File syncing. Superset of backups, which people will pay for.
Good. Single founder. Bad. But at least he's looking for more
people. Went to MIT, 1600 SAT. Probably fairly smart. Wrote a
poker bot. Now I'm starting to get interested; has the right
attitude. Description of the software sounds plausible but generic.
Maybe it's good, but who can tell. But little sister uses it;
that's impressive. Scroll down to what he understands that competitors
don't get. Wow: very concise and unequivocal. I'm now basically
sold. Scroll through the rest. No red flags. Did not make the
usual joke single founders make when asked how long the founders
have known one another. Good answer to what might go wrong. A-.
(Would be an A with a cofounder.)
Would you be so kind and create a public archive of YC applications (with of course the applicant's consent) for us to mull over?
Regardless whether you oblige or not, all those applications, all those admitted (and rejected) to the YC, and the life-time of their startup or, if they're fortunate enough, the state of their startup would serve a most interesting entry-point for an essay.
"Dropbox synchronizes files across your/your team's computers. It's much better than uploading or email, because it's automatic, integrated into Windows, and fits into the way you already work. There's also a web interface, and the files are securely backed up to Amazon S3. Dropbox is kind of like taking the best elements of subversion, trac and rsync and making them "just work" for the average individual or team. Hackers have access to these tools, but normal people don't."
That is probably the most amazingly succinct and interesting elevator pitch I have read/heard. It clearly defines the product, the problem it solves, and provides metaphors for better understanding.
I have a funny story about Dropbox which happened two weeks ago. I have a friend who has been running a travel business for about 6 years. During that time, I've hosted her website, email, etc...for $5/month. I've also spent quite a bit of time upgrading her website with each release of the CMS, customizing things and doubling her disk space 3 times (for free) as her email ate up disk space.
Needless to say, I was losing on this deal. So, one day she emails me and asks how much a server would cost. In an effort to save her money, I ask her why she needs a dedicated server. Her response was, "To share files with a new part-time helper." OK, so you sure don't need a dedicated server for that and I recommended that she try Dropbox and if she doesn't like it, let me know and I'll spec out a server for her if that is what she really wants.
A week later she asks me to give her the login details for her account so she can move her email and files over to a new server. Surprised, I ask her what provider and how much she's paying. She signed a 13 month contract with a no-name, 1 person company for $750/month. Oh, and he's not hosting the website...just files and email, so I get to keep managing that.
1) I'm apparently charging WAY too little for services rendered.
2) Don't break your neck helping people for nothing, expecting some kind of return later.
I was happy to do it when she started. She quit her (good) job to start the biz and had no money. Her lifestyle hasn't changed and I figured she was trudging along in the "valley of death". It seems she's doing ok now, but my guess is that this server will be a major strain on her profits and she made an impulse buy. The "company" was recommended to her by someone she looks up to. I actually feel sorry for her because she is getting ripped off.
The experience made me seriously rethink everything I'm currently doing.
One of the most remarkable things about this application is how accurately it predicted what Dropbox would be. The idea isn't hard to grasp, but its brilliant execution continues to distinguish dropbox as a surprisingly good product.
I think, "Brilliant!" To my eyes, you can tell the applicant is sharp, has put a lot of thought into the problem area, has a breadth of technical skills, has a track record that shows he had ambition, vision and can execute, and oh, by the way, he's out to solve a real problem that people have every day. So yeah, that's a good application to study. And it helps that, since then, at least in my opinion as a big user and fan of Dropbox as it works today, he has successfully executed on that vision and plan. Well done, man. Well done.
And bonus points for having Python in the stack. :)
hmm... the last line kind of surprised me, even though I don't think I should be surprised. Do you think the Dropbox folks ever look at your filenames and/or open your files? I guess I similarly wonder if the Google Gmail folks ever read my emails. I'm not really worried about them doing it in some systemic evil fashion so much as some random developer or sysop just looking through things.
Anyway, thanks for posting this. I'm a huge Dropbox fan and it was cool seeing a bit of their history.
GMail support people cannot look at your mail (though they can close your account, among other awesome powers). I imagine there must be techs somewhere in the chain that are able to access mail, but the GMail people who regularly interact with customers cannot.
A late to the party comment: I (just now!) finished a submission for an SBIR grant.
Even though I understand why the SBIR submission is the way that it is, the simplicity of this application form makes me jealous. :( I've been doing 6am-2am for two days in a row now and not even writing code.
Dropbox is indispensable to me.
It is my main sync method of my most important Keynote outliner file.
I am impressed by their obvious technical mastery as well as their clear idea of how things could turn out and how they could find their niche.
This is all taken care of using Amazon S3 services.
Interesting read. I wish dropbox had gone ahead with their initial plan to charge $5 a month for individual users. I would happily pay for this service, but $120/year for personal backup is too much. Something in the $50-60pa mark sounds better. Instead I use dropbox all my shared docs, and backup to my own S3 account for larger backups and one-way sharing of bigger files.
I really think pg should create a very successful business just on reading startups proposals and giving them ratings and charging them for his analysis. Please let me build it for you. Anyways.. more please.
Apple already has a similar system as part of Mobile Me (formerly .Mac, formerly iTools) but they charge $99/yr for it ($10/mo would mean a higher price AND more customers) and don't do a great job marketing it (and it doesn't work as well on Windows).
Maybe they'd buy DropBox just to get people who know how to market this shit.