Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie speaks at a Box World Tour event in Seattle on Thursday.

As Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie took the stage Thursday afternoon at the Box World Tour road show in his hometown of Seattle, he didn’t start talking his company’s pending IPO or its ambitions to conquer the cloud.

Instead, the 28-year-old went off about ride-sharing.

box“Did anyone take Uber here?” asked Levie, a Mercer Island, Wash., native who has criticized the Seattle City Council for its decision to limit the amount of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar vehicles on the road. “Were you one of the lucky 100 people?”

After he let off a little steam on the controversial issue, Levie spent the next half-hour talking about the past, present and future of the company he co-founded nearly a decade ago in Seattle with fellow Mercer Island High School grad Dylan Smith.

Box, an online file storage company focused on the enterprise space, filed for a $250 million IPO on March 24 and has been hosting half-day conferences around the world for the past few months to tout its services.

Levie, speaking in front of 100 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center, touched on his well-documented struggles to raise money in the Emerald City.

“We tried everything,” Levie said. “We even dropped off a business prospectus at Paul Allen’s house. He didn’t respond — must be a policy he has or something.”

Levie noted this July 2013 Forrester report, which shows Box ahead of most competitors in the cloud space.
Levie noted this July 2013 Forrester report, which shows Box ahead of most competitors in the cloud storage arena.

But the founders — who still “deeply have Seattle in our hearts,” Levie says — landed some initial funding from Mark Cuban and then found more willing investors in the Bay Area, where the 972-employee company is now headquartered.

Box has grown into a major player in the file storage industry with 25 million users and 34,000 paying organizations. Levie is clearly bullish for the company’s future, noting a “revolution happening in the workplace” enabled by cloud storage.

“We’re moving from an industrial economy to an information economy,” he said. “Every job is becoming software-enabled and every industry is becoming digitized.”

Looking ahead, Levie said that Box is focused on reaching customers in highly-regulated industries, like healthcare, financial, government and security, while also allowing third party applications to take advantage of Box’s features to build their own workflows.

“What we see is that we’re building the most advanced content-oriented platform that’s going to be available in terms of the services we offer,” he said. “We want to be the most powerful place to manage and leverage your content.”

Levie also touched on the NSA issues a bit. He said that Box has not received any NSA requests due to the enterprise nature of its business, but the CEO is still very much worried about countries implementing different Internet surveillance and security policies.

“That just doesn’t work. It will curtail the growth that we’ve had for the past 20 years,” he said. “The Internet is driving business across the world, and we can’t live in a world where as a cloud provider or Internet service provider you have to be constantly worried about every single country’s jurisdiction and how they’ll use the Internet for their own purposes. We fundamentally believe that this needs to change.”

As for his thoughts on the ride-sharing issue in Seattle, Levie said that artificially capping companies like Uber and Lyft is not a good strategy for the city. He specifically called out Transportation Committee Chair Sally Clark for wanting to “buy a year for the taxi world to adapt.”

uberx“I don’t know how to process that sentence,” Levie said. “She’s basically saying that they’re being corrupt and they’re going to block access to a disruptive innovation to ensure that the incumbent monopoly has time to catch up with the marketplace. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

While he doesn’t think the regulations will necessarily hurt Seattle’s image as a city that welcomes innovation, Levie still is perplexed by the rules set forth by city government.

“It won’t have any actual ramifications from an ecosystem standpoint,” he told GeekWire. “But why not take the opportunity to be forward-thinking when it’s available?”

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Russ Roberts

    Aaron – Thanks for using the bully pulpit to make an important point. Although I think council’s decision to cap TNCs does have an impact on the eco-system. Not a huge financial impact immediately, but a huge cultural impact, that will end up being a huge financial impact.

    First caps on TNCs, soon, new minimum wage laws that will certainly hurt the poor disproportionately to the wealthy. The wealthy will still be able to buy and dine where they like. But the number of jobs will immediately shrink, and there will be an income transfer from one working poor person to another working poor person as jobs are eliminated. Government assistance will have to increase for the unemployed person. And new businesses trying to get started may not be feasible in this city anymore, as the price to open the business will be too high. Those businesses will not employ new people, which would have a positive impact on creating more demand for low wage employees, thus naturally driving up wages for low income workers as they now have choice to move to better jobs with different employers.

    • John Kane

      Any time you hear someone talk about minimum wage laws as “hurting the poor” you can smell the bullshit and scrape it right off the top.

