On balance, the cloud has been a huge boon to startups

Today’s startups have a distinct advantage when it comes to launching a company because of the public cloud. You don’t have to build infrastructure or worry about what happens when you scale too quickly. The cloud vendors take care of all that for you.

But last month when Pinterest announced its IPO, the company’s cloud spend raised eyebrows. You see, the company is spending $750 million a year on cloud services, more specifically to AWS. When your business is primarily focused on photos and video, and needs to scale at a regular basis, that bill is going to be high.

That price tag prompted Erica Joy, a Microsoft engineer to publish this Tweet and start a little internal debate here at TechCrunch. Startups, after all, have a dog in this fight, and it’s worth exploring if the cloud is helping feed the startup ecosystem, or sending your bills soaring as they have with Pinterest.

For starters, it’s worth pointing out that Ms. Joy works for Microsoft, which just happens to be a primary competitor of Amazon’s in the cloud business. Regardless of her personal feelings on the matter, I’m sure Microsoft would be more than happy to take over that $750 million bill from Amazon. It’s a nice chunk of business, but all that aside, do startups benefit from having access to cloud vendors?


By Ron Miller

How to handle dark data compliance risk at your company

Slack and other consumer-grade productivity tools have been taking off in workplaces large and small — and data governance hasn’t caught up.

Whether it’s litigation, compliance with regulations like GDPR, or concerns about data breaches, legal teams need to account for new types of employee communication. And that’s hard when work is happening across the latest messaging apps and SaaS products, which make data searchability and accessibility more complex.

Here’s a quick look at the problem, followed by our suggestions for best practices at your company.

Problems

The increasing frequency of reported data breaches and expanding jurisdiction of new privacy laws are prompting conversations about dark data and risks at companies of all sizes, even small startups. Data risk discussions necessarily include the risk of a data breach, as well as preservation of data. Just two weeks ago it was reported that Jared Kushner used WhatsApp for official communications and screenshots of those messages for preservation, which commentators say complies with recordkeeping laws but raises questions about potential admissibility as evidence.


By Arman Tabatabai

Dropbox snares HelloSign for $230M, gets workflow and eSignature

Dropbox announced today that it has purchased HelloSign, a company that provides lightweight document workflow and eSignature services. The company paid a hefty $230 million for the privilege.

Dropbox’s SVP of engineering, Quentin Clark, sees this as more than simply bolting on electronic signature functionality to the Dropbox solution. For him, the workflow capabilities that HelloSign added in 2017 were really key to the purchase.

“What is unique about HelloSign is that the investment they’ve made in APIs and the workflow products is really so aligned with our long term direction,” Clark told TechCrunch. “It’s not just a thing to do one more activity with Dropbox, it’s really going to help us pursue that broader vision,” he added. That vision involves extending the storage capabilities that is as the core of the Dropbox solution

This can also been seen in the context of the Extension capability that Dropbox added last year. HelloSign was actually one of the companies involved at launch. While Clark say the company will continue to encourage companies to extend the Dropbox solution, today’s acquisition gives it a capability of its own that doesn’t require a partnership.

HelloSign CEO Joseph Walla says being part of Dropbox gives HelloSign access to resources of a much larger public company, which should allow it to reach a broader market than it could on its own. “We share a design philosophy based on building the best experience for end-users, fueling our efficient business models and sales strategies. Together with Dropbox, we can bring more seamless document workflows to even more customers and dramatically accelerate our impact,”  Walla said in a blog post announcing the deal.

Whitney Bouck, COO at HelloSign, who previous held stints at Box and EMC Documentum, said the company will remain an independent entity. That means it will continue to operate with its current management structure and Clark indicated that all of the employees will be offered employment at Dropbox as part of the deal.

When you consider that HelloSign, a Bay area startup that launched in 2011, raised just $16 million, it appears to be a impressive return for investors.

This is a developing story. More to come.


By Ron Miller

Dropbox expands Paper into planning tool with timelines

Dropbox has been building out Paper, its document-driven collaboration tool since it was first announced in 2015, slowly but surely layering on more functionality. Today, it added a timeline feature, pushing beyond collaboration into a light-weight project planning tool.

