A year can be a lifetime in any fast-growing company’s existence.
That’s particularly true for Box, the data storage and information management company started by Aaron Levie in 2005. Levie was Inc.’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.
Since last year, Levie has added 200 employees, announced plans to go public, and raised an additional $150 million from private equity and hedge fund sources, which now value the company at more than $2 billion. Levie has also revamped the mission of the company, in what he’s calling the Box for Industries initiative.
Essentially the initiative means the company has started moving from its primary goal of providing data storage in the cloud to all industries, to providing data management specialties in specific industries, including health care, retail and media, and soon financial services and manufacturing.
Each one of these industries has experienced massive changes because of the enormous amounts of data they now collect on a daily basis.
It’s perhaps the latest pivot for Levie, in what has been a succession of provident changes for the company, which transitioned from consumer data storage to storage for enterprises in 2007, and has since garnered 240,000 business customers worldwide, as well as 27 million individual users.
“We are at this exciting point related to Box, and it is perhaps one of the most significant points of history from a technology perspective, that every major industry will be redefined by these major digital trends,” Levie says.
To make this pivot, Box must tweak its software platform to allow these various segments to do more with the data they’re storing. For example, with health care, Levie says, the idea is to assist in managing the voluminous health care data compiled by medical professionals and hospitals, especially as the world becomes more mobile and demand for more highly personalized medical data grows. For manufacturers, it means collaborating more within the supply chain to make faster decisions, allowing them to produce more and according to actual demand.
“The idea is how do we help our customers transform their business from an internal IT perspective, and how do they use data and their software, to what are the ultimate products they deliver, and how quickly can they get their products to market and reinvent their business models,” Levie says.
In addition to staffing up by bringing on engineering and other professionals with the requisite knowledge of specific industries, Box is making strategic acquisitions where appropriate. In October, for example, Box purchased the medical imaging and software company MedXT for an undisclosed sum. MedXT is a Y Combinator company founded in 2012, and its founders were brought on to be part of Box’s engineering team.
While Levie was circumspect about plans for subsequent company acquisitions, he said more were certainly in the offing in the next year or so.
“All the major verticals you would expect are categories we are looking at,” Levie says.
Eyes on an IPO
Similarly, Box’s long-awaited initial public offering is still in the works. Although Levie would not specify the time frame for the offering, he hinted January might be a possibility. The company had initially filed its papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March, saying it hoped to raise $250 million from the offering, but then walked back from the IPO amid a softening market for technology stocks. In an amendment to its original filing, the company says it is now seeking to raise $150 million from its offering.
“We filed to go public a week before a significant market correction in high-growth tech companies,” Levie says. “That really led to us holding back and seeing where the market has evolved.”
Although Box had received some criticism for its history of losses and increasing burn rate for items such as marketing and sales, that hasn’t stopped Levie from attracting the capital. In July, Box closed a $150 million round from TPG, a private equity fund, and Coatue Management, a hedge fund, buying it time before going public.
In total, Box has raised $564 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, U.S. Venture Partners, and General Atlantic.
What's more, Box's list of large corporate customers keeps growing. Among others, there's General Electric, Eli Lilly, Safeway, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Comcast, and Stanford Health Care.
Nor is Levie worried about the increasing competition from tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, which all have their own aggressive plans for offering data storage and related information management tools. For Levie, offering data storage in the cloud is just table stakes, he says.
“One of the benefits of starting 10 years before the competition is that you get early visibility to all trends affecting all of your customers,” Levie says. “We add value by understanding how the specific industries and markets use that data and information, and in helping them transform their businesses.”