The debate about whether most companies will, in fact, one day move a significant chunk of their operations to the cloud continues to rage long and hard. But if you needed any indication that it will without a doubt happen, take a gander at this: Box.net, the cloud-based file storage and collaboration service aimed at businesses, just netted a whopping $48 million in funding. (And that's on top of a little more than $30 million it had already racked up from venture capitalists.)
That's a pretty big chunk of change for a company that's operating in the humdrum backwater of enterprise software. But co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie tells Fast Company that enough people in the business world are excited about what they're building (5 million to be exact) that it's time to set their sites on the international market. Or, as we like to say, execute on its plan for global domination (of the online collaboration space, at least).
A little over half of the service's traffic comes from overseas, Levie says, though only 15-20 percent of the revenue is international. That's because many of the overseas users are part of accounts paid for by U.S. companies. About 60,000 businesses are customers, and it's in use at 73 percent of Fortune 500s.
Andreessen Horowitz is among the investors in this funding round. General partner Ben Horowitz tells Fast Company the move to the cloud is inexorable at this point and that within five years, every business application we’re used to using on our desktops will be rewritten to operate from the cloud.
When that happens, says Horowitz, many of the applications will be easier to use due to a phenomenon called "the consumerization of enterprise software." Whereas business software has traditionally been clunky, many of the applications being written for the cloud are being designed with the kind of ease of use normally found in consumer products. Box is one of the companies leading that charge, Horowitz says, and among those operating in the file storage and collaboration space, they’re the ones to bet on.
"They’re relatively unique," he says. "They’re very original in thinking about product, but they’ve also been willing to do what a lot of new companies haven’t been willing to do—the hard work to go out and sell it."
"Companies that are good at the consumerization of the enterprise generally feel like they don’t need to sell to companies because everybody will realize they have the best product and will just come get it. Which is just not true."
Box, Horowitz says, is "serious about winning the market." "They're both original enough to create a consumer-quality product, and then disciplined to do what it takes to win enterprise customers."
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