Billion dollar features

2021-01-22 2 min read

    There’s an old story of Steve Jobs meeting Drew Houston in order to acquire Dropbox but after being refused calling Dropbox a feature. Dropbox kept innovating, building a great product, went public and is currently a $9 billion company. Clearly Dropbox proved Steve Jobs wrong. But did it really? Dropbox recently announced a round of layoffs and their stock has dropped 20% since they went public. Even on a personal note I plan on moving my files from Dropbox to Google Drive.

    Dropbox stock price

    Slack is a similar story. After a successful IPO Slack has been struggling to maintain its price and has steadily dropped until the Salesforce acquisition sent the price back up.

    Slack stock price

    It feels ridiculous to call these multi-billion dollar companies failures and yet both struggled against larger companies that treated these as features as part of a larger product set. And sure it took Google and Microsoft years to catch up but they got to the point where their offering was good enough to compete against Dropbox and Slack and then simply benefited from bundling and switching costs.

    It’s just amazing that given the size of the market it’s possible to build multi-billion dollar features. The distinction between product and feature doesn’t actually matter - you can build massive companies around both. But to turn your billion-dollar feature into a product you need to build enough additional features before the trillion dollar companies copy yours.