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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.

I stopped at Staples on the way home to pick up some card stock. Clearly, the most important order of business was to Photoshop a logo and print out some business cards that said "Founder" on them. The next order of business was to hand them out at conferences, and tell girls, "Why yes, I do have a company." It was awesome.

But the best part was learning all kinds of new things. I lived in my fraternity house every summer, and up on the fifth floor there's a ladder that goes up to the roof. I had this green nylon folding chair that I'd drag up there along with armfuls of business books I bought off Amazon and I'd spend every weekend reading about marketing, sales, management and all these other things I knew nothing about. I wasn't planning to get my MBA on the roof of Phi Delta Theta, but that's what happened.

A couple years later, things started going downhill. I felt like I had to paddle harder and harder to make progress, and at some point I just snapped and couldn't deal with any more math questions about parallel lines or the train leaving Memphis at 3:45. I figured something was wrong with me. I felt guilty for being so unproductive. Starting a company had been my dream, and, well, maybe I didn't have what it takes after all.

So I took a little break. Of course, if you're in course 6, sometimes "taking a break" means writing a poker bot. For those of you who don't know what a poker bot is, what happens when you play poker online is first, you sit for hours and click buttons, and then you lose all your money. A poker bot means you can have your computer lose all your money for you.

But it was a fascinating challenge. I was possessed. I would think about it in the shower. I would think about it in the middle of the night. It was like a switch went on -- suddenly I was a machine.

In the middle of all this, my mom and dad wanted all of us to come up to New Hampshire to spend a family weekend together. But I really wanted to keep working on my poker bot. So I pull up in my Accord and open the trunk, and next I'm dragging all my computer stuff and all these wires into our little cottage. The dining room table wasn't big enough so I started moving all the pots and pans off the stove to make room for all my monitors. This time it was my mom who thought something was wrong with me. She was convinced I was going to jail.

 

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