Box CEO Aaron Levie On Box’s Multi-pronged Growth Strategy

Box CEO Aaron Levie talked about his company’s multi-pronged growth strategies with TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm today at TechCrunch Disrupt NY. The strategy involves building access to vertical markets, letting customers and partners build applications on top of Box and embedding Box in applications to take advantage of Box services.

The first part of Box’s strategy involves Box for Industries, which the company announced last year at its BoxWorks customer conference. Over the last six months or so, Box has been working with partners to create vertical solutions by industry, recognizing that Box and its various components only get these specific businesses part of the way.

It has also recruited a bunch of executives for these specific verticals so that it has people in charge who are familiar with the needs of these industries and also have contacts within them.

Just last month at BoxDev, it announced a new product called Box Developer Edition to give customers the ability to embed Box inside applications. “We think this is meant to solve problems our core problems can’t solve,” Levie said.

“We can solve managing content, but if you are building in retail, healthcare or financial services, the workflows are super-specific to one industry,” he explained. By embedding Box within these industry applications, it gives customers access to the services inside Box. He indicated they are aiming at customers and third-party developers with this new tool.

Levie sees this as a potentially big part of the Box revenue model moving forward, but he said that some customers will use Box on the front end, while solving more specific problems on the back end with the Developer Edition.

Another piece in the strategy is the platform it built early on. Levie defied his early investors when he launched a freemium model to scale the platform quickly. He had paying customers, but he knew if he was going to get enough scale to attract developers, he had to offer a free version. The strategy worked and today he has tens of thousands of developers building applications on top of the Box platform, something that just about every startup aspires to do, but few succeed.

This enables Box to work with industry specific partners to build solutions geared toward a particular vertical. “Our API calls are up 3x in the last year to six billion calls a month. That’s small by webscale [standards], but for the enterprise, it’s pretty healthy.”

In fact, he predicted Box would be generating more platform revenue than the traditional Box application, going so far as to say it will be known as a platform company in two to three years — a prediction he has made before.

This is all important because Levie says that in spite of growing cloud maturity, the market still has a lot of room for growth, especially in highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services where it’s trying to make a big push with the verticals approach.

“We are still working on bigger banks. Wall Street can be slower to adopt best of breed [approaches]. How do we get more modern when there is lots of legacy tech that needs to be updated,” Levie asked.