Dreamforce 2013: Dropbox CEO Drew Houston talks about making an enemy out of Steve Jobs

Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference kicked off yesterday, with nearly 120,000 people attending the event in San Francisco.

Part of the event focuses on success stories from entrepreneurs and small business owners, and yesterday afternoon, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff hosted a ‘fireside chat’ with Dropbox CEO Drew Houston.

Benioff and Houston traded startup stories, especially on the challenges of creating a new product and repeatedly modifying it. “The problem we are solving is really hard. It took us many years to be able to build the product” said Houston.  “You only discover these problems and how to solve them as you get more and more data on how people use it.”

Perhaps the juiciest part of the conversation was Houston revealing how the young founders of Dropbox ran into the force of nature that was Steve Jobs. Apple’s iconic CEO had made an offer to buy Dropbox in 2009, but it was rejected, provoking Job’s notoriously competitive streak.

“He was very gracious about respecting the fact that we wanted to build this company, but he gave us a little bit of a hard time,” said Houston. “Six months later we find ourselves watching one of his keynotes,  he called us out by name saying he wants to kill us with iCloud.”

For Houston, there were many lessons to be learned from the experience. “It was a good wake up call for the company to get everyone to rally around that,” he said. “We saw both sides of that coin.”

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