Dropbox has been hearing that customers really need a way to plan with Paper that was lacking. “That pain—the pain of coordinating all those moving pieces—is one we’re taking on today with our new timelines feature in Dropbox Paper,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new feature.

As you would expect with such a tool, it enables you to build a timeline with milestones, but being built into Paper, you can assign team members to each milestone and add notes with additional information including links to related documents.

You can also embed a To-do lists for the person assigned to a task right in the timeline to help them complete the given task, giving a single point of access for all the people assigned to a project

Gif: Dropbox

“Features like to-dos, @mentions, and due dates give team members easy ways to coordinate projects with each other. Timelines take these capabilities one step further, letting any team member create a clean visual representation of what’s happening when—and who’s responsible,” Dropbox wrote in the blog post announcement.

Dropbox has recognized it cannot live as simply a content storage tool. It needs to expand beyond that into collaboration and coordination around that content, and that’s what Dropbox Paper has been about. By adding timelines, the company is looking to expand that capability even further.

Alan Lepofsky, who covers the “future of work” for Constellation Research sees Paper as part of the changing face of collaboration tools. “I refer to the new breed of content creation tools as digital canvases. These apps simplify the user experience of integrating content from multiple sources. They are evolving the word-processor paradigm,” Lepofsky told TechCrunch.

It’s probably not going to replace a project manager’s full-blown planning tools any time soon, but it at least the potential to be a useful adjunct for the Paper arsenal to allow customers to continue to find ways to extract value from the content they store in Dropbox.


By Ron Miller

Dropbox overhauls internal search to improve speed and accuracy

Over the last several months, Dropbox has been undertaking an overhaul of its internal search engine for the first time since 2015. Today, the company announced that the new version, dubbed Nautilus, is ready for the world. The latest search tool takes advantage of a new architecture powered by machine learning to help pinpoint the exact piece of content a user is looking for.

While an individual user may have a much smaller body of documents to search across than the World Wide Web, the paradox of enterprise search says that the fewer documents you have, the harder it is to locate the correct one. Yet Dropbox faces of a host of additional challenges when it comes to search. It has more than 500 million users and hundreds of billions of documents, making finding the correct piece for a particular user even more difficult. The company had to take all of this into consideration when it was rebuilding its internal search engine.

One way for the search team to attack a problem of this scale was to put machine learning to bear on it, but it required more than an underlying level of intelligence to make this work. It also required completely rethinking the entire search tool from an architectural level.

That meant separating two main pieces of the system, indexing and serving. The indexing piece is crucial of course in any search engine. A system of this size and scope needs a fast indexing engine to cover the number of documents in a whirl of changing content. This is the piece that’s hidden behind the scenes. The serving side of the equation is what end users see when they query the search engine, and the system generates a set of results.

Nautilus Architecture Diagram: Dropbox

Dropbox described the indexing system in a blog post announcing the new search engine: “The role of the indexing pipeline is to process file and user activity, extract content and metadata out of it, and create a search index.” They added that the easiest way to index a corpus of documents would be to just keep checking and iterating, but that couldn’t keep up with a system this large and complex, especially one that is focused on a unique set of content for each user (or group of users in the business tool).

They account for that in a couple of ways. They create offline builds every few days, but they also watch as users interact with their content and try to learn from that. As that happens, Dropbox creates what it calls “index mutations,” which they merge with the running indexes from the offline builds to help provide ever more accurate results.

The indexing process has to take into account the textual content assuming it’s a document, but it also has to look at the underlying metadata as a clue to the content. They use this information to feed a retrieval engine, whose job is to find as many documents as it can, as fast it can and worry about accuracy later.

It has to make sure it checks all of the repositories. For instance, Dropbox Paper is a separate repository, so the answer could be found there. It also has to take into account the access-level security, only displaying content that the person querying has the right to access.

Once it has a set of possible results, it uses machine learning to pinpoint the correct content. “The ranking engine is powered by a [machine learning] model that outputs a score for each document based on a variety of signals. Some signals measure the relevance of the document to the query (e.g., BM25), while others measure the relevance of the document to the user at the current moment in time,” they explained in the blog post.

