Dropbox's original YC application
(Please don't password protect it; just use an obscure url.)
Here's a screencast that I'll also put up on news.yc: http://www.getdropbox.com/screencast/ If you do have a Windows box or two, here's the latest build: http://www.getdropbox.com/u/2/DropboxInstaller.exe
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. It's currently in private beta and I add batches of people every few days.
There are lots of interesting possible features. One is syncing Google Docs/Spreadsheets (or other office web apps) to local .doc and .xls files for offline access, which would be strategically important as few web apps deal with the offline problem.
dhouston; Drew Houston; 24; 2006, MIT, SB computer science; ; --; Bit9, Inc (went full time to part time 1/07; leaving in May) - project lead/software engineer
Although I'm working with other people on Dropbox, strictly speaking I'm the only founder right now. My friend Jeff Mancuso, a great hacker, Stanford grad and creator of Sftpdrive (http://www.sftpdrive.com) is putting together a Mac port, but can't join as a founder right now as a former cofounder of his started an extremely similar company called Sharpcast. My friend and roommate Tom Hoover from MIT is helping out too, but he works with me at Bit9, and a non-solicit clause in my employment contract prevents me from recruiting him (and the VP Eng explicitly told me not to recruit him.)
In any case, I have several leads, have been networking aggressively, and fully intend to get someone else on board -- another good hacker and/or a more sales-oriented guy (e.g. the role Matt fills at Xobni). I'm aware that the odds aren't good for single founders, and would rather work with other people anyway.
Drew - Programming since age 5; startups since age 14; 1600 on SAT; started profitable online SAT prep company in college (accoladeprep.com). For fun last summer reverse engineered the software on a number of poker sites and wrote a real-money playing poker bot (it was about break-even; see screenshot url later in the app.)
Accolade Online SAT prep (launched in 2004) (http://www.accoladeprep.com/); a poker bot (here's an old screenshot: https://www.accoladeprep.com/sshot2.gif ; it's using play money there but worked with real money too.)
There's a joke in here somewhere.
No; I'm leaving Bit9 in a few weeks to work on this full time regardless of YC funding.
No. Probably moving to SF in September
3 months part time. About ~5KLOC client and ~2KLOC server of python, C++, Cheetah templates, installer scripts, etc.
Prototype - done in Feb. Beta - in people's hands now. Version I can charge for: 6-8 weeks?
Most small teams have a few basic needs: (1) team members need their important stuff in front of them wherever they are, (2) everyone needs to be working on the latest version of a given document (and ideally can track what's changed), (3) and team data needs to be protected from disaster. There are sync tools (e.g. beinsync, Foldershare), there are backup tools (Carbonite, Mozy), and there are web uploading/publishing tools (box.net, etc.), but there's no good integrated solution.
Dropbox solves all these needs, and doesn't need configuration or babysitting. Put another way, it takes concepts that are proven winners from the dev community (version control, changelogs/trac, rsync, etc.) and puts them in a package that my little sister can figure out (she uses Dropbox to keep track of her high school term papers, and doesn't need to burn CDs or carry USB sticks anymore.)
At a higher level, online storage and local disks are big and cheap. But the internet links in between have been and will continue to be slow in comparison. In "the future", you won't have to move your data around manually. The concept that I'm most excited about is that the core technology in Dropbox -- continuous efficient sync with compression and binary diffs -- is what will get us there.
Carbonite and Mozy do a good job with hassle-free backup, and a move into sync would make sense. Sharpcast (venture funded) announced a similar app called Hummingbird, but according to Jeff (who is good friends with the tech lead) they're taking an extraordinarily difficult approach involving NT kernel drivers. Google's coming out with GDrive at some point. Microsoft's Groove does sync and is part of Office 2007, but is very heavyweight and doesn't include any of the web stuff or backup. There are apps like Omnidrive and Titanize but the implementations are buggy or have bad UIs.
Competing products work at the wrong layer of abstraction and/or force the user to constantly think and do things. The "online disk drive" abstraction sucks, because you can't work offline and the OS support is extremely brittle. Anything that depends on manual emailing/uploading (i.e. anything web-based) is a non-starter, because it's basically doing version control in your head. But virtually all competing services involve one or the other.
With Dropbox, you hit "Save", as you normally would, and everything just works, even with large files (and binary diffs ensure that only the changed portions go over the wire).
(We realize you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
The current plan is a freemium approach, where we give away free 1GB accounts and charge for additional storage (maybe ~$5/mo or less for 10GB for individuals and team plans that start at maybe $20/mo.). It's hard to get consumers to pay for things, but fortunately small/medium businesses already pay for solutions that are subsets of what Dropbox does and are harder to use. There will be tiered pricing for business accounts (upper tiers will retain more older versions of documents, have branded extranets for secure file sharing with clients/partners, etc., and an 'enterprise' plan that features, well, a really high price.)
I've already been approached by potential partners/customers asking for a web services API to programmatically create Dropboxes (e.g. to handle file sharing for Assembla.com, a web site for managing global dev teams). There's a natural synergy between project mgmt/groupware web apps (which do to-do lists, calendaring, etc. well but not files) and Dropbox for file sharing. I've also had requests for an enterprise version that would sit on a company's network (as opposed to my S3 store) for which I could probably charge a lot.
(This question is as much for you as us.)
Drew, presently sole owner but saving some stock (a couple percent?) for work done by Jeff & Tom over the summer.
Drew: Some work was done at the Bit9 office; I consulted an attorney and have a signed letter indicating Bit9 has no stake/ownership of any kind in Dropbox
(Open source is ok of course.)
One click screen sharing (already done pretty well by Glance); a wiki with version-controlled drawing canvases that let you draw diagrams or mock up UIs (Thinkature is kind of related, but this is more text with canvases interspersed than a shared whiteboard) to help teams get on the same page and spec things out better (we use Visio and Powerpoint at Bit9, which suck for working collaboratively); some ideas surrounding better web analytics for newbies
(The answer need not be related to your project.)
The ridiculous things people name their documents to do versioning, like "proposal v2 good revised NEW 11-15-06.doc", continue to crack me up.