Twelve years ago, Box Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Aaron Levie took a leap of faith and dropped of out USC with a group of friends to start a cloud-based file-storage company for enterprises. The road to taking Box public on the Nasdaq before age 30 and creating a business now worth nearly $3 billion was not an easy one, filled with sleepless nights on yoga mats and over 16-hour work days.
Levie, who entered college with an undecided major and an interest in filmmaking, was always fascinated with figuring out how and why things worked the way they did. He discovered the Internet at age 12 and quickly built at least 15 projects including a real estate website and a randomized search engine.
In early 2005, Levie founded Box out of a renovated garage with a middle-school friend, a high-school friend and a neighbor, offering a service that would let customers store files securely online and access them from anywhere. He decided to finally drop out after receiving a blind investment worth a few hundred thousand dollars from angel investor and TV persona Mark Cuban. Despite pressure from the board, Levie turned down a $600 million offer from Citrix.
Initially, Box offered everyone a 1 gigabyte of free storage, with the option to buy more storage space at a monthly fee. Now, Box provides over 8 million users with secure content management and collaboration on a platform which “allows personal and commercial content to be accessible, sharable, and storable in any format anywhere.”
Born in the cloud, Box started with an understanding of how the proliferation of smart devices and the mobile-cloud connection would change the demands of content management. In the evolving content management space, Levie suggests that the next fundamental shift will be the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to extract meaning from the content.
“We saw that being in the cloud from Day One and we think the same is going to be true for AI and machine learning, which is that the companies that are early in this category have all the advantages and that’s why we wanted to make such significant bet on this space,” Levie explained to TechCrunch in an interview.