The analysts don’t get Dropbox, now raising $250M on an $8B valuation

Ashlee Vance is reporting that Dropbox looking to raise $250 million on an $8 billion valuation, trying to fuel its new push into the enterprise. This is a turn that will require deep pockets to feed an enterprise sales team and build out the office and productivity products the company is hinting at (see Dropbox for Business is only the start: next, work management and office appsDropbox hires Ross Piper from Salesforce to speed enterprise adoption, and Dropbox acquires Mailbox).

According to here sources, Dropbox just passed 200 million users, which 10 times as many as in 2010, and revenues are now in the hundreds of millions.

But the analysts don’t see what is going on, right in front of their eyes.

I am reminded of the Jim Dators saying, that any useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous, so here’s a useful observation about the near future.

The media seem to think Dropbox is a just about file sync-and-share. Now, first, let me qualify that file sync-and-share is the distributed core of today’s new computing model, which is intrinsically social. A distributed, sharable, bottom up, virtual file system that solves the glaring errors of the dominant operating systems today: OS X, iOS, Android, and Windows. None of those OSs have a built-in distributed file system, and if they did, they would probably be non-interoperable. All of those OSs are still based on a model of computing where the web is mostly an afterthought, principally accessed through the browser, and accessing information on other machines still requires specialized apps.

Dropbox, Box, Hightail, Intralinks, and other file sync-and-share apps are making the inroads they have — running on billions of computers, now — because of this core flaw in our OSs, but I have yet to see one of the mainstream media consider that.

And Dropbox is now barreling ahead with building that virtual distributed OS layer — missing on all the platforms it supports — and now will be building a family of applications that play well in that world. They’ve acquired Mailbox, and have so far been content with just iOS versions of that. Recent interviews have suggested that the company is not only planning to sell fine-sync-and-share to the enterprise, but is moving ahead with other enterprise applications, like productivity (Office) tools. This will bring it in competition with Google, Apple, and Microsoft, with their office-in-the-cloud offerings.

Dropbox is likely to be the small player that comes from left field, growing like a 21st century South Pacific typhoon and smashing the old school pre-mobile enterprise computing market to bits. They may not be the only one too. Established players like Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, and IBM’s social tools suite may find themselves challenged and then overturned by new, smaller players like Dropbox that reject the conventions of project- and group-based collaboration tools, and instead model themselves after lightweight chat tools or task management apps based on flat and agile business principles.

No matter what else, Dropbox’s rapid ascent once again has shown that the established player can be blindsided — despite having all the apparent advantages — by agile outsiders that find a way to dramatically take the friction out of the current way of doing things with an easy-to-use and inexpensive alternative.

Dropbox is becoming the Amazon of the enterprise software world, and today’s market leaders may soon look like Barnes & Noble or Borders.

Relevant Analyst
Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst, future of work Gigaom Research and stoweboyd.com

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