By Steve McCaskill
Dropbox says opening an office in London will allow it to better serve its customers in the U.K. and tap into the development community located in the capital.
Former Google executive Mark van der Linden will head up the U.K. team, which the company says is "small", but capable of tapping into demand in the U.K., which is apparently adopting cloud and mobile technologies much faster than the rest of the world.
Dropbox claims a quarter of all U.K. web users have a Dropbox account and given that it predicts five million U.K. firms will be using at least one cloud service by next year, it is confident of capitalizing on this trend.
"The UK is a very, very exciting market for us," said van der Linden, who was previously Google's Enterprise manager in the U.K. "We see good momentum here and we want to get closer to our customers and new customers."
International expansion is a priority for Dropbox, which also has teams in Dublin, Herzliya, Tokyo and Sydney. It hopes to get close to developers in London, which van der Linden calls an "application hub" and this weekend held its first "hackathon" to see what app creators could come up with using the platform.
"In 2014, we fundamentally changed how Dropbox was built to accommodate business and personal use cases," said Ilya Fushman, head of product for business and mobile at Dropbox, noting the debut of the Dropbox for Business API, Microsoft Office integration and a number of new features.
He said 2015 would be about making Dropbox for Business "the best place to get work done" and to ensure that large organizations would be able to use it. Planned new features include the 'Dropbox Badge', which makes it easier to view and review Office file edits as well as Dropbox Groups, which lets users share folders with multiple people instantly.
This will be released as an API so companies can use existing directory infrastructure.
Dropbox may eventually create suites of tools for vertical industries, but right now it says it is focusing on creating a "horizontal" product that third parties can build on top of.
Fushman is satisfied with the reception to the new API and says the next wave of firms wanting to work with it include mobile device management providers such as AirWave and MobileIron—a feature that larger customers might want.
"As a class of interesting new applications that's going to come up, that’s going to be one," he said. "In general, the beauty of an API is that you never know what people are going to build."
Dropbox plans to invest in its international performance as it continues to push outside the U.S., but the company has attracted criticism, most notably from the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, for a perceived lack of privacy. Van der Linden was asked how he felt about David Cameron's recent calls for the authorities to be able to decrypt communications.
"I think it's early. There's no legislation to study concretely to say 'we endorse that' or not," he said. "In general, privacy and security is one of our top concerns. It's the trust that people have in Dropbox. They're storing their most important documents in Dropbox. Having said that, Dropbox is not a place for illegal activity. Specifically we can’t comment right now on the Cameron proposal because we don’t know what it will concretely mean. In general, we follow the law, we follow the rules."