Aaron Levie, Box CEO: We Should Have Bought Yammer

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It was clearly meant as a joke. Yammer is, according to many reports, just moments away from a big acquisition by Microsoft, so on stage at LeWeb in London today my colleague Mike Butcher asked Aaron Levie, the outspoken CEO of cloud storage player Box, if he had been interested in the enterprise social networking service. “Yeah, we should have bought Yammer, but they didn’t come knocking.”

But like all good jokes, it’s built on some kind of truth. Levie used the comment as a springboard to talk about the M&A potential for Box and the enterprise space in general, noting that deals like Vitrue and Taleo at Oracle, and Buddy Media at Salesforce, have contributed to around $10 billion in acquisitions in the enpterprise speace in the last few months. Box has made an acquisition in the past — Increo Solutions, the document feedback and collaboration tool, back in 2009, but Levie says the bigger potential for Box is to ride the wave of fragmentation in the market (the very thing that is driving M&A) by becoming a platform for the rest to coexist peacefully together.

The opportunity for growth in cloud is Box’s (and other’s) for the taking, says Levie, who notes that even with the growth that Box has seen — enterprise sales tripling every year since 2005 — Box, and its competitors, are just “a fraction of where we could be from a size standpoint,” so much so that “in the next three to five years it won’t be a competitive issue in terms of growth in the future… It’s an open market because there is no declared leader in enterprise cloud.”

So what comes next? Well, in addition to their European expansion announced earlier today, Levie wants Box not just to be the go-to place for cloud storage but to position itself as a platform for businesses to place all of their disparate applications: “We see ourselves as a platform as a way forward,” he said. “That allows us to work with a variety of other players.”

He is doing this by way of making sure that every feature that Box introduces has an API attached to it to make sure that others can integrate with it. The idea is to be able to put Yammer, Jive, Salesforce together in the way that you want to. “Instead of buying all your tech from one vendor, now you can choose what you like to have one effective suite representing different products.”

Levie also talked IPOs — with $162 million in funding to date, Box has been rumored to be one of the companies inching closer to going public.  He didn’t rule it out completely and even bucked the trend among a lot of tech people today to note that IPOs could be returning faster than you might think.

“In the next couple of weeks Facebook could be back up to IPO,” he said, noting that in the last two weeks Facebook’s stock has actually gone up by 20 percent. “If it moves up five percent again, and again, it might be back up to where it was at IPO level. That could change things.”

He also rang the bell for raising money whenever you can, too. “It’s generally better to be well captialized as a company. If you have the abiltiy to raise I would definitely take advantage of that opportunity, regardless of where the company is going,” he said.

{Image: Adam Beguelin, Twitter}