After the system has a list of potential candidates, it ranks them and displays the results for the end user in the search interface, but a lot of work goes into that from the moment the user types the query until it displays a set of potential files. This new system is designed to make that process as fast and accurate as possible.


By Ron Miller

Dropbox drops some enhancements to Paper collaboration layer

When you’re primarily a storage company with enterprise aspirations, as Dropbox is, you need a layer to to help people use the content in your system beyond simple file sharing. That’s why Dropbox created Paper, to act as that missing collaboration layer. They announced some enhancements to Paper to keep people working in their collaboration tool without having to switch programs.

“Paper is Dropbox’s collaborative workspace for teams. It includes features where users can work together, assign owners to tasks with due dates and embed rich content like video, sound, photos from Youtube, SoundCloud, Pinterest and others,” a Dropbox spokesperson told TechCrunch.

With today’s enhancements you can paste a number of elements into Paper and get live previews. For starters, they are letting you link to a Dropbox folder in Paper, where you can view the files inside the folder, even navigating any sub-folders. When the documents in the folder change, Paper updates the preview automatically because the folder is actually a live link to the Dropbox folder. This one seems like a table stakes feature for a company like Dropbox.

Gif: Dropbox

In addition, Dropbox now supports Airtables, a kind of souped up spreadsheet. With the new enhancement, you just grab an Airtable embed code and drop it into Paper. From there, you can see a preview in whatever Airtable view you’ve saved the table.

Finally, Paper now supports LucidCharts. As with Airtables and folders, you simply paste the link and you can see a live preview inside Paper. If the original chart changes, updates are reflected automatically in the Paper preview.

By now, it’s clear that workers want to maintain focus and not be constantly switching between programs. It’s why Box created the recently announced Activity Stream and Recommended Apps. It’s why Slack has become so popular inside enterprises. These tools provide a way to share content from different enterprise apps without having to open a bunch of tabs or separate apps.

Dropbox Paper is also about giving workers a central place to do their work where you can pull live content previews from different apps without having to work in a bunch of content silos. Dropbox is trying to push that idea along for its enterprise customers with today’s enhancements.


By Ron Miller

Dropbox announces COO Dennis Woodside is leaving as its second quarterly check-in with Wall Street once again outperforms

Back when Dennis Woodside joined Dropbox as its chief operating officer more than four years ago, the company was trying to justify the $10 billion valuation it had hit in its rapid rise as a Web 2.0 darling. Now, Dropbox is a public company with a nearly $14 billion valuation, and it once again showed Wall Street that it’s able to beat expectations with a now more robust enterprise business alongside its consumer roots.

Dropbox’s second quarter results came in ahead of Wall Street’s expectations on both the earnings and revenue front. The company also announced that Dennis Woodside, who has been the chief operating officer for more than four years, will be leaving the company. Woodside joined at a time at Dropbox when it was starting to figure out its enterprise business, which it was able to grow and transform into a strong case for Wall Street that it could finally be a successful publicly-traded company. The IPO was indeed successful, with the company’s shares soaring more than 40% in its debut, so it makes sense that Woodside has essentially accomplished his job by getting it into a business ready for Wall Street.

The stock exploded in extended trading by rising more than 7%, though even prior to the market close and the company reporting its earnings, the stock had risen as much as 10%. Following that spike, things have leveled off a bit, with it up around 2%. Dropbox is one of a number of SaaS companies that have gone public in recent months, including DocuSign, that have seen considerable success. While Dropbox has managed to make its case with a strong enterprise business, the company was born with consumer roots and has tried to carry over that simplicity with the enterprise products it rolls out, like its collaboration tool Dropbox Paper.

Here’s a quick rundown of the numbers:

  • Q2 Revenue: Up 27% year-over-year to $339.2 million, compared to estimates of $331 million in revenue
  • Q2 GAAP Gross Margin: 73.6%, as compared to 65.4% in the same period last year
  • Q2 adjusted earnings: 11 cents per share compared, compared to estimates of 7 cents per share
  • Paid users: 11.9 million paying users, up from 9.9 million in the same quarter last year
  • ARPU: $116.66, compared to $111.19 same quarter last year

So, not only is Dropbox able to show that it can continue to grow that revenue, the actual value of its users is also going up. That’s important, because Dropbox has to show that it can continue to acquire higher-value customers — meaning it’s gradually moving up the Fortune 100 chain and getting larger and more established companies on board that can offer it bigger and bigger contracts. It also gives it the room to make larger strategic moves, like migrating onto its own architecture late last year, which in the long run could turn out to drastically improve the margins on its business.

