13 Things Your Startup SHOULD Copy from Box


Box started as a college business project in 2005 by Aaron Levie (CEO) and Dylan Smith (CFO), and was officially launched in March 2006 with the vision of connecting people, devices and networks. Box is an online file sharing and Cloud content management service for enterprise companies. Box provides more than 8 million users with secure cloud content management and collaboration.

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The company received angel capital from Mark Cuban in 2005, then raised a Series A round of $1.5 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 2006. In late 2007, it raised a Series B round of $6 million, and another $7.1 million in 2009 from U.S. Venture Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, bringing total investment to $14.6 million.

In mid 2012, Box raised a $125 million round of funding from General Atlantic and some of the company’s previous backers, valuing Box at between $1.2 to 1.5 billion.

Aaron Levie, founder and CEO of Box, shared these growth strategies and business lessons in various interviews.

1. Market Opportunities: If you think about the market that we’re in, and more broadly just the enterprise software market, the kind of transition that’s happening right now from legacy systems to the cloud is literally, by definition, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is probably going to happen at a larger scale than any other technology transition we’ve seen in the enterprise. We think we are just 1 percent into that transition.

2. Mobile: Mobile is the biggest driver of change. Mobile is the catalyst that can actually re-evaluate and re-engineer your entire I.T. strategy.

3. Design: All enterprise software vendors should absolutely employ consumer design philosophy on all technology. At Box, we hire all our designers from consumer web companies.

4. Culture: People are able to question each other about strategies, whether they’re in marketing, engineering or product. We try to keep it fairly low on hierarchy. Everyone is encouraged to be entrepreneurial and people tend to be extremely passionate, but it’s not about taking credit or being arrogant about what we’re doing.

5. Leadership: It’s really hard to let the details go. Every sort of decision is really interesting. So you come up with a big goal, and hopefully everyone comes together to figure out how to accomplish it.

6. Hiring: Energy and persistence are the two most important factors, in addition to just having a clean résumé where there’s nothing crazy going on. In a business like ours, we have to be super, super competitive, and we have to be able to get people who are going to be persistent and relentless and have a level of energy that gets them through challenging things. Sometimes the best people are the ones who are very curious about our business model, how we’re going to grow.

7. Hiring: ultimately, we’re looking to hire people who can adapt to what a role might become, not just what it is today. When you’re at a start-up, things move and scale very quickly, and you want to hire people who can grow with the company and into roles that expand beyond the job description they were hired for.

8. Lesson: I think people are always able to achieve more than they think they can. While that’s cliché, I don’t know if managers think about that enough. You have to set your sights extremely high.

9. Lesson: I think bad politics are incredibly dangerous, so it’s important to make sure that people are communicating well. Culture and morale are super important. It’s best to not force it, but let it happen organically and genuinely. It certainly helps if you know a couple magic tricks, but if you don’t, then there are other things you can do.

10. Lesson: Start-ups are for people that wanted to run marathons, cage fight and hunt alligators, but were born with asthma.

11. Trends: We think the market for enterprise collaboration will be much larger than the market for checking into locations on your phone.

12. The future: It turns out the vast majority of the world’s workforce doesn’t go into a cubicle and type on a keyboard throughout the day. The rise of smartphones, tablets, and apps will enable nearly a billion more individuals to change how they work.

13. The future: We’re often quick to forget that each time one type of technology reaches a point of saturation, its ubiquity enables some new kind of capability and technology. We’ll get vastly more innovation once more cloud services connect to one another, and when data can be leveraged to solve far more interesting problems.

Interviews courtesy BusinessInsider, TheVerge and NYTimes.