Dropbox Acquires a Search Vendor

Last week Dropbox to little fanfare announced that they had acquired San Francisco-based desktop search firm Command E. Though they did not disclose the financial details of the deal, Command E closed a round of seed funding in just May 2020, bringing their funding to $4.3m. So it’s another small tuck-in by Dropbox but maybe not an insignificant one. Moreover, not a surprising one as Dropbox has made 27 acquisitions by our counting to date. Most except for HelloSign and DocSend, smaller startups bringing a small new team with some relevant IP under the Dropbox banner.

What is important to note here is the Command E is not an enterprise search technology vendor in the mold of Sinequa or Coveo. Instead, it is a desktop search technology vendor that searches files on and in your desktop apps. That’s something of a standard feature on any Microsoft or Apple laptop, but what Command E claims to do is to add context and relevance to your search query. Spotlight on a Mac, for example, provides good traditional search and will pretty much find anything on your laptop you ask it. But you have to be specific, and it will not know of the relationship between the item you are searching for and other related items. So we can see Command E more as an added feature to the Dropbox platform rather than something that will replace the existing Search functionality within Dropbox.

Even so, this ability to add contextualization to work-related information is hot right now. It’s at the core of the resurgence of interest and automation of Knowledge Management. It is a founding principle of the gradual move to push relevant information to users rather than demanding they go and pull data. 

Companies like Dropbox, Salesforce & Box have massive volumes of data under their control. Still, their focus to date has not been on analyzing and doing something interesting with that data; instead, it has been on storing it and making it accessible. That is starting to change, and announcements like this acquisition are signs of that shift in perspective. The move to home working has meant installing and using many more work applications, from GitHub to Google Docs and Slack. Command E provides you with one place to search across all your apps, and as a feature function, it’s an interesting and valuable one. Time will tell where Dropbox takes this, but we would be surprised if Command E isn’t just built-in and provided as a standard component of the Dropbox subscription service within the next year.

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