Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Q&A: Dropbox Nabs Early Facebook Engineers With Cove Acquisition

The cloud file syncing and sharing company Dropbox today said it had bought its first company, Cove, maker of a yet-to-be-publicly-released collaboration product. As far as so-called “talent acquisitions” go, this one lives up to the label more than most.

Joining Dropbox are three former Facebook engineering executives, including the married team of Aditya Agarwal and Ruchi Sanghvi, who were among Facebook’s earliest hires in 2005 and played significant roles there through 2010.

Agarwal was a Facebook engineering director responsible for products such as search and news feed, and a co-author of the open-source framework Thrift. Sanghvi was Facebook’s first female engineer and led product management for Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect, among many projects. The two joined Facebook as a couple in 2005.

Also on the Cove team, and joining Dropbox, are Akhil Wable, who was formerly an engineering manager at Facebook, and designer Joshua Jenkins.

Cove, which was founded less than a year ago, had raised $2.1 million from investors including Ron Conway, Peter Thiel, Adam D’Angelo, Dustin Moskovitz, the Kraft family, Chamath Palihapitiya, Ram Shriram and David Rosenblatt, Sanghvi disclosed today.

Dropbox, meanwhile, just raised $250 million.

Sanghvi will be reporting to Dropbox CEO Drew Houston in an operational role focusing on recruiting and growth, while Agarwal will direct Dropbox’s engineering team, Houston said. (Agarwal will not be CTO, as had been reported elsewhere.)

Here’s what Sanghvi and Houston had to say this morning about the deal:

Liz Gannes: Ruchi, what exactly did Cove do? Did you have existing customers, and what will happen to them?

Ruchi Sanghvi: We did do an alpha launch. We have a few thousand alpha users. We will support them until they’re ready to move to another platform, at least another six to nine months. Cove is essentially a collaboration, coordination and communication tool for the administration of organizations and communities, from the Stanford Graduate School of Business Entrepreneurship Club, to church groups and schools.

Could you compare it to Yahoo Groups?

Sanghvi: No, not really. Yahoo Groups was developed in the ’90s. This has some similar elements to it, like the combined mailing list, and the group element, and a lot of coordination and calendaring and events tools.

Drew, how did you find out these guys were available, and what will they do for your team?

Drew Houston: We’ve been longtime friends and admirers of Ruchi and Aditya’s work. Aditya has advised the company formally since early last year, and we’ve all known each other socially for a while. We started talking about this a few months ago.

Ruchi, how would you describe the Dropbox opportunity as compared to what you experienced at Facebook?

Sanghvi: We were obviously really impressed with Drew and [Dropbox co-founder] Arash [Ferdowsi]. The team was unbelievable, and Dropbox was a really easy, simple-to-use product. Both Aditya and I believe this is the technology company we want to be working at now, and it has the potential to be the next big technology company.

What made you want to work for someone else as compared to doing your own start-up?

Sanghvi: Everything that I said before. It’s a combination of people, product and potential that very rarely comes along. They have already done so much with a small team, and there’s lots of potential and scaling that needs to be done, and we thought we could really help them in this space.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus