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Dropbox CEO Drew Houston's 2013 MIT commencement address transcript

Network World Staff | June 10, 2013
Below is the prepared text of the commencement address by Drew Houston '05, the CEO of Dropbox, for MIT's 147th commencement held June 7, 2013.

Below is the prepared text of the commencement address by Drew Houston '05, the CEO of Dropbox, for MIT's 147th commencement held June 7, 2013.

Thank you Chairman Reed, and congratulations to all of you in the Class of 2013.

I'm so happy to be back at MIT, and it's an honor to be here with you today. I still wear my Brass Rat, and turning this ring around on graduation day is still one of the proudest moments of my life.

There are a lot of reasons why this is a special day, but the reason I'm so excited for all of you is that today is the first day of your life where you no longer need to check boxes.

For your first couple decades, success in life has meant jumping through one hoop after another: get these test scores, get into this college. Take these classes, get this degree. Get into this prestigious institution so you can get into the next prestigious institution. All of that ends today.

The hard thing about planning your life is you have no idea where you're going, but you want to get there as soon as possible. Maybe you'll start a company, or cure cancer, or write the great American novel. Or who knows? Maybe things will go horribly wrong. I had no idea.

Being up here in robes and speaking to all of you today wasn't exactly part of my plan seven years ago. In fact, I've never really had a grand plan -- and what I realize now is that it's probably impossible to have one after graduation, if ever.

I've thought a lot about what's different about the life you're beginning today. I've thought about what I would do if I had to start all over again. What got you here was basically being smart and working hard. But nobody tells you that after today, the recipe for success changes. So what I want to do is give you a little cheat sheet, the one I would have loved to have had on my graduation day.

If you were to look at my cheat sheet, there wouldn't be a lot on it. There would be a tennis ball, a circle and the number 30,000. I know this doesn't make any sense right now, but bear with me.

I started my first company in a Chili's when I was 21. My co-founder, Andrew Crick, and I had never done this before. We were wondering if you needed to wear a suit to City Hall, or if you needed to make a company seal for stamping important documents. It turns out you can just go online and fill out a form and be done in about two minutes. It was a little anti-climactic, but we were in business. Over onion strings we decided that our company was going to make a new kind of online course for the SAT. Most kids back then were still using these old-school 800-page books, and the other online prep courses weren't very good. We called it Accolade, an SAT vocab word meaning an award of distinction. Well, actually, we called it "The Accolade Group LLC," which we thought sounded a lot more impressive.

 

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