Speaking Of Dropbox, Here’s My No. 1 Phone Prank

Everything’s candy and roses for Dropbox today as the company simultaneously breaks out the expensive champagne and whispers “no comment” to anyone asking about the news. No matter, though, I’m right here cheering them on, too. That’s just how I roll. High fives, all alone, but there in spirit.

Anyhow, all this reminiscing about the young days of Dropbox and I kept coming back to this one story. It happened about a year ago, at the Lobby Conference in Hawaii put on by August Capital. I’ve attended the conference each year and it’s a blast. But there’s one big rule – everything is off record – and if I break that rule I’ll get banned from the event. So I spend the weekend somewhat under utilized. I still collect information quietly but don’t say a word until I get back to the real world, and even then I’m hazy on whether or not my sources were drunk on Mai Tais at the time of disclosure. This is all true – just look back at the big stories I’ve broken in the week that follows the Lobby conference each year.

Anyway, back to Dropbox CEO Drew Houston. A bunch of us are out at dinner. I’m sitting between Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson having their first heart to heart after Jay resigned as CEO of Digg. Kevin ate most of the sushi before it got down to me, and Jay drank all the alcohol before it made its way to me. So I was sitting there hungry and thirsty and listening to some of the best content I’ve heard in a long while and I was thinking if a permanent ban from the conference was worth it if I could just sneakily pull out my video camera and get a clip of Jay telling Kevin what he could go do to himself.

It was so tempting that I walked down to the other end of the table to see what was going on down there. Drew Houston had just gotten up to talk to someone, but he left his iPhone sitting on the table behind him. As a blogger that phone is a goldmine. I could grab it and start reading emails and probably gets ten great stories out of it before he could pry it out of my hands.

But overt physical/criminal acts to get information are frowned upon in our industry. So instead I just did what anyone would do. I opened his phone (no password!), calmly set a random password, and put the phone back down and went back to referee the Rose/Adelson “discussion.”

Houston sits down, checks his phone like everyone does. Looks confused because he can’t get past this new password I’ve added. He has that look of panic that says “oh my God I can’t access my own phone, all those emails and voice messages and Twitter replies, etc., until whoever did this undoes it.” He looks straight at me. I look down, not anywhere near him, and he still yells “Arrington you did this! Fix it!”

I have no idea why he just assumed it was me right from the start, but I was offended. So I used the Eddie Murphy It Wasn’t Me defense and denied everything. Luckily someone else jumped in and told him what the password was, leaving Drew in a better mood and me feeling utterly betrayed by my meal mates.

People now know that I do this a lot. Senior execs at AOL are a particularly fun group to add passwords to their phones. And people try to do it back. But one thing I have on my phone is a super awesome passcode, so I’m as safe as can be. Figure out your own trick, suckers.

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