The company is still looking to make significant moves in the form of new hires, including recently announcing that it has a new VP of product and VP of product marketing, Adam Nash and Naman Khan. Dropbox’s new team under CEO Drew Houston are tasked with continuing the company’s path to cracking into larger enterprises, which can give it a much more predictable and robust business alongside the average consumers that pay to host their files online and access them from pretty much anywhere.

Dropbox had its first quarterly earnings check-in and slid past the expectations that Wall Street had, though its GAAP gross margin slipped a little bit and may have offered a slight negative signal for the company. But since then, Dropbox’s stock hasn’t had any major missteps, giving it more credibility on the public markets — and more resources to attract and retain talent with compensation packages linked to that stock.


By Matthew Lynley

Dropbox beefs up mobile collaboration in latest release

Dropbox announced several enhancements today designed to beef up its mobile offering and help employees on the go keep up with changes to files stored in Dropbox .

In a typical team scenario, a Dropbox user shared a file with a team member for review or approval. If they wanted to check the progress of this process, the only way to do it up until now was to send an email or text message explicitly asking if the person looked at it yet — not a terribly efficient workflow.

Dropbox recognized this and has built in a fix in the latest mobile release. Now users can can simply see who has looked at or taken action on a file directly from the mobile application without having to leave the application.

In addition, those being asked to review files can see those notifications right at the top of the Home screen in the mobile app, making the whole feedback cycle much more organized.

Photo: Dropbox

Joey Loi, product manager at Dropbox says this is a much more streamlined way to understand activity inside of Dropbox. “With this feature, we think about the closing loop on collaboration. At its heart, collaboration is feedback flows. When I change something on a file, there are a few steps before [my co-worker] knows I’ve changed it,” Loi explained. With this feature that feedback loop can close much faster.

The company also changed the way it organizes and displays files putting the files that you opened most recently at the top of the Home screen, which is somewhat like Recents in Google Drive. It also provides a way to favorite a file and puts those files that are most important at the top of the list, making it easier to find the files that are likely most important to you more quickly when you access the mobile app.

Finally you can now drag and drop a file from an email into a Dropbox folder in a mobile context.

While none of these individual updates are earth shattering changes by any means, they do make it easier for users to access, share and work with files in Dropbox on a mobile device. “All the features are to help teams collaborate and be efficient on mobile,” Loi said.


By Ron Miller

Dropbox beats expectations for its first quarterly check-in with Wall Street

Dropbox made its debut as a public company earlier this year and today passed through its first milestone of reporting its results to public investors, and it more or less beat expectations set for Wall Street on the top and bottom line.

The company reported more revenue and beat expectations for earnings that Wall Street set, bringing in $316.3 million in revenue and appearing to pick up momentum among its paying user base. It also said it had 11.5 million paying users, a jump from last year. However, the stock was largely flat in extended trading. One small negative signal — and it definitely appears to be a small one — was that its GAAP gross margin slipped slightly to 61.9% from 62.3% a year earlier. Dropbox is a software company that’s supposed to have great margins as it begins to ramp up its own hardware, but that slipping margin may end up being something that investors will zero in on going forward. Still, as the company continues to ramp up the enterprise component of its business, the calculus of its business may change over time.

This is a pretty important moment for the company, as it was a darling in Silicon Valley and rocketed to a $10 billion valuation in the early phases of the Web 2.0 era but began to face a ton of criticism as to whether it could be a robust business as larger companies started to offer cloud storage as a perk and not a business. Dropbox then found itself going up against companies like Box and Microsoft as it worked to create an enterprise business, but all this was behind closed doors — and it wasn’t clear if it was able to successfully maneuver its way into a second big business. Now the company is beholden to public shareholders and has to show all this in the open, and it serves as a good barometer of not just storage and collaboration businesses, but also some companies that are looking to drastically simplify workflow processes and convert that into a real business (like Slack, for example).

