Box CEO Aaron Levie has been at it for more than a decade. For a guy barely past 30, that means it’s all he’s done professionally for his entire adult life. You could forgive him if he were thinking about another challenge, but even after all this time, the fire still clearly burns for Levie.
When I asked him about possibly getting bored in an in-person interview this week at BoxWorks, he paraphrased Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who is a Box customer, saying “if you’re bored, you’re not being creative enough.”
I’ve been having regular conversations with Levie since 2009 when he was trying to get his young startup some attention. Today, as a public company and all the responsibility that entails, he still seems to me that he’s in it to win it. He wants to continue to build his company into an enterprise powerhouse, one that can take on the biggest software companies in this space.
He wouldn’t comment about rumors that there have been large companies sniffing around Box about an acquisition, but he said he’s still very much focused on being an independent company.
“I think if you look at past 3-6 months, and look at the M&A market, there is more of an appetite for tech companies, for disruptive fast-growing companies. We will do $396M in revenue, which is our guidance for this year. We are disrupting a $30-40 billion market. We are maybe one percent of the way to where we want to accomplish. We’ve been doing this for over a decade, but we are so early in this mission and journey. We remain focused on staying independent and building the company ourselves.”
If you measured your value by stock price, you would be frustrated, but we hear from our customers and they see the value.
Part of the problem seems to be that even after all this time, many people still don’t get what Box does, yet he doesn’t seem frustrated by this. He just keeps plugging away and says, while the general public and Wall Street may still have trouble identifying what he’s trying to do, he doesn’t let it affect his ultimate mission.
“We’ve been very consistent with our long-term view,” Levie told me. “If you measured your value by stock price, you would be frustrated, but we hear from our customers and they see the value. That’s why we build technology,” he said.
He says the company is continuing to change, grow and evolve because it sees the way people work changing, and that’s what keeps it interesting for him. “We were on disruptive side for a number of years, at the same time when we look at the next decade about how companies will work, trends of today will be more broad and significant — big data, machine learning, analytics — much bigger tends than what drove Box in 2005. We have to build a product for the future,” he said.
He understands that it’s his job to explain to Wall Street and the broader world beyond the customers that are on board already, what that vision entails and how the company plans to get there. If they don’t understand, he needs to refine his message to be more clear. That said, there’s plenty of room to grow and change and that is what seems to keep driving him.
“What’s great about this, is there is always something to get excited about. Change makes it impossible to become bored. We try to focus on things that are exciting and transformational,” he said.