Here are some choice tidbits from Drew Houston’s application for Y Combinator backing:
What is your company going to make?
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.
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.
What’s new about what you’re doing?
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.
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?
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 (thanks to binary diffs).
What are people forced to do now because what you plan to make doesn’t exist yet?
Email themselves attachments. Upload stuff to online storage sites or use online drives like Xdrive, which don’t work on planes. Carry around USB drives, which can be lost, stolen, or break/get bad sectors. Waste time revising the wrong versions of given documents, resulting in Frankendocuments that contain some changes but lose others. My friend Reuben is switching his financial consulting company from a PHP-based CMS to a beta of Dropbox because all they used it for was file sharing. Techies often hack together brittle solutions involving web hosting, rsync, and cron jobs.
Want more detail? Read the full application.