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Dropbox Growth Story

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7 tips to engineer virality

Two MIT students had no idea how to grow a company.

Together they built a rocketship worth $8.5 Billion.

The story that changed startup marketing.

In 2007, a pair of college students began working on a new way to share files.

Arash Ferdowsi and Drew Houston created a screen share video that showed how it would work.

They created a quick landing page and posted it to Hacker News.

This got them tons of feedback.


This MVP also got them tons of interest in the product.

The video quickly went viral.

It drove over 70,000 people to signup for the waitlist on the first day alone.

Dropbox was born.


With an overflowing waitlist, they released their first version of the product.

The team didn’t know the capacity their servers could handle so made it an invite- only beta.

This gave the product an air of exclusivity.

This scarcity drove further demand.

The initial beta launch was a success.

Dropbox’s initial users came from the leading tech companies in Silicon Valley.

But the company struggled to break into the less tech-savvy market.



Sean Ellis was a pro at helping startups boost their growth.

He would use data to find opportunities to test.

He would then run high-speed experiments across the funnel to improve performance.

His approach was called "Growth Hacking"

It was time to test a referral program.

Users would be given an extra 250MB for referring a friend to Dropbox.

The person they referred would also get 250MB free.

This was big in 2009.

The Dropbox Referral Program experiment was a massive success.

They saw an increase of 60% in signups via referral.

By 2010, users of the platform were sending over 2.8 million referrals per month to non-users.


As for the company's growth?

Dropbox went from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in just 15 months.

That’s 3,900% growth.

All this was achieved without paid ads and with no full-time marketer onboard.

That's the power of Product-led Growth.

Today, Dropbox has over 700 million registered users.

The company went public in 2018 at

Over 15 million are premium users with more than 9 million businesses using the platform worldwide.

The company earned $1.91 billion in 2020.


Growth Lessons from Dropbox

1) Launch early and get feedback

The landing page and video is the perfect example of an MVP.

The video was basic but did the job.

The screen share video showcased the value of the product and allowed them to drive feedback and interest.

2) Product-led growth

This is where your product drives your growth.

Get users to the core value of your product and then make referrals easy.

3) Data finds insights

Sean Ellis found a huge growth opportunity by analysing data to see how users engaged most.

Look into your product analytics to see:

- Where you have dropoffs in your funnels
- What channels drove most of your growth
- What cohorts of users retain most

4) Experimentation is key

Growth Marketing ("Growth Hacking") is focused on rapid learning.

The process:
- Ideate
- Experiment
- Systemise

The more you test, the quicker you learn.

Create a backlog of experiments and start testing.

5) Incentives work

Think about how you can incentivise users to refer you.

Dropbox was able to give free space in its product.

Is there value you can offer in your product in exchange for a referral?

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