Here’s the final scorecard for the company:

  • Q1 revenue: $316.3 million, compared to Wall Street estimates of $308.7 million (up 28% year over year.)
  • Q1 earnings: 8 cents per share adjusted, compared to Wall Street estimates of 5 cents per share adjusted.
  • Paying users: 11.5 million, up from 9.3 million in the same period last year.
  • GAAP gross margin: 61.9%, down from 62.3% last year in the same period last year.
  • Non-GAAP gross margin: 74.2%, up from 63.5% in the same period last year.
  • Free cash flow: $51.9 million, down from $56.5 million in the same period last year.

(The GAAP and non-GAAP comparison is typically related to share-based compensation, which is a key component of employee compensation and retention.)

Dropbox was largely considered to be a successful IPO, rising more than 40% in its trading debut. That does mean that it may have left some money on the table, but its operating losses have been largely stable, even as it looks to woo larger enterprise customers as it — which is a bit of a taller order than its typical growth amid consumers that’s heavily driven by organic growth. Those larger enterprise customers offer more stable, and larger, revenue streams than a consumer base that faces a variety of options as many companies start to offer free storage. The company is now worth well over that original $10 billion valuation as a public company. Dropbox says it has more than 500 million users.

Since going public, the stock has had its ups and downs, but for the most part hasn’t dipped below that significant jump it saw from day one. Keeping that number propped up — and growing — is an important part of growing a business as a public company as it waves off more intense scrutiny and pressure for change from public shareholders, as well as offering competitive compensation packages for incoming employees in order to attract the best talent. It’s also good for morale as it offers a kind of grade for how the company is doing in the eyes of the public, though CEOs of companies often say they are committed toward long-term goals. The company’s shares are up around 11% since going public.

While there have been a wave of enterprise IPOs this year, including zScalar and Pluralsight’s upcoming IPO, Dropbox was largely considered to be a potential gauge of whether the IPO window was still open this year because of its hybrid nature. Dropbox started off as a consumer company based around a dead-simple approach of hosting and sharing files online, and used that to build a massive user base even as the cost of cloud storage was rapidly commoditized. But it also is building a robust enterprise-focus business, and continues to roll out a variety of tools to woo those businesses with consistent updates to products like its document tool Paper. Last month, the company started rolling out templates, as it looked to make traditional workflow processes easier and easier for companies in order to capture their interest much in the same way it captured the interest of consumers at large.


By Matthew Lynley

Dropbox rolls out a templates tool for its Paper online document service

As Dropbox looks to woo larger and larger businesses with its strategy of building simpler collaboration tools than what’s on the market, it’s making some moves in its online document tool Paper to further reduce that friction today.

Dropbox said it was rolling out a new tool for Dropbox Paper that allows users to get a paper document up and running through a set of templates. It may seem like something that would be table stakes for a company looking to create an online document tool like Google Docs, but figuring out what Paper’s core use cases look like can take a lot of thinking and user research before finally pulling the trigger. Dropbox at its heart hopes to have a consumer feel for its products, so preserving that as it looks to build more robust tools presents a bigger challenge for the freshly-public company.

The templates tool behaves pretty much like other tools out there: you open Dropbox Paper, and you’ll get the option to create a document from a number of templates. Some common use cases for Dropbox Paper include continuous product development timelines and design specs, but it seems the company hopes to broaden that by continuing to integrate new features like document previews. Dropbox Paper started off as a blank slate, but given the number of options out there, it has to figure out a way to differentiate itself eventually.

The company said it’s also rolling out a number of other small features. That includes a way to pin documents, launch presentations, format text and insert docs and stickers. There’s also a new meeting widget and increased formatting options in the comments section in Paper. Finally, it’s adding a number of small quality-of-life updates like viewing recent Paper docs by alphabetical order and the ability to unsubscribe to comment notifications and archive docs on iOS, as well as aggregating to-do lists across docs.

