just a little better integrated with Windows, which is about all I use for personal data right now.

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Link without paywall: https://www.google.nl/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd...

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Am I doing something wrong? When I click this link I still get paywalled. :(

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If you manually google the title and then click through you should be able to bypass the paywall.

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thanks!

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Could someone explain what the point of Dropbox as a company is now? They literally own their space, everyone loves them, and I'm sure they're making money hand-over-fist.

However, they raised another round? Why?

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Two things.

1. Enterprise, as someone else mentioned. It's still mostly considered a consumer brand, especially as they've focused on features like photo syncing with mobile phone partnerships. They're an ideal fit for enterprises though and still have huge opportunities.

2. An app platform or what I call "Bring Your Own Data" (not unlike App.net and to some extent Evernote). This is a rising paradigm where users own their data and 3rd-party apps hook into it. Instead of the prevailing cloud model where apps and data are silo'd. An early example is Tunebox, which plays and manipulates MP3s within your own Dropbox instead of hosting them on your behalf. Another example is the way 1Password uses Dropbox to sync data instead of doing its own hosting and syncing.

The app platform is really big as developers don't have to think about syncing. Traditionally data sync has been one of the main benefits of the web. But Dropbox API means developers can write rich, native, apps on any platform and assume the syncing "just works".

This is a bit like the other fork in the road that Twitter walked away from, ie to be the underlying cloud infrastructure for apps. (I wouldn't be at all surprised if Dropbox acquired App.Net or similar to provide a powerful pubsub layer too.) Developers focus on making awesome user-interfaces and delegate all the network infrastructure to Dropbox. That's similar to the way developers can use tools like Firebase and Parse, with the key difference that data resides with the user.

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Just as a quick point of reference, they don't actually own the space. I do love them - I think they are an awesome company and expect they'll do well, but I just switched my entire company from Dropbox to Box. In short, Dropbox falls very short when it comes to "enterprisey" stuff like fine-grained permissions, etc.

They certainly _could_ own the space, but at the moment Box has a vastly superior enterprise offering.

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Do they have something similar to dropbox packrat?

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Dropbox definitely doesn't own the enterprise space. I imagine that's where they see the growth opportunity.

In the enterprise they've got different hurdles and competition.

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The raised another round probably so insiders could sell shares or they could IPO.

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If publicity equaled making money hand over fist, Ron Burgundy 2 would be the top grossing movie right now.

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I'm of course not even close to be familiar with business and investments but what I think is going on here is that you can't rely on 'cash cow' forever.

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They just sold 2.5% of their company for one time 2013 sales (ie valuing their company at 40 times sales).

That would be like Facebook raising money at a $200 billion valuation (currently: $138b).

Dropbox would be insane to turn that down.

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I'm not able to read this without signing up. I suggest a [restricted access] in the title of such articles like [video].

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Poster here -- good suggestion; I just added "($)" to the title.

EDIT: Looks like it got deleted.

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I don't know why posters can even change the title if we aren't allowed to.

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It's helpful for fixing typos. Think of it as a tool that the site provides to help you make sure the "correct" titles are on news stories, and not as a feature the site provides to allow you to better express your opinions.

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A way to bypass is to search Google for that title and click on the WSJ link from the results. It seems the WSJ looks at the referrer and allows search engine sources.

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Or go to http://www.google.com and type into address bar:

javascript:window.location="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142405270230346500...

:-)

One step further is to define a new keyword search type in your browser to perform this redirect for any provided url in the future.

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Or just don't bother.

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I was going to say the same thing. Similarly, you can get around the NYT 10 articles per month simply by opening the link in an incognito/private browsing mode window.

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I had mixed luck with that, sometime it works but sometime it picks it up and gives me the past the limit message

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Since they're hosted on AWS, their bandwidth and storage costs have to be monstrous per month. Anyone have a rough estimate of how much they're paying currently and how much they could possibly stand to save by using this investment money to possibly build their own data center/acquire one?

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It would seem that their costs would be "monstrous", but they are in a position to work out a unique deal with Amazon based on their consistent usage at scale.

I'd be curious to know how much of a volume discount they get.

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You can see the general pattern for S3's volume discounts on the S3 Pricing Page at http://aws.amazon.com/s3/pricing/ .

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actually the thing that surprises me more is the conflict in interest between AWS and Amazon Cloud Drive... I wonder how easily Dropbox could migrate.

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But, Dropbox probably wouldn't be very hurt if Amazon had refused them. I guess Amazon prefers to have Dropbox as a paying customer, rather than refusing them service and watching them take all the market share from a distance.

"Keep your friends close, your enemies closer"

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"The company uses more than uses more than 10,000 physical servers to manage user content, along with Amazon Web Services."

source: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2013/10/23/how-d...

I was trying to find a comment on HN where one of the dropbox employees references their datacenter, but my hnsearch-fu wasn't up to par.

