Dropbox “Paper” and the idea of growth

Here we go again. A software company tries to be something they are just not meant to be. Dropbox is now trying to be some sort of collaboration tool, I suppose very much Slack-like.

The name itself is absolutely boring, as this is probably the fourth “Paper” name in the digital space, but that’s beside the point. The main issue I have is — why on Earth would Dropbox now try to be communication/collaboration tool? They tried to be picture manager (remember Carousel?) and that failed spectacularly. Twitter is desperately trying to be a media company, yet they are just a service for exchanging and broadcasting classroom-style small pieces of paper with a message. As someone said it very eloquently:

Twitter is a string between two telephones, yet they are trying to be the message itself.

Facebook also had a “Paper”, I cannot even remember what it did … something like Flipboard newspapers, or something? Yeah it was so successful I don’t even remember what it did anymore.

See, the reality of situation is that people associate a company with what they do best, and that is most of the time what they did first. Yes, sometimes companies do have a nice pivot, and then people forget what the original idea was, and just go with the flow of the new idea. But that is a pivot. And we are here discussing, yet again, about a new product inside a single company, a whole another vertical.

And for most people Dropbox is for file storage and sync. That’s it. Any attempt to become something else, something more, is doomed to fail, as people do not think — Dropbox — when they think collaboration. There is a ton of available tools which do exactly that.

But there is, in my opinion, a deeper issue here, the root of this madness — this idiotic idea that a company needs to have certain revenue growth year over year, on a planet that has basically a fixed amount of resources (or at least the resource replenish rate is slower than growth “required”)

Thus they need to expand. And if they cannot expand in the primary sector due to their main product being commoditized to hell and back, they try spinoffs.

But here is an alternative, mind blowing, idea.

Mind blown.

Simply don’t do that at all! Or if you absolutely must build another product, create another company for it and move most of the people there. Leave only core people in Dropbox so it keeps working at a steady pace. Probably something like 2 staff members can handle Dropbox and fly it on autopilot, plus 2 more to make incremental improvements. And others can simply pursue another idea and start building other products.

On the sane side of the spectrum is, for example, company called Cultured Code and they build one of the best to-do apps. I have been using their Things since forever. And that’s all they do. They do Things. On their Status Board you can track the progress, and there is a new version of Things in the works. They are not spinning into collaboration platform, or storage, or video streaming or whatever. They have their focus, Things pays for their salaries & expenses, and this is enough for them.

Things, iOS

And you can find a bunch of these companies who simply can make a good living out of a single product they make, without diluting their focus with nonsense. Tapbots had a bunch of little apps, and a few years ago they zeroed in only into Tweetbot, and are killing it with just a single (multi platform) app. Bohemian Coding used to have a few apps, but now do only Sketch for Mac.

So it is obvious this method of conducting business works.

And yes, there are exceptions, like Amazon. They used to be book store, then they expanded a little bit and now they have all sorts of services. Amazon Web Services, storage, and a bunch of other things. But that is Amazon, not everyone can pull this off.

Dropbox, we need you to keep our files in sync. Be the best at that. Don’t lose focus with random ideas for random software.

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