Dropbox went public earlier this year to dramatic success, immediately getting that desired “pop” and more or less holding it throughout the past month or so as one of the first blockbuster IPOs of 2018. There have been a wave that have followed since, including DocuSign, and it’s one of a batch of several enterprise companies looking to get out the door now that it appears the window is open for investor demand for fresh IPOs.

Paper, to that end, appears to be a key piece of the puzzle for Dropbox. The company has always sought to be a company centered around simple collaboration tools, coming from its roots as a consumer company to start. It’s an approach that has served it — and others, like Slack — well as the company looks to expand more and more into larger enterprises. While it’s been able to snap up users thanks to its simpler approach, those enterprise deals are always more lucrative and serve as a stronger business line for Dropbox.

Dropbox will have to continue to not only differentiate itself from Google Docs and other tools, but also an emerging class of startups that’s looking to figure out ways to snap up some of the core use cases of online document tools. Slite, for example, hopes to capture the internal wiki and note-taking portion of an online doc system like Google Docs. That startup raised $4.4 million earlier this month. There’s also Coda, a startup that’s looking to rethink what a document looks altogether, which raised $60 million. Templates are one way of reducing that friction and keeping it feeling like a simple document tool and hopefully getting larger businesses excited about its products.


By Matthew Lynley

Drew Houston to upload his thoughts at TC Disrupt SF in September

Dropbox is a critically important tool for more than 500 million people.

The company launched back in 2007 and founder and CEO Drew Houston has spent the last decade growing Dropbox to the behemoth it is today.

During that time, Houston has made some tough decisions.

A few years ago, Houston decided to move the Dropbox infrastructure off of AWS. In 2014, Houston chose to raise $500 million in debt financing to keep up pace with Box, which was considering an IPO at the time. And in March 2017, Dropbox took another $600 million in debt financing from JP Morgan.

Houston also reportedly turned down a nine-figure acquisition offer from Apple.

All the while, Houston led Dropbox to be cash-flow positive and grew the company to see a $1 billion revenue run rate as of last year.

And, of course, we can’t forget the decision to go public early this year.

Dropbox is now one of the biggest tech companies in the world, with 1,800 employees across 12 global offices.

Interestingly, Houston first told his story to a TechCrunch audience at TC50 in 2008 as part of the Startup Battlefield.

At Disrupt SF in September, we’re excited to sit down with Houston to discuss his journey thus far, the process of going public, and the future of Dropbox.

The show runs from September 5 to Septmeber 7, and for the next week, our super early bird tickets are still available.


By Jordan Crook

Dropbox up another 7% on day two

Dropbox’s surge on the stock market has continued, with the company going up another 7 percent on its second day on the stock market.

The company saw its shares close at $30.45, giving the company above a $13 billion market cap, fully diluted.

When it priced its IPO, there was a question as to whether Dropbox would surpass the $10 billion valuation it achieved in its last private round. It eliminated those concerns overnight.

The first few days have been a strong indicator of investor demand for the cloud storage company.

To recap, Dropbox initially hoped to price its IPO between $16 and $18, then raised it from $18 to $20. Then it ultimately priced its IPO at $21, closing the day above $28. And it still continues to go up.

Bankers price IPOs to “pop” or go up about 20 percent on the first day. The surge implies that Dropbox exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. It also means that Dropbox could have priced its shares higher and raised more money.

It priced shares at $21, raising $756 million. If Dropbox had priced shares at $24, it would have raised $864 million and new investors would have still seen big gains.

It was certainly a win for stock market investors, which like the company’s improving financials.

It brought in $1.1 billion in revenue in its most recent year. This is up from $845 million in revenue the year before and $604 million for 2015.

Yet while it’s been cash flow positive since 2016, it is not profitable. Dropbox lost nearly $112 million last year. But its margins are looking better when compared with losses of $210 million for 2016 and $326 million for 2015.

Monday was a good day on the stock market in general. The Dow surged 600 points, partly due to gains from tech stocks like Microsoft and Apple.

Co-founder and CEO Drew Houston is the largest shareholder, owning 25.3 percent of the company ahead of its IPO. Sequoia Capital owned 23.2 percent of Dropbox.

