At just 25, Aaron Levie is a youthful CEO. His company, Box.net , is a cloud-based storage and collaboration solution. He originally conceived and developed Box in his dorm room with a friend when he was just 19 years old because he was simply looking for a way to solve a problem of sharing files online. He has grown the company from a pure online storage play to an enterprise collaboration environment and has set his sites on content management. He's not there yet, but he's an unabashed cloud computing advocate and I asked him 5 questions about his business.
DW: You started Box.net in your dorm room and have built a successful company. Are you surprised by how well you've done so quickly?
AL: I'm very excited to see the success of our product and the continued penetration of our service in larger and larger businesses. Organizations from SMBs to Fortune 100 companies are adopting Box, and they're using our platforms in increasingly interesting and sophisticated ways. This momentum is incredibly inspiring. And I think we're well positioned for future growth: IT departments across businesses of all sizes are rethinking their legacy software deployments, and considering cloud-based services as low cost, user-friendly alternatives. Box is in the right market at the right time, and we're investing heavily in our platform and partnerships to make sure we deliver the best product possible.
DW: What do you say to people who claim they would never put their business data in the cloud?
AL: Fortunately, we're finding that there are fewer and fewer of these individuals. Salesforce.com, Google Apps, Amazon.com, Box.net, and many other web-based applications have been providing secure, on-demand software for years now, and trust in the cloud has increased substantially. At Box, we care deeply about the security of our customers' data, the integrity of our platform, and the availability of our application. We invest heavily in these areas because our very survival depends upon it.
Most businesses don't have the bandwidth or resources to manage on-premise solutions to this degree, and they ultimately determine that their data is more secure and more accessible on Box. Furthermore, we find that there's additional incentive for businesses to move certain types of content to the cloud - files that need to be frequently accessed, amended and shared among a broad group of people. For this reason, we've seen tremendous traction in sales organizations, marketing departments, engineering groups, and other departments that inherently need to share with colleagues, partners, and customers both within and outside the firewall.
DW: Is there any data you don't think would be safe in the cloud?
AL: I think there may be data types that for regulatory reasons will take longer to move to the cloud. There are a number of compliance requirements -- specifically in some areas of the government, finance, and health care industries -- that haven't yet been updated to work well in the "cloud" world. In time, however, we're confident the cloud will be seen as secure enough to host and manage any type of data.
DW: What do you think separates Box from your competitors?
AL: I think one of our biggest advantages is that we have such a powerful yet simple mission: to make it easy for businesses to access, collaborate and share content from anywhere. Thanks to this very defined focus, we've developed a cloud content management platform that tackles an essential business problem with an elegant, coherent solution that's relevant for businesses of all sizes. Traditional ECM services have in many ways boxed themselves in by tackling too many highly specific use cases. Or look at SharePoint 2010, which attempts to address usability issues by throwing a bunch of social features onto its platform.
DW: You're a young CEO at 25. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
AL: Hopefully a wiser CEO at 35. At Box, we have an incredibly long-term vision and plan to build technology will transform how people connect and communicate. I intend to continue to grow the business as efficiently and effectively as possible over the next decade.
Photo by James Cridland on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
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