With cloud computing increasingly becoming more common, so is file sharing.

As the name suggests, Minus aims to strip away all the unnecessary things away from file sharing to make it an extremely simple and quick experience that people just get straight away.

I interviewed the young co-founder of Minus, John Xie to get insight into the story and idea behind the start-up.

John’s Background

The Shanghai-born entrepreneur, now based in Boston, is only 21 years old and is currently waiting for graduation for his degree in Entrepreneurship from Babson College.

John says “he has been an entrepreneur for all his entire teenage life”. Just last year, he was named as a Finalist of Business Week’s ‘America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs – Top 25 Under 25’, for founding Cirtex, a web hosting business at just 13 years old.  Cirtex now has more than 10,000 customers and employees 25 people and has about US$2 million in revenue this year.

Adding Min.us

In between skipping classes and managing Cirtex, John has managed to create another cool start-up called Minus, a cloud based file sharing service. It started when John met his business partner, Carl Hu at an entrepreneur meet-up in September 2010. Carl was a Director of Technology at Progress and formerly worked at Microsoft.The pair hit it off and knew they wanted to work together. After bouncing ideas, they set out on the path of creating ‘the simplest possible sharing service’. The first prototype of just photo-sharing was launched in October in 2010.

After being discovered by a small community on Reddit, Hacker News and TechCrunch, Minus quickly created buzz and it “took of sooner than expected.” People then started asking how to get involved or invest.

Until only a few months ago, Minus was bootstrapped but after feeling the pressure they took a private angel investment of US$200k

Minus is a simple, social way of sharing stuff

Minus makes sharing pictures, documents, music, videos and files simple, instant, and free. Minus lets you drag files from your desktop and folders directly to your browser to start sharing or via our desktop and mobile apps. The web version is live as well as the Android mobile app and Android Honeycomb tablet app with the iOS and Windows Phone 7 version in the works. The aim was to create the best experience and workflow that allows users to start using it within minutes. It is built on Amazon’s cloud servers and works extremely quickly.

Unlike Dropbox, which is file syncing service that allows you to save a file on the cloud and access it anywhere online, Minus is more lightweight in the sense it doesn’t back up files or allow file uploads more than 50Mb. With Minus, you don’t have to install any software of even sign-up and it’s more social. You can follow what other people are sharing or keep your sharing private.

How it works

It’s surprisingly simple! When I looked at it, I was expecting to see more steps or things to fill in.

To use it, you simply drag and drop a file from your computer and it turns it into different types of URL short-links. One type is for viewing the file and the second one allows you to edit the file. You can also download files as a zip file.

The closest thing to Minus was a service called Drop.io, which was later acquired by Facebook then shut down.

Who’s using it?

Officially launched in November 2010, Minus has over 300,000 active users and served over a billion page views and over a million uploads. John says “People come back because it’s so easy to share.”

Currently, early tech adopters are using it but it includes teachers, professors, students and musicians sharing all types of files to make their life easier. John says the “goal is to make it so anyone can use Minus, even people who have never shared”. To keep iterating, John believes it is important to be humble and listen to user feedback.

One user said “Excellent design! Minimalistic, Simple, Easy to use and attractive. Congratulations … I hope they continue making improvements and not spoil it!”

A global vision

Although the business model is not yet clear and they are not charging users, Minus wants to “revolutionize how people share across platform”.

Since John is ethnically Chinese and hears of the buzz around Chinese start-ups, he eventually wants to capture more Chinese users and target the growing market.

By focusing on simple and quick, Minus definitely offers everyone a way to share.

Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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