      • FC White

        Kudos, John Kane! And thank you, Geekwire for not censoring what is really the PERFECT word to describe the “libertarian”—-I’d call it largely reactionary–response anytime that We The People, use our government to improve things.

        If the Private Sector was so flawless, so perfect, so “natural” a vehicle to deliver goods and services with then there would be no need for government action in any area.

        Whose fault is it that there is a NEED for the public sector to get involved? Tell these billionaires and their small inner circle to look in the mirror and realize that making themselves wealthy isn’t enough.

        The invisible hand must have developed arthritis…

        • tryingtocalmdown

          no, the problem is that in this state and this city in particular, the hand of gov’t is in everyone’s pocket, wags its index finger at anything that is different or not approved by the local nutjobs who want to regulate everything. you rag on “libertarians” when you are clearly a lover of bureaucrats.

      • tryingtocalmdown

        do you actually believe raising the min. wage won’t result in job loss or higher prices at restaurants, fast food joints (where lower income people spend their money) or other consumer services run by small business owners? sounds like you are one of the kool aid drinkers that buys every goofy idea the seattle lefties throw out there.

    • Steve

      Hey, geek boy, you have zero idea of what you’re talking about.
      Take an econ course some time. Supply and demand curves are different for different things.
      There’s a concept known as ‘elasticity’, which means how supply or demand shifts depending on service or commodity in question.
      Demand for labor is relatively inelastic, since without labor you can’t run your restaurant, etc.
      History shows past increases in minimum wages are relatively easily absorbed.
      So before predicting armaggeddon for the poor, while drinking the $6 latte you still buy even though it was $4 two years ago, taken an econ course.
      Please. Because your voodoo economic simply isn’t supported by facts.

      • FC White

        Well said.
        I think most of these—more than a little arrogant and full of themselves—startup guys appear to have the social consciousness and insight of your average gnat.

        If they forced themselves to REALLY think about what they’re advocating, they’d realize it’s bullshit. On some level they know it, but their—often sociopathic—greed overrides absolutely everything else.

        However, most of them are savvy enough to know they can’t say how they really feel—at least not in public. They know that saying, “Oh screw those friggin, dumb, lazy, disorganized, passive idiots who aren’t smart enough to even realize that this world is a jungle and they deserve to be eaten!” or something to that effect.

        But sounding like Simon Legree or Idi Amin isn’t politically correct, especially when you’re trying to court investors or customers, so you come out with this convoluted nonsense like we see from the Russ Roberts guy above.

        God, it must truly hurt to twist yourself into that kind of shape, spewing complete garbage in order to sound “smart” and “compassionate” when most keen observers realize anyone saying that is obviously neither.

        • tryingtocalmdown

          go back over to crosscut or publicola where your ilk likes to rub your noses in each other’s behinds.

  • Box Guest

    Box is capping how much I can store on their server unless I pay them money. Paying them money is very inconvenient for me and capping is just plain unfair to all the people who want free storage. Plus, this artificial cap is going to cost jobs when people are unable to store all the information they need. I don’t understand why Box isn’t being more forward thinking.

    Fortunately, I found a service that will let me use Box in an unlimited way for free, which is extremely convenient and saves me money every month. I know it violates Box’s terms of use and it probably breaks some laws, but the service built an app, so they don’t have to worry about that. Do you think Aaron Levie will mind? Did I mention it’s convenient for me?

    • Slaggggg

      Shut up troll and go back to driving your dirty taxi.

      Box is a private business and can set prices how it likes. In contrast, Seattle is a government using its monopoly on force to prevent citizens from using services they want to use, in order to benefit a favorite class.

      If you don’t understand the difference , you are not worth talking to.

      • Mike

        You really don’t get it do you?

        • Slaggggg

          YOU are the one who doesn’t get it!

      • Steve

        Actually, not.
        All kinds of things the City monopolizes, from street parking to your water. As well as all kind of licensing that protects your pretty ass from getting burned.
        Now you may think that the internet innovation of Uber means they can just ignore rules that were created for public safety. Or do you just want the kind of cabs they have in Mexico and other countries, where you jump in and hey, take your chances.
        You know, like that taxi service in India where the girlfriend was raped and the boyfriend killed. Nice things like that.
        Nobody gives a shit about how Box prices. By the way, does Box increase their charges 500% on New Years’ eve, like Uber does?
        But safety of ‘for hire’ transportation is something that ALL cities take seriously. How’s Uber doing in NYC?
        You can rent a private car service anytime you want.
        Just not a ‘private’ taxi.

