How one CEO went from rejecting an offer from Steve Jobs to an $11 billion IPO

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston famously turned down Steve Jobs when Jobs offered to acquire the company. After the rejection, Jobs not-so-subtly implied that he’d have to put Dropbox out of business instead. The following is a transcript of the video.

Steve Kovach: You have this interesting legend of the time you were summoned to Apple by Steve Jobs. You know what I’m going to ask you. What happened? And then how does that relate to where you’re at today?

Drew Houston: Well I, we had — Steve had heard about Dropbox and we arrived at 1 Infinite Loop, and he started by telling us that we — we started the meeting and he’s like, “You’ve built a great product.” And so you can imagine, kind of bucket list, okay, check that off.

Kovach: Steve Jobs said, “I love it.”

Houston: And then it was actually, we were interested in building the company and we weren’t looking to sell, so the formal part of the conversation was pretty quick. It’s been a wild ride, for sure.

Kovach: Right, so the legend goes he said, not so subtly, well we’re just gonna have to crush you guys and put you out of business. And 10 or so years later you’re here. How does that feel to you? Do you feel vindicated by that at all?

Houston: It feels great. I mean we’re really proud of the business that we’ve built and I’m just really proud of the team. It’s sort of the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people. Just feeling really excited and really grateful.

Kovach: You’re here now. Speaking of Apple, though, and these other giants, this industry is dominated by four or five big players and it seems like everyone else is kind of fighting over whatever is left. How do you compete in that environment where there’s so much power influence in just a handful of players? How do you stay afloat?

Houston: Well we stay close to our customers and when I sit in round tables with customers they show me their phones. And they’ve got products from everyone, right? They have Dropbox, they’ve got all the Google products, they’ve got all the Microsoft products. And they turn to us and they’re like, “Hey, can someone build a cloud to sync my clouds?” And so we provide a real, that’s our strength, that we help tie everything together and we’ve found that while there’s overlap with the larger companies, folks like Microsoft and Google have become partners over the years.

Kovach: What does that partnership look like when you partner with an Apple or you partner with a Google, what does that look like to me, as a user?

Houston: Well when you open an Office document in Dropbox you can then open it in the native apps on the phone and vice versa, and then Dropbox is a place where you can put all of your information. We certainly want — we share a lot of users between Dropbox and any major product and so those integrations are really valuable and we want to make sure that our shared experience is good.

Kovach: Going into today, your IPO day, there was a little bit of worry about your valuation, how it seemed like you might be IPOing at a price under the valuation you were at a few years ago which is reportedly $10 billion. Today how do you feel now that, I think it was up, the stock was up some 40 odd percent, approximately up to $12 billion valuation. How does that feel?

Houston: Again we’re really proud of the business we’ve built and one thing I tell the team is get used to the stock going up and down. This will be a normal, everyday occurrence and so whatever the price is today it’ll be something different tomorrow. That’s outside of our control so what I really make sure that the team stays focused on is that our customers don’t really care if we’re public or private. They just want a great experience and they’re the ones at the foundation of the business we’re building so we need to stay focused on keeping our customers happy and building the best products.

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