Box execs on future acquisitions, global expansion, and Microsoft Office

Summary:Following expansion across the pond last year, Japan is Box's next major target market.

SAN FRANCISCO -- With a looming IPO possibly on the way in 2014, analysts and investors have many more questions for the business of Box beyond the new products and upgrades unveiled at BoxWorks on Monday.

Here's a snapshot of what CEO Aaron Levie and friends covered:

Acquisitions: "Philosophically, we're oriented on building technology in-house," Levie replied about how Box wants to approach M&A. He noted that there are approximately 160 to 170 engineers dedicated to extending the Box Platform. But "given the space" Box is in, he admitted that the Los Altos, Calif.-based company looks for "a team or technology that can extend us further on core efforts."

Using the recent purchase of Crocodoc as an example, Levie boasted it as "the best possible technology out there" as far as HTML5 was concerned. Crocodoc also brought on more than a hundred new partners, such as LinkedIn and SAP -- and even Dropbox, which Levie quipped probably won't be a Crocodoc/Box partner much longer.

Consumer vs. enterprise apps: Levie tried to clarify that the new Box Notes app is "not meant to replace typical word processing experience" -- Microsoft Office in particular.

"The whole notion is that the way we are working is changing," Levie posited, citing that Cisco (which just announced a deal to integrate Box onto WebEx for iPad) is an example of an enterprise tech giant that has responded to this trend. But he suggested that Microsoft hasn't.

"The only way we can address different verticals is through a network of partners," Levie added later, admitting "we're never going to be the deepest experts" of retail, healthcare, and other businesses.

Levie also lamented that "enterprises today have this unnecessary choice" between clunky, legacy enterprise software and consumer apps that share information easily but might not integrate well into the business (i.e. not meet security requirements). Box Notes is being framed by company execs to fall somewhere in between.

Building for industry verticals: Chris Yeh, senior vice president of product at Box, hinted there has been an internal debate about whether or not to build the Box Platform with specific industry verticals in mind (much like Amazon Web Services), such as construction or education. But Yeh specified that Box -- at least for now -- is maintaining the strategy to "try to be as horizontal as possible."

Using healthcare as an example, Yeh described that Box is starting at a base level to support the data that vertical requires (i.e. compliance issues) and then building up an ecosystem of third-party apps that cater to said vertical.

"The only way we can address different verticals is through a network of partners," Levie added later, admitting "we're never going to be the deepest experts" of retail, healthcare, and other businesses.

BlackBerry: Perhaps furthering his keynote theme about responding to IT trends quickly, Levie described BlackBerry as "a really interesting case study of disruption in the industry and moving too slowly" in response.

Yeh chimed in to remind media and analysts that Box was developed to run "natively everywhere," joking that Box might be the only app natively running on the beleaguered BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

"Philosophically, we want to continue to do that and be on a level playing field," Yeh commented.

International expansion: Box made its first major jump across the pond with a European expansion last year. Box already has more than 70 employees at its London office for now, and Levie promised it will "continue to accelerate." But he revealed that Japan will be the next major target for Box.

Topics: Cloud, Enterprise Software, Social Enterprise, Storage, Developer


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider,, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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