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Box CEO Aaron Levie on How the NSA Could Be Bad for Business

Following an official announcement that Box has filed to go public, the company's CEO Aaron Levie spoke at a San Francisco startup conference Thursday.
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Box CEO Aaron Levie is currently in a "quiet phase." Just a few days ago, the cloud-based file sharing company officially announced via Twitter that it had filed for an IPO. Levie, Inc.'s Entrepreneur of the Year, appeared on stage Thursday at a DEMO conference to talk about the nine-year-old company's progression up to this point. 

The semi-annual event, which was held in San Francisco on Thursday, was themed around enterprise products and software. This is the sector where Box has started to make its mark. Box has about 20 million users, spread out among 180,000 businesses. 

Though Levie, who spoke before a crowd of about 500, was tight-lipped when it came to details about the prospective IPO, he was perfectly eager to speak on a range of topics from current events, to how he built a business with his best friends.  

NSA Struggles Could Be Bad for Business 

DEMO's producer Erick Schonfeld asked Levie what he thought about the ongoing controversy around the National Security Agency's (NSA) intelligence gathering tactics. Levie said that the agency has never asked his company for any data. However, he is worried about the controversy's potential affects on his company -- but not necessarily for obvious reasons. He's concerned that the NSA's current practices will scare international businesses out of working with US-based technology companies, he said.

"If that occurs, then as a cloud provider and as an Internet service provider, country by country we're going to have to go and build up completely different operations and facilities and services -- which will basically curtail our ability to go international," Levie said.

And Levie wants to be able to go international. 

"The Internet is now the backbone to global trade," Levie said. "If we don't keep it as a connected network -- and if we create these kinds of barriers that prevent companies from wanting to join that network -- then you're going to just see a pretty steep decline in the innovation and the economic benefit of the Internet." 

What He'd Do Over Again 

As someone who sees his primary responsibility as making sure that nothing stands in the way of his company's growth, Levie spends a lot of his time thinking about the future.

But Schonfeld asked Levie what he would change about Box's past if he could. Levie said, unequivocally, that there isn't much. "I think the only thing I would have done differently is move faster," he said.

When Levie and his three best friends started Box in 2005, their service wasn't enterprise-focused. It wasn't until 2007 that they fully diverted their attention to businesses. 

"Maybe we could have shaved six months or a year off that process if we made those decisions more quickly," Levie reflected. "My job right now is to ensure that we don't repeat those mistakes." 

 

Last updated: Apr 3, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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