Back in 2005, Dylan Smith and Aaron Levie, then university students, had no good way to share files with classmates, or get documents from professors. So, the business and economics majors, inspired by a class marketing project, decided to make one. After two months of round-the-clock work, they birthed Box, the cloud-based storage platform that’s now competing against IBM and winning clients such as Coca-Cola, Dell, and P&G.
Initially, they promoted the product to both businesses and consumers–anyone who had files to share. But companies soon began asking them for additional features, ways to easily manage multiple users, for instance, or to track how their documents were being used. They said they’d be willing to pay “a hundred times as much” for a more business-focused service, said Smith, so Box pivoted to oblige, focusing on developing applications specifically for the enterprise market.
The change was scary. “When there’s a strategic shift there’s a lot of unknowns,” said Smith. “There was certainly some anxiety around [whether it] would work.”
It did. Box is now worth more than $1 billion and has more than 120,000 business customers, including P&G, Six Flags, and Pandora. But the company isn’t likely to remain static for long. “You always need to be on the lookout for the next kind of great technology,” said Smith. “If you even blink” you can fall behind.