In its first public event since its IPO, cloud collaboration company Box sought to shake up the enterprise application landscape with several announcements aimed at changing the way technology is being used in the workplace. From the launch of a developer platform, releasing modular SDKs, unveiling of new resources, and more, Box seeks to facilitate the transformation of the digital enterprise.
There’s no question that Box has faced much criticism around its pursuit of becoming a public entity. But now, four months after its IPO, it’s taking what it thinks it needs to convince shareholders that betting on “unsexy” technology, especially one that some may have reservations about, can pay off. Is Box more than a one-trick pony and can it move beyond just being a storage company? The answer appears to be “yes”, it can and that evolution begins today.
During his keynote, company CEO Aaron Levie proclaimed that Box would be a major player in the evolution of the digital enterprise, the next generation business that has adapted to changing trends to work with its environment. This is a stark contrast to the here and now where incumbent entities are still resigning themselves to working with traditional vendors, but befuddled at how to remain relevant. This perspective shift, according to Levie, comes from technology, brought about by new employees bringing in new behaviors, workplaces becoming flatter organizations, and new business models.
Box has seen success in this area — after all, it’s been trying to prove that it can manage all your content storage needs across all verticals and it’s paid off. The company now counts more than 35 million users (45,000 customers) and more than 50 percent of all Fortune 500 companies. And it has its hands in numerous verticals, including healthcare, legal, education, media, finance, construction, government, retail, and manufacturing. But what’s the next logical option for the company to do?
For over a decade, many have labeled Box as a cloud storage company, competing alongside the Dropboxes and the Hightails of the world. But perhaps it’s being typecast into being something that it’s not. At its last BoxWorks customer conference in 2014, the company released some new tools and resources, which prompted me to posit that it’s making a concrete effort to turn the page on public perception and show what it’s really capable of. Today’s announcements solidifies that move — but it’s ultimately up to Wall Street to make the judgement on whether it’s enough to push Box’s stock higher (or lower).
Box Developer Edition and the myriad of SDKs it has at its disposal are the biggest evolutionary effort of the product in as many years as it moves the company away from being a creator of products and instead helps developers create them. In a way, the company wants people to view it like how Twilio is for telephony, Layer is for messaging, and Salesforce is for customer relationship management. Box will bill itself as the content storage platform for apps.
The pieces have all been there that shows that Box has a chance at making a difference. After all, if it worked for Box, why couldn’t it work for others? The company has spent years touting its achievements, such as document editing, previewing, integration with CRM systems, and security. And now it’s time for it to branch out and offer these tools piecemeal to developers in the hopes that it will benefit their products. It’s a smart and perhaps natural play — Box wants developers to take advantage of resources it has perfected over the years and become the part of the applications backbone, thereby effectively ingraining itself into the DNA of a company.
During one of the keynotes at Box’s developer conference, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff spoke about how the market has come to embrace services instead of just products and that companies need to embrace this change. Perhaps more symbolic, but the fact that Benioff heaped praise and platitudes upon Levie seemed to be like there was a transitioning in market leaders. Perhaps what we were seeing is the potential coronation of what the new age enterprise technology will be built upon. In fact, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt himself said that he would have never thought of Box being as successful as it is within the enterprise space. It will be fascinating to see if Box and Levie can play the part to be what the new workplace tools and products are going to be built off of.
Box’s transformation of the enterprise isn’t just impacting developers. In fact, it’s also affecting the main decision makers in corporations. In one of the afternoon panels at BoxDev involving Chief Information Officers, a panelist remarked that his company wouldn’t use services that their employees wouldn’t use. And within a digital enterprise, this can have a detrimental effect — in 2013, I attended a roundtable event where executives from GitHub, Stripe, Mixpanel, Tidemark, and Box (!) spoke about the changing role of the executive. Instead of someone in the C-suite making technology decisions, that ultimately was the call of the end users. From that event, here’s an interesting tidbit from Levie’s prediction back in the day:
Levie will see the continued growth of the “app-economy” with the emergence of an ecosystem and economy generating revenue for apps. He believes that there the IT department will be reinvented in a way to help usher in new technology.
With Box’s Developer Edition, Levie and his team are banking on the fact that CIOs will feel enticed by the solution in order to cut down on investment costs and time needed to provide the necessary tools to their employees. What’s more, there’s further incentives based on the fact that from a regulatory standpoint, Box has already received clearance from the governing body, especially when it comes to the healthcare and legal industries.
Perhaps this was all part of Levie’s plan, but we’re starting to see things come to fruition for Box. Whether investors will care and find the new platform favorable remains to be seen — the company’s stock closed up over 2 percent today at $18.29, but it’s still below its day 1 opening price of $20.20 in January.
But Box isn’t done yet…it’s still looking to foster strong enterprise applications and entice them to use its platform. The company has partnered with Bessemer Venture Partners and Emergence Capital Partners to invest $40 million into startups. In addition, it’s launched a resource center called Box Assured that will enable companies test their apps and gain a much faster route to market after receiving their security qualifications.
While this seems pretty positive for Box, it’s not exactly sure that developers will flock to using it. After all, critics have been rather quick to call Box’s time of death and could see these announcements as nothing more as a desperate company on life support clinging to avoid the inevitable. But in the absence of Box, is there a company that could take its place and help the enterprise better easily manage their content across their apps without pouring hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to build the back-end themselves?
But let’s not celebrate too early…after all, we will need to examine the company’s performance over the next few quarters to see how this evolution fares. If it doesn’t receive a warm welcome by companies and if the market isn’t receptive to this new digital enterprise, where can Box go? At the very least, the company has certainly solidified its existence as not being a cloud storage service anymore.