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Per the linked article:

"User metadata is stored in the company’s data centers, while the actual files reside on Amazon’s S3 storage service."

So I'm assuming they have determined that S3 is cheaper than their own metal for actual file storage?

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So I'm assuming they have determined that S3 is cheaper than their own metal for actual file storage?

With S3, they don't have to physically own enough hard drives to support every user maxing out their allotment. If I started DropBox tomorrow, and a million people signed up for free accounts with 2GB, S3 would cost me $0 at first. As more and more users start to fill up their accounts, it will make more economic sense to migrate in-house (a la Backblaze storage pods).

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Surely it's the same with bare metal. Companies who store client data do what is called capacity planning, where they estimate how much space (or compute power, or whatever) they will need for the next N months, and buy it on a rolling basis. Nobody would actually purchase 2 GB of physical disks every time a 2 GB capacity signup occurs.

Whether it makes more sense to bring it in-house depends on some other factors, such as whether Dropbox is willing to cut some corners relative to what S3 provides (i.e. maybe there are S3 features they don't need), and how dedicated to budget trimming their employees really are (some people just don't have the stomach for cutting costs way down, e.g. if they see it as compromising in some way).

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That's definitely true, that you wouldn't buy all your capacity upfront, but you would need to have a minimum amount of capacity on hand upfront, and to do that in multiple datacenters and build the software to manage it would cost money. That explains why they started on S3 but it doesn't explain why they are still there now. looking at the economics of it, I wonder if Amazon hasn't cut Dropbox a huge discount to keep them around. But even still, with $250 million in the bank, I bet the discussion to move in house is happening right now. After a certain point (X users, Y revenue, Z $ VC money), I would look at hosting in-house. http://blog.backblaze.com/2013/02/20/180tb-of-good-vibration... looks like an interesting solution to storage.

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> I wonder if Amazon hasn't cut Dropbox a huge discount to keep them around.

I can't imagine why they would. Dropbox dedupes all their data before hitting S3, but Amazon can still leverage their bulk hardware discounts that Dropbox likely isn't big enough to score. Amazon would have the upper hand in such a deal, and I don't see why it would be friendly.

> http://blog.backblaze.com/2013/02/20/180tb-of-good-vibration.... looks like an interesting solution to storage.

AFAIK those boxes are and have usually been tuned for lukewarm or maybe even lukecold storage to cut costs. Dozens of 5400 rpm drives loaded on bare minimal support planes have a genuine rating of Shit for reliable seek times. It's great for backup, when you only expect a small fraction of users to actually make a query and be thankful enough they're pulling down a recovery. For the kind of direction Dropbox wants to take, this is absolutely out of the question.

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Dropbox hosts the metadata on much faster hardware. When you find your file, seek time on the file system is not as important as transfer speed, and over the Internet, the network is your bottleneck, not your spinning media.

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Dropbox stores all user data in S3:

Once a file is added to your Dropbox, the file is then synced to Dropbox's secure online servers. All files stored online by Dropbox are encrypted and kept securely on Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) in multiple data centers located across the United States.

You can find more information about Amazon S3 or learn about Amazon S3’s security measures on the Amazon website.

https://www.dropbox.com/help/7/en

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Does YC buy into later rounds of a company or just let the dilution happen?

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The latter.

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I might be missing a trick, but if I were Box or Dropbox I'd be reaching out for merger discussions with the other. A combined entity would dominate corporate and retail markets.

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When I was in the process of creating a similar service specially for students I did a lot of research into their freemium model....The findings were pretty clear: the most reliable source puts their conversion at around 4% and and with approximations on growth and a heavily reduced s3 cost there is a point where it stops working - they need to boost their revenue sources.

I have all the projections on my pc, feel free to contact me if you would like to see them.

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The closest comparable I can think of is Salesforce which has a $34B valuation right now as a public company. Totally different sector, but a software company that focuses on doing one thing really well and generates over $3Bn yearly revenue.

https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSE:CRM&sa=X&ei=Gq_ZUvPkF5...

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Salesforce ... a software company that focuses on doing one thing really well

One thing? They own Heroku, Desk.com, Work.com, and several other companies.

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And their focus over the next few years is to be the cloud computing company for businesses. Had a salesforce VP tell me recently that SF wants to dominate non-CRM software (e.g., electronic medical records in the cloud) while Oracle and SAP are still working on figuring out this whole "cloud" thing.

Large businesses are still just entering the cloud with a lot of their software. Salesforce is the company they think of when thinking cloud. There's a lot of power in that.

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Congrats Drew and Arash!

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Wow... That's like 10 instagrams ;). But honestly, when Microsoft, Apple and Google have jumped in to this same space with pretty much same offering, does this makes sense to anyone? I thought they would be out of business because of this. At least 3 out of 5 big startup buyers aren't welcoming them. My only hunch is they have revenues now in $100M range and planning IPO in couple of years as exit.

