Box

For simplifying the complex.

"Any market that doesn't have a leader in simplicity soon will," says Box CEO Aaron Levie. His startup has applied that philosophy to catapult ahead of far bigger giants in enterprise cloud-based storage.

Early on, Levie, who started the company in 2005 as a student at the University of Southern California, foresaw the "consumerization of IT" and understood the pay-off and the implications. He made Box free knowing that employees would use it on their own devices and eventually demand to use it at work. IT departments and enterprise software companies had to adapt to a new set of expectations. Enterprise products could no longer get by with awkward interface and outdated features. They had to be as slick, intuitive, and easy to use as the iPhone apps that had shown consumers what was possible.

Box stands out with a design sensibility that's rare in enterprise. And because Levie saw the iPad as more than a consumer device, it introduced an app ahead of competitors such as Microsoft and positioned itself as a mobile leader. At the same time, Box integrates other software such as Salesforce that companies expect.

The approach is working. Last year, sales at Box grew by 150%, and it surpassed 20 million users spread across 180,000 businesses, including Gap, Hulu, and Toyota.

[Image: Flickr user Tannaz]