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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

December 3, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Dropbox dropping into Seattle, joining cloud crowd

Dropbox — one of San Francisco’s best-funded and highest profile startups — is opening up an engineering office in Seattle.

The company quietly moved a few engineers to the city a few weeks ago and is now looking for an office to house what could become a “significant” outpost, according to Aditya Agarwal, vice president of engineering.

“This is not a ‘dip your toes into cold water’ type of experiment,” he said during a visit to Seattle today. “We are absolutely, long-term committed to having a significant engineering presence here.”


Argawal image provided by Dropbox.

Agarwal image provided by Dropbox.

Dropbox raised $350 million from investors, then reportedly secured a $500 million line of credit  to continue its growth into one of the major cloud-service companies. The company is using the ridiculous amount of funding to expand overseas, where 70 percent of its users are, and it seems to be positioned for a public offering or a huge merger.

Dropbox provides an online storage service used by more than 300 million people and 4 million businesses. The longer-term plan is to use this storage system as the foundation of a sort of online operating system, powering online applications and services for consumers and business users.

In coming to Seattle, Dropbox is setting up shop alongside key competitors offering online storage services. Pretty much all of them are either based in the area or have a significant presence. They include, Microsoft, Google and Apple, plus archrival Box — which was started by Mercer Island High School graduates Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith .

Dropbox also has an ally in Seattle, former Microsoft manager Hadi Partovi, who was an early investor. Partovi is advising the startup and assisting with its Seattle move, according to Agarwal.

Partovi played a similar role at Facebook, helping it establish a Seattle office in 2010. It now employs hundreds and is reportedly looking for more space in the city.

“I’ve pressed Dropbox to open a Seattle office for years, because we have such a wealth of tech talent in this city,” Partovi said via email. “As soon as it opens, the Dropbox office will be Seattle’s hottest pre-IPO startup, just like Facebook was when we welcomed their new office to Seattle in 2010.”

Since then competition for talent has increased dramatically as all sorts of companies have opened engineering offices here in recent years, not to mention the growth at local companies and startups.

Agarwal said the big draw at Dropbox is the potential of reaching the billions of people who are expected to use online storage services in the coming years.

The possibility of a big IPO will also help with recruiting but Agarwal wouldn’t say much about it, insisting that an IPO is not top of mind.

“The way I think of it is we seem to be set up pretty well for growing over the next one or two years, and so far that’s what we are focused on — the growth,” he said. “If it turns out we need to help grow even faster, then we would consider some of that.”






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