Box Co-Founder and CEO Aaron Levie is only 27 years old, but he’s remarkably insightful when it comes to assessing the business of information technology. He’s also remarkably witty. Both traits are on display in our recent interview with him on the Structure Show podcast.
Here is a collection of quotes from Levie that highlight why it’s such a unique — and great — time to be in the IT business. But there’s a whole lot more insight and whole lot more laughs, so you’ll want to listen to the whole thing. (There’s also a ticket giveaway to Box’s BoxWorks conference, which is Sept. 15-17 and features a performance by Blink-182.)
The cloud is a wide open, and potentially very lucrative, space: “We will grow over 100 percent this year; we grew over 150 percent last year,” Levie said, noting how Box is riding the wave of momentum for a new “cloud stack” of applications for workloads like ERP, CRM, BI and collaboration. “… We see a couple-of-year window of opportunity where the defining companies in the cloud are going to be created, and we’re obviously working very aggressively to try to build one of those companies.”
The mobile market opportunity is huge, and just becoming clear: “We’ve been around for eight and a half years, which means that, by definition, we were not a mobile-first company,” Levie said. “We had mobile in our business plan — at that point it was a Palm Treo, may that rest in peace — but that was what mobile meant to us.”
The true opportunity for mobile didn’t really materialize until the iPhone reached significant penetration and tablets emerged in 2010, he added. Now, there’s a whole new class of business-software users who don’t just sit behind desks, but are out in the field doing hands-on work.
“All of a sudden, you have a 2 to 3x gain the the addressable market for enterprise software, which is totally unfathomable and just a massive discontinuous change from what Oracle or Microsoft of SAP could have done 5 or 10 years ago,” Levie said.
Multi-billion-dollar companies can still surprise you with seemingly crazy moves: “I just love this industry for those kind of moves,” Levie said. “You’re sitting around Sunday night catching up on email, and you see a couple tweets that say ‘Microsoft buys Nokia’ and you think that it’s like The Onion at first. And then — boom! — it’s like, ‘Holy s***, it really happened.’”
Surprising? Yes. But Levie isn’t sold on how a company like Microsoft, now trying to balance a vertically integrated approach with a third-party software platform approach, will succeed. “We’ve never really seen that approach,” he said, “and, in fact, the only time we did, which was sort of Apple in the ’90s, it didn’t really work out.”
A CEO can find an audience on Twitter: “Maybe it’s commentary that I have a little too much time on my hands,” Levie said about who writes for his prolific and often very funny Twitter account, “but for now those tweets are mine, unfortunately.”