Aaron Levie dropped out of college 13 years ago to start Box, a content management platform for enterprises. Today, it’s a public company with a $3.4 billion market cap. Talkdesk sat down with Levie to learn more about his success building and scaling the enterprise-focused cloud platform from basement to market leader.
Box, which recently celebrated its third year as a publicly traded company, is often compared to Dropbox, which filed for IPO in February 2018. When asked about the difference between the two, Levie has been known to use the comparison that Dropbox is to Netflix as Box is to Salesforce—they have completely different end users with uniques demands for the platform.
“We are laser focused on Cloud Content Management. We are disrupting a combined $40B industry, which encompasses file storage, productivity and collaboration, enterprise content management systems and innovating in app dev environments,” said Levie.
To build the platform, Levie focused a lot of energy on understanding the mindset of the enterprise developer.
“Most companies don’t understand developers. They think of the buyer as an executive who writes the check, but with developers, there must be an emphasis on how you innovate on a continual basis and add value to the developer’s process of building an app,” said Levie.
Getting inside the mind of a developer was essential to Box’s success.
“First and foremost, a maniacal obsession on the developer is the core essential ingredient. You have to focus on developer needs and fundamentally understand how they can obtain the most value from your platform. This includes everything from the quality and completeness of the APIs and SDKs to the documentation, tutorials, sample code, reference apps and ability to get started to a commercial pricing model. Your model must allow for a developer to start off quickly and inexpensively and also be able to scale as their application volume scales.”
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Security is another sticking point that has been a focus of the Box platform since its inception. With the GDPR regulations that dropped May 25, many businesses are looking for secure platforms like Box to host and access content in the cloud. Box is known for its secure file hosting and sharing integrity and makes it a priority to make it easy for its users to meet security regulations in their industries.
“Box Platform provides rich content services for custom web and mobile applications, so customers and developers can create secure apps faster and deliver amazing, engaging experiences to end users,” said Levie. “We remain laser focused on making content more secure in the cloud, more compliant for regulated industries and easily allow developers to leverage the power of Box for their app. They should just be able to reuse our decade worth of investment with a few lines of code.”
When asked why he built Box as a platform, Levie responded, “The beauty about the platform business, unlike the first party app business, is that the best imagination of how people use your product, in this case our platform, comes from our customers, not us. We never imagined the kind of things our customers would be able to do with our platform when we were making it available to the market. Whether it be in democratizing the legal industry with Legalzoom or reimagining how design and architecture evolve with a construction company like Perkins and Will, our Platform has been more powerful than we ever imagined.”
Levie believes digital-born companies like Airbnb, Netflix, Tesla and Uber started the microservices trend by showing the world how at-scale experiences can be built better when companies don’t try to build the entire stack themselves.
“One thing all of these companies have in common is that they rely on microservices that can be stitched together. There is no reason to recreate the wheel every time a developer thinks of building an app. Not only is it faster and cheaper to build apps with this approach, but it is a gift that keeps on giving. Every innovation that the app platform makes can be implemented in your app without the burden of continuous cycles of investment in non-core areas.”
“Today, there are app platforms for communication from Twilio, payment platforms from Stripe or Braintree, cloud content management from Box, email platform from Sendgrid and the list goes on. Leveraging these best-in-breed platforms massively accelerates innovation velocity for a company.”
“It’s truly humbling to see the impact of a product we built from scratch on such a vast array of industries, including the way our financial services customers have starting thinking their relationship with their clients or how a healthcare company decides to save human lives. It’s why developers are such a fun target customer to have for a product. They literally make magic happen.”
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