Although Dropbox is very different from Spotify, which intends to list next week, investors will view this favorable debut as a sign that the IPO window is “open,” meaning that there is strong demand for newly public tech companies.

Zuora, Pivotal and Smartsheet also unveiled IPO filings recently, suggesting that they will go public in April. And we broke the news that DocuSign’s IPO is coming up.

The last few years have been slow for tech IPOs, but experts are hoping that this year will be different. John Tuttle, global head of listings at the New York Stock Exchange,  says he expects “a strong year if market conditions hold constant.”

Dropbox up another 7% on day two

Dropbox’s surge on the stock market has continued, with the company going up another 7% on its second day on the stock market.

The company saw its shares close at $30.45, giving the company about a $13 billion market cap, fully diluted.

When it priced its IPO, there was a question as to whether Dropbox would surpass the $10 billion valuation it achieved in its last private round. It eliminated those concerns overnight.

The first few days have been a strong indicator of investor demand for the cloud storage company.

To recap, Dropbox initially hoped to price its IPO between $16 and $18, then raised it from $18 to $20. Then it ultimately priced its IPO at $21, closing the day above $28. And it still continues to go up.

Investors like Dropbox’s improving financials.

It brought in $1.1 billion in revenue in its most recent year. This is up from $845 million in revenue the year before and $604 million for 2015.

Yet while it’s been cash flow positive since 2016, it is not profitable. Dropbox lost nearly $112 million last year. But its margins are looking better when compared with losses of $210 million for 2016 and $326 million for 2015.

Although Dropbox is very different than Spotify which intends to list next week, investors will view this favorable debut as a sign that the IPO window is “open,” meaning that there is strong demand for newly public tech companies.

Dropbox prices above its original range at $21 as it heads toward an IPO

Dropbox today said it is pricing above the range it originally set ahead of its public listing tomorrow, handing the company a valuation inching ever-closer to its original $10 billion valuation.

Dropbox earlier this week said it would price its initial public offering in a range between $18 and $20 per share, settling on a valuation near $8 billion at the high end of the range (or closer to $8.75 billion, based on its fully-diluted share count). With the new pricing, Dropbox will be valuing itself at around $8.4 billion — or a hair above $9 billion based on its fully-diluted share count. That $18 to $20 range, too, was a step up from its original proposed range, which fell between $16 and $18. Dropbox will be raising more than $700 million in the IPO, in addition to existing shareholders selling more than 9 million shares as part of the process.

What all this means is that Dropbox initially tested the waters to gauge interest, and clearly there was a lot. Companies sometimes set conservative price ranges (though this isn’t always the case) and then revise upwards as they see how much interest there is in potential investors buying shares at that price. Dropbox will make its public debut tomorrow, and the usual process here aims to get as much value for the company as possible while still ensuring the so-called IPO “pop” — usually a jump of around 20%. We’ll probably get the formal price in the form of an SEC filing this evening as it gets ready to list tomorrow.

Should that be successful, Dropbox would fall above the valuation of its last financing round, which gave the company a $10 billion valuation amid a hype wave of consumer startups. Dropbox, one of the original pioneers of online storage, in recent years has found itself looking to slowly scoop up more and more enterprise customers as it tries to create a second lucrative line of business. The company deploys a classic playbook of attracting initial customers within teams and then growing up to the point it reaches the C-Suite of companies, though the reverse is certainly possible as Dropbox matures over time.

CNBC first reported the news.

Drew Houston on wooing Dropbox’s IPO investors: “We don’t fit neatly into any one mold”

Dropbox went public this morning to great fanfare, with the stock shooting up more than 40% in the initial moments of trading as the enterprise-slash-consumer company looked to convince investors that it could be a viable publicly-traded company.

And for one that Steve Jobs famously called a feature, and not a company, it certainly was an uphill battle to convince the world that it was worth even the $10 billion its last private financing round set. It’s now worth more than that, but that follows a long series of events, including an increased focus on enterprise customers and finding ways to make its business more efficient — like installing their own infrastructure. Dropbox CEO Drew Houston acknowledged a lot of this, as well as the fact that it’s going to continue to face the challenge of ensuring that its users and enterprises will trust Dropbox with some of their most sensitive files.

