Seven Questions for Aaron Levie, CEO of Box.net
Box.net, the enterprise cloud data-sharing service, is on a roll. Today it launched a service that lets Box customers synchronize their data across multiple computers — Macs and PCs. And word also emerged that it is almost ready to close a new round of funding north of $50 million, with Salesforce.com among the investors.
And how often does a start-up host its own conference for partners and developers? Box.net did that today, too. It was from there that CEO Aaron Levie called me today after delivering a keynote address. I began by asking him about the new syncing service, but naturally what I really wanted to know about was the funding.
AllThingsD: Talk about your syncing feature. What’s that all about?
Levie: Basically, in the consumer space you see a lot of technology that helps you synchronize your information. It’s one of the biggest trends in software and the cloud. And so what we’re trying to do here is just do that for the enterprise. You have to take a different approach. The scale of the management and the security and the collaboration and getting it into business work flow, that’s what makes it enterprise ready. We’re syncing on the Mac and the PC and it’s going to work in your enterprise.
And you’re going to get to other devices — the iPad and Android devices — later?
Yeah. Syncing has a different connotation and purpose on a tablet because you’re syncing less data, but core sync for Mac and PC is what’s going to change the game in the enterprise space.
You’ve done some social things, too. We all know there’s a lot of buzz around social collaboration in the enterprise. Where does Box.net fit there?
That relates to two major themes that we’re really focused on. We’re trying to be the most open platform that you can be. That’s really the power of the cloud. So, unlike Microsoft, where they want you to integrate all their technology together so that you’ve got one big Microsoft vertical stack, our vision is that you’ll use different best-of-breed tools to solve different problems. So you’ll use Salesforce.com for CRM and Google Apps, and Workday or Netsuite. And we really want to integrate the content you have in Box securely with all those applications. And that is now a really big deal for the social space. So our vision is to work with Yammer, Jive and Chatter and any other kind of leading service that emerges so you can take your content from Box and use them with those services. And one thing we announced today is that Salesforce has invested in Box and that we’re working on integrating with Chatter. We’re also going to be building some direct social features into Box directly.
So let’s talk about that round of funding. It’s supposedly $50 million and Salesforce is in. Who else is in?
There’s a little confusion about this. The funding hasn’t been announced officially yet. It is more than $50 million. And yes, Salesforce is in. We’ll say more about it after it’s all closed.
You’ve also disclosed new numbers around customers, right?
We have 7 million users and 100,000 businesses, and it’s being used in 77 percent of the Fortune 500.
Let’s go back to the syncing. How does it work in a practical sense?
You install Box Sync on your Mac or PC, you can synchronize that information back and forth automatically to the cloud. If you add collaborators, they can access that information too. And then on top of that are the social features. We want you to be able to comment, and get a work flow going, to see the updates from the people around you.
You had a big conference today, which I think is your first. Isn’t having a conference like this a big deal for a company that’s still really just a start-up? Who’s there and what do they do?
It’s really a customer and partner conference. I think it will evolve over the years. It’s about CIOs and IT leaders who want to be more innovative using the cloud. It’s also for our partners who are are here to support our customers as well. So you’re seeing companies like Google Chrome, Motorola, Okta, Good Data, Netsuite, and Yammer. They all have booths and are talking about how they integrate their data with the cloud.
I understand you’re working with a little company that’s also based in Palo Alto called Hewlett-Packard. What’s that about?
Box Sync is going to be on small business PCs, and then eventually on their enterprise PCs as well. Eventually part of our vision is to get Box Sync on any system that is creating content.
Is it true that you turned down a $500 million offer for your company?
It is true that people are talking about that. We’re not saying much about that. The high level is that it’s a super-exciting space, and there are companies that want to accelerate their growth into it. We’re focused on staying independent and growing Box. We’ve only completed about 1 percent through the vision of this company.