The early days
Arash and I started Dropbox with the idea that life would be better if our most important information lived in the cloud.
Seemingly overnight, millions of people around the world were using Dropbox to sync their photos and documents. Many of them would write in saying how much they loved the product, and their stories were fascinating.
We heard from scientists researching Alzheimer’s, filmmakers at Sundance, and disaster relief workers rescuing earthquake victims. We even got fan mail from an inventive group of farmers who were using Dropbox to coordinate tractors via satellite (we never really figured out how that worked).
These people had something in common. For them, Dropbox wasn’t just about keeping files in sync. It was about keeping people in sync—connecting people and their most important information.
We were intrigued. Helping teams work better wasn’t the problem we set out to solve, but following our users would take us on a much bigger journey.
How teams work today
As we observed teams more closely, it became clear to us that while technology had made working life better in many ways, there was also a dark side.
We were shocked by how much time our users were spending on things like searching for information, keeping teammates in the loop, and dealing with email. In fact, many employees spent more time on these tasks—all the “work about work”—than on the jobs they were hired to do. This overhead only increased as teams grew larger.
To make matters worse, newer collaboration tools were turning the workday into a blizzard of interruptions. Notifications pinged at all hours, demanding immediate responses. Work was spilling over into every waking moment, contributing to deeper problems like anxiety and burnout.
Modern technology is clearly making us busier. But is it making us more productive? It feels like our “productivity” tools are robbing us of the time and space to think. You’d think they’d be working for us, but somehow we’ve ended up working for them.
Why this matters
“Work about work" and constant distractions aren’t just exhausting us, they’re also wasting our potential.
Think about it: if Einstein were alive today, he’d start his day by clearing Groupons and LinkedIn invitations out of his inbox. Then he'd get down to work—and right before his Eureka moment, his phone would buzz with a Slack message. Would we still understand relativity?
As a species, over and over we’ve used our ingenuity to profoundly improve our lives. This is the engine of human progress: our time and creativity go in, and solutions to our biggest problems come out.
So we need to start treating our collective creative energy like the incredibly precious resource it is—the fuel for human progress. We can’t make more of this fuel. But we can get better mileage.
We can fix this
In the last decade, psychology and neuroscience have shed light on what we need to be productive and feel fulfilled. Research shows that we perform at our best when we can focus, when we’re well rested, and when we have a sense of purpose.
Wouldn’t it be great if our working environment—and the tools we use—were designed with these needs in mind? Imagine if we finished work every day knowing what we did really mattered.
This is possible, and Dropbox is connecting the dots. Last year, we unveiled a new mission: Unleash the world’s creative energy by designing a more enlightened way of working. That might sound a little out there, but our first mission did, too
How we’ll get there
The path to enlightened work starts with creating a better environment. More and more, the work we do every day happens on screens. We believe that these virtual spaces should be as thoughtfully designed as our most inspiring physical spaces.
How will Dropbox make this happen?
To start, teams need to have all their information in one place. It’s crazy that in 2018, it’s easier to search all of human knowledge than a company’s knowledge—at home we have one search box, but at work we have ten. We see a big opportunity to solve this problem by continuing to tie the world’s different tools and ecosystems together.
We also need to design a calm environment that fosters flow. Our workspace should feel organized and surface only what’s relevant. It should tune out the chatter—more communication isn’t always better. The experience should be seamless. You shouldn’t have to use one app to write a doc and another to talk about it. Our newer products like Dropbox Paper are designed with these principles in mind.
And over time, machine intelligence will allow Dropbox to better understand both you and your team. Imagine getting to work in the morning to find your calendar reorganized so you have a three-hour block of time to actually focus. Imagine starting your day and seeing the perfect to-do list—one based on a deep understanding of your priorities and your team’s priorities.
We’re on our way
For millions of people and businesses, Dropbox is already a living workspace—the place where people come together and their ideas come to life. These users entrust us with their most valuable information. We think this is a huge advantage that will serve as the foundation of our reimagined work experience.
Dropbox is also operating at a scale that few companies have achieved. We have over 500 million registered users who collectively store a billion gigabytes of data on our platform. And we’ve made this cost-effective by building one of the largest, most efficient cloud infrastructures in the world.
Along the way, we’ve written a new playbook for business software. Our millions of users are our best salespeople and have helped us acquire customers with incredible efficiency. As a result, we reached a billion dollar revenue run rate faster than any software-as-a-service company in history.
And while we’re at scale, we can still move quickly. We have a lot less baggage than the incumbents. The legacy office suites have had a good run, but they were designed for a world where the most important thing you did was print something out. There’s a reason why BlackBerry didn’t come up with the iPhone. Sometimes it’s better to start fresh.
But what gives Arash and me the most confidence is our team of nearly 2,000 Dropboxers around the world. We’re a little biased, but we think we have one of the most talented teams ever assembled, and we grow stronger every year.
We all deserve a fulfilling work life.
Imagine if every minute at work were well spent—if we could focus and spend our time on the things that matter. Imagine how much more inspired we’d be. Imagine how much better equipped we’d be to tackle humanity’s biggest challenges.
This is the world we want to live in. We hope you’ll join us.
—Drew & Arash