We spoke with Houston on the day of the IPO to talk a little bit about what it took to get here during the road show and even prior. Here’s a lightly-edited transcript of the conversation:

TC: In light of the problems that Facebook has had surrounding user data and user trust, how has that changed how you think about security and privacy as a priority?

DH: Our business is built on our customers’ trust. Whether we’re private or public, that’s super important to us. I think, to our customers, whether we’re private or public doesn’t change their view. I wouldn’t say that our philosophy changes as we get to bigger and bigger scale. As you can imagine we make big investments here. We have an awesome security team, our first cultural principle is be worthy of trust. This is existential for us.

TC: How’s the vibe now that longtime employees are going to have an opportunity to get rewarded for their work now that you’re a public company?

DH: I think everyone’s just really excited. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people. We’re really proud of the business we’ve built. I mean, building a great company or doing anything important takes time.

TC: Was there something that changed that convinced you to go public after more than a decade of going private, and how do you feel about the pop?

DH: We felt that we were ready. Our business was in great shape. We had a good balance of scale and profitability and growth. As a private company, there are a lot of reasons why it’s been easier to stay private for longer. We’re all proud of the business we’ve built. We see the numbers. We think we’re on to not just a great business, but pioneering a whole new model. We’re taking the best of our consumer roots, combining them with the best parts of software as a service, and it was really gratifying to see investors be excited about it and for the rest of the world to catch on.

TC: As you were on your road show, what were some of the big questions investors were asking?

DH: We don’t fit neatly into any one mold. We’re not a consumer company, and we’re not a traditional enterprise company. We’re basically taking that consumer internet playbook and applying it to business software, combining the virality and scale. Over the last couple years, as we’ve been building that engine, investors are starting to understand that we don’t fit into a traditional mold. The numbers speak to themselves, they can appreciate the unusual combination.

TC: What did you tell them to convince them?

DH: We’re just able to get adoption. Just the fact that we have hundreds of millions of users and we’ve found Dropbox is adopted in millions of companies [was enough evidence]. More than 300,000 of those users are Dropbox Business companies. We spend about half on sales of marketing as a percentage of revenue of a typical software as a service company. Efficiency and scale are the distinctive elements, and investors zero in on that. To be able to acquire customers at that scale and also really efficiently, that’s what makes us stand out. They’ve seen Atlassian be successful with self-serve products, but you can layer on top of that leveraging our freemium and viral elements and our focus on design and building great products.

TC: How do you think about deploying the capital you’ve picked up from the IPO?

DH: So, we’re public because they wanted us to be a public company. But our approach is still the same. First, it’s about getting the best talent in the building and making sure we build the best products, and if you do those things, make sure customers are happy, that’s what works.

TC: What about recruiting?

DH: It’s a big day for dropbox. We’re all really excited about it and hopefully a lot of other people are too.

TC: When you look at your customer acquisition ramp, what does that look like?

DH: I mean, we’ve been making a lot of progress in the past couple of years if you look at growth in subscribers. That will continue. We look at numbers, we have 11 million subscribers, 80% use dropbox for work. But at the same time, we look at the world, there’s 1 billion knowledge workers and growing. We’re not gonna run out of people who need Dropbox.

TC: What about convincing investors about the consumer part of the business? How did you do that?

DH: I think, when you explain that our consumer and cloud storage roots have really become a way for us to efficiently acquire business customers at scale, that helps them understand. Second, it’s easy to focus on how in the consumer realm that the business has been commoditized. There’s all this free space and all this competition. On the other hand, we’ve never lowered prices, we’ve never even given more free space, we know that what our customers really value is the sharing and collaboration, not just the storage. It’s been good to move investors beyond the 2010 understanding of our business.

TC: How did creating your own infrastructure play into your readiness to go public?

DH: When I say that today is the culmination of a lot of events, that’s a great example. We made a many-year investment to migrate off the public cloud. Certainly that was one of the more eye-popping investors watching our gross margins literally double over the last couple of years from burning cash to being cash flow positive. We’ll continue reaching larger and larger scale, and those investments will.

TC: Getting a new guitar any time soon?

DH: I probably should.