Out of the Box with CEO Aaron Levie

With all of the recent focus on cloud computing, we spent a little quality time with Aaron Levie, co-founder and chief executive of enterprise-focused cloud storage provider Box, which has has had its head in the clouds for the last seven years.

When Box began, “there was no competition,” Levie said. The Internet was in a lull period, he said. With an investment from Mark Cuban, Box was born as a way for companies of various sizes to be able to have the infrastructure and technical support even when they don’t have a deep IT strategy.

Levie said that from the start he has been trying to convince people that the cloud is the future.


Today Box has about 11 million users, and the company has raised about $160 million in funding. This once-barren land of opportunity has drawn behemoths like Microsoft and Google into the cloud space.

“We’re excited that the cloud space has the level of attention of coupons and check-ins,” Levie said. “I haven’t seen so many people talking about cloud storage in my life,” he said, noting that the advent of Google Drive “amplified” the interest and focus.

“The space is going through such an amazing innovation period,” he said, drawing parallels to Facebook. In its inception, the social network was mostly interested in just getting people connected.

“The storage industry will go through something very similar,” Levie said, noting that the next evolution will be people wanting to do “interesting stuff” with their data.

Among the new features Box has recently added or tweaked are Comment Mentions, which lets you use the familiar "@" symbol to quickly notify other collaborators directly within a file comment, and Box Edit, which lets you open and edit your data from Box then save it again to the cloud.

In the near future, the company plans to expand into five to eight new global markets, with a physical presence in Europe planeed for later this year. Also, 95% of the company’s 425 employees are on the West Coast. Levie said Box plans to plant a flag on the East Coast as well.

These days, his company’s growth is mostly driven by mobility, and tablets are one of the driving forces in that, he said. “We believe in the future you will be able to pull up any device anywhere in the world,” and the tablet, essentially about accessing your data on the go, is key to that.

“What Steve Jobs unknowingly did [with the iPad] was release these devices into organizations that would disrupt” how we do business. It fundamentally needed a different set of IT systems to access data.

Box is attempting to do the same for business, by bringing them into the cloud.

Right now, Levie said about 82% of Fortune 500 companies, including, for example, Procter & Gamble, are using Box, and the company is aiming for 100% penetration. “We’re trying to bring this concept of a post-PC world ... to every enterprise,” he said.


Who needs cloud computing?Who owns your stuff in the cloud?

Cloud storage providers weigh in on Google Drive

Follow Michelle Maltais on Google+, Facebook or Twitter