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Apple's product has no mass consumer appeal and will never be a threat to Dropbox. Their approach strictly limits their appeal to the Apple ecosystem.

Microsoft doesn't know how to make a good product in this space. As history has shown, you can always beat Microsoft with a substantially better product (Intuit, Google, iPhone, iPad, Wikipedia, Apache, PS2, iPod, Linux etc).

Google thinks the key is to force users into a bundled scenario. The flaw in their thinking is that most of the individual products in their portfolio are average at best, including their storage solution. There's no true lock-in. Which is why it hasn't killed Dropbox after years of competition (and why G+ has failed).

The only threats to Dropbox are 1) they screw-up their own product; 2) there's a titanic shift in the market itself, enabling a new wave of companies and technologies to dominate 3) a new company creates a better mousetrap, as that's not coming from Google / Microsoft / Apple.

Revenue is closer to $250m for 2013.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markrogowsky/2013/11/19/dropbox-...

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https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8863

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I did a google search with the link to access non-paywalled

https://www.google.com/#q=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Fnews...

Click on the search result and it is non-paywalled

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Still paywalled for me

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Remember that Dropbox has access to everything you store with them, and uses it

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What do you mean "and uses it"?

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Isn't there a datamining and profiling clause?

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I can't wait for them to go public and we can take a look at their financials properly.

I suspect they will surprise many people - as I had predicted back in 2011 - http://marcgayle.com/2011/01/24/how-dropbox-is-printing-mone...

Much hasn't changed....I don't think.

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Hey, you might want to check your site for bugs. You have an unresolved merge conflict pushed to production. You wouldn't want your potential clients seeing this:

http://i.imgur.com/0oGV3ao.png

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Thanks for the tip. I am using Github to host my site, and it turns out that hosting both a static site and a dynamic blog on the same domain is not as simple as it seems.

Been going back and forth with Github support on this issue and keep getting different responses from different people - most of which don't help me fix the issue properly.

Alas...it's a work in progress and I wish I could just do a git push to resolve that issue, but that's not to be.

Thanks though.

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Could someone please explain why they would raise another round at this stage? Investors are assuming an IPO and want to get in before that I guess.

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Anyone got a link to a non-paywalled version?

Also - I love dropbox as much as anyone, but do they have the numbers to justify a 10B valuation?

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http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:online....

p.s: I thought this behavior was against Google's ToS...

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It is not only not against ToS, it is behavior which is specifically recommended by Google. The term of art is "first click free." https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/74536?hl=en

First click free is a multilayered Faustian bargain with the traditional print media. It preserves Google's ability to give their users what they want, which is searches which show high-quality, free information, like NYT or WSJ articles. It allows the NYT/WSJ/etc to remain on the only Internet which matters, which is the Internet you find at google.com.

Also, the not-so-subtle threat is that if you fail to implement first-click-free, perhaps because you believe your information is worth paying for, then Google will send navigational searches for your articles to scraper sites.

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I don't even know what Google's terms of service are anymore: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7030768

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>> "Also - I love dropbox as much as anyone, but do they have the numbers to justify a 10B valuation?"

I don't know but I am always surprised at the people I hear using Dropbox. I always look at it as a techie kind of service but most non-geek business people I interact with use it to share files, family members use it to store photos etc.

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I make it a required purchase for family members now. On any new computer, the first thing I do is symlink the desktop and the documents folder to Dropbox.

That way, I never get support queries from family members wondering where they put something, and it's almost impossible for them to save something in a location that's not backed up. And the backup is immediate and automatic. It's pretty perfect.

If you've got two or more computers, everything's the same everywhere, and you can get to any file on your computer from the cloud.

I know some of this, cloud sync, cloud backup, and cloud access, is possible through combinations of other software, but Dropbox packages it all so well. I don't think it's just for geeks any more.

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Dropbox have the ease-of-use thing down as far as syncing goes at the moment, even though I personally don't like it.

It's another service that's in the weird space for me where I can't be bothered with it personally, but immediately recommend it to just about everyone else.

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So all your family's financial and personal docs are on Dropbox?

You'd better hope they are never hacked.

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At least in the UK, they've been partnering with mobile carriers (at least Three) to pre-install their app. They sold my dad on Dropbox through Three about 3-4 years ago now, it's pretty genius because mobile sales people love to talk about special extras and an actually useful preinstalled app is pretty rare. It's some great user acquisition, but he's not a customer and actually I don't know anybody who is.

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Most Samsung Android devices come with Dropbox installed, and you get 50GB free for 2 years. With auto-upload of pictures and video, it is a great way to get people hooked. When those 2 years run out, and you have 10s of GB of pictures and videos already stored in Dropbox, $10 will be a small price to pay to keep it there.

