Q&A: Aaron Levie, CEO, Box

We speak to Aaron Levie, co-founder of online file sharing site Box, about the company's European expansion plans.

Box homepage

Could you tell us a bit about Box and the services the company offers?

We have built a platform that allows businesses to store and manage and share all their business information from anywhere. All the devices that people want to work from, all the new kinds of applications that people are working in, we enable people to manage all that data without having to have servers and infrastructure inside their business. So basically it is a cloud storage and cloud collaboration solution for the enterprise.

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Who/what is your target market?

The size of the business [Box targets] ranges anywhere from a three, five or 10-person small business all the way up to customers that have hundreds of thousands of employees, although they may only be using Box for tens of thousands of them.

We have 12 million end users in total, who are generally using Box in their business to solve some kind of collaboration or [data] sharing problem.

Why does Box focus on the enterprise market rather than the consumer sector?

We think it is the smarter route in the long run. However, a lot of the adoption of our solution within organisations comes from the end users and individuals first. So even though we are focused entirely on the enterprise, it is often the end user in the enterprise who is the one bringing us into the corporation.

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We tend to see huge benefits from the fact that we have this massive distribution coming from our end users, and then we have an enterprise arranged business model that is able to sell to those companies and corporations.

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We have something of a hybrid strategy, where we get a lot of the low friction and speed and ease of adoption of a consumer tool, but we have the business model and focus of an enterprise software company. We have been able to balance the best of both worlds.

Is there a difference in appetite for cloud services in the UK compared to the US?

We tend to solve problems that exist in any kind of geography and any kind of market. We help business store their data and work from anywhere and share with anyone. Businesses globally have those problems and certainly companies of any size have those issues.

I think that SaaS adoption in the UK and Europe is comparable to the US. As we look at other markets, such as Brazil or Japan, it is not as pervasive as in the UK and Europe, so we are pretty excited [because] we think there is going to be a lot of adoption in the near term that we are going after.

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How big is the Box customer base in Europe?

Forty per cent of our traffic is from Europe, with about 15 per cent of our revenue today coming from [that region]. A big part of our effort is expanding that and in the next two years we would like to see that [revenue figure] rise to 30 per cent.

So we want to double our business in Europe at the same time as we double or triple our overall business. What that really means is that you have to grow the European business by four to six or eight times in that same period.

It is going to be a lot of work and it should be incredibly exciting, but we are doing a lot to build that out right now.

How do you intend to hit your European growth targets?

We have been fairly successful at addressing and being able to respond to European customers for the past seven years or so through our service and customer support channels in the US.

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The idea is that over the next year [or 18 months], you will see us hire about 100 or so people who will be able to sell to and work with some of the large businesses throughout Europe. We will also be moving out a number of team leaders from our operation in the US so they can help build up the culture and the team, but we will do the vast majority of our hiring from the UK and Europe.

Do you have plans to build or buy European data centres?

There are certain types of user cases and certain types of data that we think will have to be resident in Europe, whether it is located in Germany, France or the UK. So, over time you will see us put out the infrastructure that helps meet those different laws and regulations.

That is still a little bit farther out. In the interim, we want to make sure the application and the service performs brilliantly from any location and to work on a lot of technology that will enable that.

A little longer term, we will look at how we actually store the data in these locations so we can make sure regulated industries, such as healthcare or the government, are still able to work with [us] in a successful way.

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