        • Slaggggg

          Tell me who did better at regulating.
          GM Switch Issue: This issue was known about for years, caused tens of fatalities, and was not corrected either by government regulators, or by Government-Owned GM itself.
          And then the Uber Insurance issue: Within a month after the tragic accident everyone talks about – all of the new transportation services had upped their insurance limits and revised policies.
          Not sure government regulation is all you say it should be. Plus I don’t like government constantly regulating my life; I want to be free.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            No, it was not within a month. It was more than three months later. Precisely it was Mar 14 – three days before the Seattle City Council voted in the new regulations that you are whining about that Uber and Lyft announced their expanded insurance.

            But it still relies on insurance fraud.

          • Steve

            gee, aren’t you the troll I see on WaPo and other places?
            slaggggg is a good handle for you.
            you haven’t been free since the hospital that unfortunately brought you into the world was regulated so you and your mom didn’t die…or did she have you in the fields while cultivating her ‘freedom garden’
            go to public schools? what kind of freedom is that, big guy?
            So having unregulated taxis will make you feel free?
            seems like kind of a small definition of ‘freedom’ to me.
            Should we dig further? Ever get any government benefits at all?
            Inquiring minds need to know.
            Your soapbox about ‘government regulation’ is so old you better be sure it doesn’t collapse on you.

      • FC White

        Notice how these “libertarian” (sociopaths) throw around this “government monopoly” garbage.

        Apparently you guys have never taken an economics course. There’s a clear definition of “monopoly” and its entirely different from governmentł

        Government is about our shared commons. What you, for self serving purposes, call “monopoly”, we citizens, for many decades understand as community.

        Of course, for some of you guys, the only “communities” you’re familiar with are the gated kind, where you increasingly are choosing to live.

        Well, you’d better build those walls a lot higher, and put together a small private army around the entire perimeter. Because if you keep pushing these “WINNER TAKES ALL!” policies, (accompanied by the SCREW THE LOSER smirk) it will soon feel as if your private compound has turned into a self-imposed prison.

        • Slaggggg

          Just to be clear … you are in the group of Losers, correct?

          • Steve

            Framing a declarative sentence as a question is symptomatic of Right Wing Delusion Syndrome (RDWS, in the DMS.7.
            There is a cure, but it’s painful and long.
            1) Give up Faux News (tough one)
            2) Stop trying to make yourself feel better by calling others ‘losers’. Still in kindergarten?
            3) Find something more useful to do other than sneer on obscure websites. Hopefully, you’re retired, and it’s your only remaining connection to civilization. So I guess that’s ok, but therapy will take a long time.

    • Justin Graham

      Clearly a taxi lobby supporter. It must not be that obvious to him/her how apples and oranges that comparison is. A more apt comparison would be.

      1. Box, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft all start a services to allow people to store files online
      2. The lobbies for the (physical) file cabinet, printer cartridge, and printer industries scream foul that these services aren’t following the rules for storing files.
      3. The Seattle City Council caps, by law, the number of files that can be stored in any cloud service within the city of Seattle to 150 files per service at any one time.

      • FC White

        And…(drumroll please) The Winner of The 2014 “Idiotic Analogy Award” goes to Justin Graham!

        (Because everyone knows that taxicabs and the storage of digital items in the cloud are one and the same thing…)

        • tryingtocalmdown

          and the 2014 award for supporter of idiotic gov’t regulations goes to FC White.

          • Steve

            Hmmm….you get into a ‘uber’ and you expect that if you are a paraplegic for the rest of your life, you’ll be ok.
            You drive your own car and you buy protection against ‘uninsured drivers’ who could care less about whatever damage they do to you.
            You obviously have no health insurance, because you can just go to the ER.
            Nasty idiotic regulations. Unfortunately, they protect people like you from their big bad selves.
            I think we should have an ‘opt out’ policy for you.
            Just don’t ask to ‘come back in’.

  • ratandas

    The contribution of mother in the life of every individual cannot be defined in word, only. It really needs a big celebration for the
    honoring of mother. Celebrate this Mother’s Day in amazing way with attractive
    Flowers and Gifts
    . Send Flowers to Malaysia
    and express your heartiest sentiments of love.

    • balls187

      What if your mother isn’t in Malaysia? Will you send the flowers on a Malaysian Airlines flight to America?

      • Slaggggg

        In honor of this thread I have decided to take my mother to the Malay Satay Hut. No flowers though.

Job Listings on GeekWork