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Are they worth 10 instagrams or 5 tumblrs? Currently the valuations seem to be somewhat detached from the numbers while the investors are adapting to the huge risk/pay off PG wrote about a few months back.

http://paulgraham.com/swan.html

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I don't know, they have > 200 million more revenue than instagram. I'd certainly rather own Dropbox than Instagram.

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Google the exact article title and follow the link from Google to WSJ. For whatever reason, it seems like they don't paywall traffic from Google searches.

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They use the HTTP referer for that, forging it work just as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_referer

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$200m in revenue and solid growth is pretty strong. It's at least not unreasonable.

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If you are going to look at revenue you need to look at expenses as well. Revenue by itself means nothing.

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So 50x revenue?

That's better than some but still seems pretty generous.

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What about, you know, profits?

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Go through google and you can read it. Google for "dropbox valuation"

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It's funny to see everyone on here stating that they are leaving Dropbox as I'm just about to get on. I've been using Windows machines for years and finally bought a Mac. I need to start using my computers as simple terminals to some degree.

The only thing I've been wondering is if running a few things at once is a bad idea; Google Drive, Box, Dropbox.

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1.) Is your switching to Mac the only reason for using Dropbox?

2.) Since Dropbox has it's own directory, I imagine the others are similar. It wouldn't really be feasible because the file wouldn't be the same file across all apps.

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I realize these are companies and they have to compete with proprietary features, but it really bothers me that Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, etc. are all using their own proprietary technology for the basic sync. It really does bother me that a company that was born on Hacker News has yet to open source its sync tech.

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I wonder how Dropbox and the NSA get along?

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[deleted]

Exchanging and syncing files is very tricky service to get right. Because no one has managed to do it painlessly so far. It is much more than just users and hardware.

While dropbox are of the better services out there it is still open for innovation - there are still pain points to be eliminated. So squashing them may require another startup and not big behemoth.

As with the case of Origin and Windows 8 learned recently - creating something people like is just hard.

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so could microsoft and google, but neither SkyDrive not Google Drive have made dropbox suffer much yet.

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No paywall link:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&q=site:wsj...

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this is going to be funny some day. when the bubble bursts.

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Can't agree with you more. Not only for the reason of jealous. Let's do a no-brain estimate. Dropbox has:

1. A novel idea - $1M

2. A neat implementation - $10M

3. A reasonable size of user base (including one-time sign-in users and abandoned users) - $100M

4. Any state-of-the-art technology backed up? No

5. Any innovation which changes the whole industry or UX? No

6. Any system level software design? No

Where does the rest of the value come from? If this kind of system is worth $10B, then how much is AWS worth?

Box is aiming enterprise market which makes more sense, because if they can handle fine-grained user security, that will be a lot different. Basically, corporations need a

SkyDrive + SharePoint (hosted in cloud service)

if they don't want to host data in-house. Are there anything like this existing today?

If Dropbox is worth $10B today, what is that going be worthwhile?

We want to encourage new applications to make users life easier, but to a limited extent. We should encourage more productive inventions instead of being too much bragging on a piece of small app with some new functionality like this.

- Eggs should not be washed.

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this is not limited to dropbox. and most of the "value" is pure speculation.

  We should encourage more productive inventions instead of being 
  too much bragging on a piece of small app 
  with some new functionality like this.
bragging is ok. little steps are ok. just be realistic.

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Cached version (no paywall)

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:online....

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I wonder how much they value the "Dropbox" brand name at. If you think sharing a file online you're probably thinking Dropbox.

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In light of the NSA scandal I have switched from Dropbox to a self hosted ownCloud. Pretty happy with it :)

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When did WSJ start using that paywall?

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Get the cached version at

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:online....

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If you google the article title and go from there you can bypass the paywall for now.

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They actually were one of the first newspapers to implement a paywall in 1997. But in recent years they allow a certain number of referring urls to break through it so that they can generate traffic from major aggregators.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paywall

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I'm more and more starting to believe that some SV companies are only laundering money.

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Clearly, MSFT, Apple, or Google could buy them.

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For $10 billion? And they would have to kill their own cloud storage solution. Plus, Google and MS compete with AWS which hosts all data for Dropbox. And I don't think they are so valuable, MS bought Skype for $8.5 billion and Skype had several times more revenue. Dropbox, probably, is heading to the IPO.

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Apple tried under Jobs but allegedly Dropbox said there was no price they would say yes to.

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Why? They all have equivalent products that have pretty much all the features. They should probably buy them for the talent and user base though.

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At this point I don't think that the product is as important as the branding and the userbase.

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Their patent portfolio might be of high value if they have patented certain processes for file synching.

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They could also buy them to reduce the competition and acquire customers for cloud storage services.

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thats a ridiculous valuation. What their EBITDA? Oh yeah..

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