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Interview: Drew Houston Sketches the Future of Dropbox

Greetings from New York, where I interviewed Dropbox CEO Drew Houston in front of a gang of 50 awesome Information subscribers.

It’s been a big week, month and year for the 31-year-old Houston. On Wednesday, the nearly 700-person company launched several new products, including a new photo app, Carousel, and ways to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents in real-time. In 2014, the hot firm has raised nearly $1 billion in debt and equity. That’s quite a war chest.  

After our wide-ranging interview, it’s clear why. Houston was upbeat and proud of the company’s work. Consumers and businesses, he said, are beginning to understand that Dropbox is “not just about storage and that are lots of other big problems that are important.” But he was also brutally honest about the challenges ahead, citing competitors whose balance sheets have “a couple more zeros, a couple more commas” and of the need to disrupt themselves rather than leave an opening for others to do so. In other words, the theme was survival and Houston treated us to a very realistic look inside a startup, albeit one that some investors think could be worth more than $10 billion.

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The part of the quote that stood out to me was the “Darwinian pressure” of needing to build products that people want to use. Survival of the fittest. Those are the phrases that best sum up what it’s like in the trenches.