It wasn't quite like Apple buying NeXT computer to get Steve Jobs to come back to the company, but Dropbox said it will buy Cove, a Silicon Valley collaboration startup, in part for the strong leadership it can bring to the cloud-based data storage company. The move brings two former Facebook icons, Aditya Agarwal and Ruchi Sanghvi (director of engineering and principal product manager respectively), to join the Dropbox management team.

“The team at Cove represents some of the best talent in the Valley and we look forward to the technology, skills and perspective they will bring to Dropbox,” said CEO and co-founder Drew Houston.

First Acquisition for Dropbox 

The move is the first acquisition for Dropbox, now flush with cash from a US$ 250 Million series B funding round that took place last October. At that time, the company claimed 45 million members using the cloud-based storage service and customers saving one billion files every three days.

While the Cove development team was in "stealth mode," Dropbox did indicate that its "...product vision for Cove and Dropbox is very much aligned and the infrastructure we’ve built at Cove can be utilized at Dropbox,” according to Dropbox's new employee, Agarwal.

There's not much known about the terms of the deal, let alone just how the new talent and Cove IP (if any) can help Dropbox move to the next level. Perhaps clues to the direction the company may be taking can be discerned from their bios shown here from the dsdb Blog:  

Aditya was director of engineering at Facebook, where he helped oversee the engineering team, new product design and architecture for core products like Search, News Feed, Photos and Profile.  An early Facebook engineer, he also co-authored the popular open-source RPC framework Thrift.  Prior to Facebook, he worked on self-healing databases at Oracle.  Aditya holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University. 

Ruchi was the first female engineer at Facebook and was instrumental in implementing the first versions of key features such as News Feed.  She then led product management and strategy for Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect.  She was also responsible for core product areas such as user engagement.  Ruchi holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University."

Most Innovative 

Dropbox recently made the coveted Fast Company list of "The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies" ranking number 22 just behind Siemens AG, in a list where the top one, two and three, are Apple, Facebook and Google, with Amazon, Square and Twitter rounding out the top six slots. 

This is a feat for a company once characterized by Steve Jobs as "a feature not a company," in what some called sour grapes from Jobs, whose earlier attempts at cloud backup (MobileMe et al.) was less than a stellar success. And even though founder Drew Houston refused the invitation, a ticket to Apple, from Johnny Appleseed himself, is not only uncommon, it portends of having something that resonated with the world-class visionary. 

So -- simple utility whose time has come, or game-changing technology that provides an elegant cross-platform solution to data access in a world of walled gardens and content silos, Dropbox, the humble mobile app, or desktop TSR (terminate-stay resident) utility, is on the move and only time will tell if Houston's bet on his company (and his dream) was the "smart" move. But as Jobs elegantly said, "you have to trust in something, ...because believing that the dots will somehow connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference."