Box announced today that it was hiring former EMC executive Jeetu Patel to head its platform business.
Patel will have the title senior vice president of platform and chief strategy officer. His primary responsibility will be building out the Box Developer Edition product, which enables developers to take advantage of services built on the Box platform to create applications without having to use the core product.
“For the first time, [customers] can license our platform separately to include all of the Box capabilities into your apps,” Box CEO Aaron Levie explained. “It’s our Force.com moment where we are separating out the platform, and starting to see an all-new business model emerge from this,” he said.
Force.com is Salesforce.com’s Platform as a Service offering, which has enabled developers to create applications on top of the Salesforce platform. It has been a catalyst for launching entire businesses such as FinancialForce.com (which has raised over $186 million) and Apttus (which has raised $78 million). Box is hoping that Patel can help drive the same type of success.
Patel brings 20 years of enterprise content management industry experience to the task. Most recently he was General Manager of the Syncplicity Business Unit at EMC, which offered cloud storage and syncing solutions, and is the obvious tie-in with Box. When EMC sold Syncplicity to a private equity firm last month, it wasn’t clear where Patel would land. Now we know.
Patel seemed excited by the new challenge and particularly building Box Developer Edition into a more mature product.
“The reason it’s exciting is that it starts as a force multiplier. If enterprise software bothered you before, startups built one application to solve the problem. Now we are powering a generation of applications, all powered by Box on the back end,” he said.
He’ll be working with third-party developers and ISVs to build independent applications, enterprise customers to build applications for their internal or external ecosystems and systems integrators working with enterprise customers.
In fact, it was Patel’s experience working in these areas that led Box to hire him. “This is a core factor that led us to want to work with him. His experience and domain expertise in this market is incredibly important to accelerate our strategy in this space,” Levie explained.
The Platform Play
Levie has been hinting at exposing Box as a set of services for some time. The company is betting that as it builds out its core product and offers additional services, it will make the platform all the more attractive to third-party developers. The two approaches will feed off one another, giving those customers who use the core product access to new features, while making those same elements available to developers to use in applications.
It also creates some separation from competitors. If you were to ask, most people would probably say Box is a storage and file sharing service, but it’s added features over the years that place it more in the content management realm (putting the Patel hire in clearer context).
“If you think about what we’ve been doing, we’ve building the next generation content management platform. The enterprise file sync and share is how we’ve been perceived, but is a feature [of the platform]. We are happy that we are a leader in that space, but when you peel back the onion and see the capabilities of Box and the customers who have had the most transformational experience, it’s because of the underlying technology,” Levie said.
Box is hoping developers will use the services it has developed such as such as metadata, security and governance and enterprise key encryption or any other feature in the core product to build entirely new applications. As Patel put it, developers use Stripe when they need payment services, and they would use Box when they need to build an application with content services.
The Box Developer Edition will be generally available in the third quarter.
This is not the first time Box has looked to EMC for an experienced executive. It hired former EMC CMO Whitney Bouck to head its marketing efforts back in 2011.