Box CEO Aaron Levie: Disrupting the Enterprise

From Box’s San Francisco conference, Ayesha Salim shares her notes on one of the tech’s most closely-watched startups

In true rock and roll fashion, Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box, kicked off the annual BoxWorks conference in San Francisco this week, running on to the stage in his red sneakers. Aside from his jokes about renaming the conference to 'BoxTwerks', a reference to Miley Cyrus much to the amusement and appreciative laughter from the audience, and poking fun at Yahoo's new logo, it quickly became clear that Levie wants to put his stamp on the future of collaboration in the enterprise.

The Elephant in the Room

With speculation heating up on who will be Microsoft's next CEO, Levie joked that he won't be leaving Box to join Microsoft, adding that he never actually received a call. So who should be the next CEO of Microsoft? Levie didn't give too much away, but did say: “They are at a stage where they need to make a decisive move; the next leader needs to be someone that will bring about a lot of innovation...somebody that understands the soul of the company.”

Box Notes – New Collaboration Tool

Levie made four major product announcements at the conference but the biggest one was Box Notes, a new way to securely capture and share ideas across teams and businesses in real-time. Levie's main message was this: the business tools that we use today just don't cut it anymore. While Microsoft keeps adding layers, Box Notes keeps it simple. Inevitably, Box Notes will be compared to Google Docs, but Whitney Bouck, SVP and General Manager, Enterprise at Box, told IDG Connect that this is not the aim of the game:

“We borrowed concepts from some of the more modern editing tools out there today...such as Quip and Google Apps. We also borrowed from Evernote. The collaborative aspect is the coolest part. We certainly aren’t pitching this as an Office suite competitor.”

Metadata Adds Context

One of the most interesting product highlights from Box (and maybe the most important) was the introduction of support for metadata in files stored in the cloud. Levie gave the example of patient x-rays. Currently, you cannot see information about the patient in x-rays but with metadata, you will be able to see actual information such as patient name, patient ID, and the primary care physician of the patient. This new application will not just have an impact on healthcare, but also other industries such as construction and legal.

Bouck told IDG Connect: “The metadata function is not limited to one industry and that's what makes metadata so powerful.”

You Snooze, You Lose

Speed and velocity. Collaboration. Competitive Advantage. Whichever way you put it, Levie is sending a clear message (and perhaps a warning to his competitors) and Bouck summed it up in her keynote:  “To succeed you have to adapt. To stay still is death.”



Ayesha Salim is e-Content Writer at IDG Connect