Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman: Dropbox’s Drew Houston
When Drew Houston founded Dropbox, he knew he faced some fierce competition (hello, Google, Apple, and Microsoft). But he didn’t back down from the fight. Why? Because he believed in his product and knew he had an advantage those big, cumbersome competitors could never exploit: Dropbox was lean, focused, and fast. Hear how he outmaneuvered the big guys and what’s next for Dropbox.
Identify the USP
Startups can succeed against established companies by identifying and utilizing their unique advantages, rather than trying to compete on the same terms.
Pursue an overlooked opportunity, refine your business model, and recognize your unique advantage to succeed like Dropbox founder Drew Houston did against tech giants like Google and Microsoft.
Listen to everyone
Recognize opportunities and stay ahead of your competition by adapting and continuously educating yourself.
Listening to user feedback, even from competitors, and focusing on a specific niche can help create a unique and advantageous product in a crowded market.
Build a strong team
- When pitching to investors or competing with bigger companies, founders should be passionate about their product/service and focus on building a strong team that can drive innovation and forward momentum.
- In large companies, empower your top people to be in the trenches with consumers, designers, engineers, and project managers.
- Avoid creating rear admirals and instead have field generals who make critical, quick decisions.
- Top managers should run your flagship franchise instead of multiple products.
- Implement viral referral programs to achieve rapid scalability.
Keep an open mind
A startup’s success depends on getting customer acquisition and retention right, and catching the attention of bigger players in the market can lead to potential challenges and opportunities.
To be a successful leader, keep an open mind and be willing to recognize potential even in smaller companies. Competition is necessary for growth and success in today’s market.
Leverage your talent advantage
Focus on delivering a well-designed and satisfying user experience and create a unique playbook that sets you apart from the competition by determining your target customer, job function, and design principles. Leverage your talent advantage and commitment to secure a competitive edge.
Dropbox grew organically by letting employees use it first, but lost focus when expanding into unrelated areas. Founder Drew’s reassessment led to a strategy aligned with the company’s purpose. To avoid competing with well-resourced companies, it’s essential to expand without losing focus and purpose.
To achieve success, it is crucial to work well together and have the right tools. The founder’s inspiration can be a strategic advantage, and persistence and knowledge of competitive advantages are key to achieving goals.
Investors would tell me that, “Hey, this is a really competitive space. There’s a lot of dead companies here. You’re probably going to get crushed by the big guys.”