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This article was published on September 17, 2012

Box launches Box Accelerator as its COO reflects on working with young entrepreneurs

Box launches Box Accelerator as its COO reflects on working with young entrepreneurs
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

Box has announced the launch of Box Accelerator, a global data transfer network that pushes the speed, security and scale of the Box service for business and enterprise users for a faster and more streamlined service.

Box Accelerator uses patent-pending, intelligent routing technology and a series of new global upload endpoints to deliver content around the world at the highest possible speed, while maintaining usability, security and accessibility.

To confirm that the improvements in speed and stability were as it hoped, Box commissioned Neustar, a neutral provider of real-time information and analysis for the technology, telecommunications and media industries, to analyze performance against three major cloud storage providers.

According to the tests, Box had the lowest average upload time across all locations tested (2.7 times faster than the closest competitor, globally, and 3.1 times faster than its closest competitor in the U.S.). On average, file uploads to Box were processed at 7MB per second.

Today, more than 125,000 businesses and individuals at 92 percent of the Fortune 500 use Box to manage information and collaboration in the cloud. Sony, Six Flags, American Hospital Association and Targus Group International have all deployed the new Box Accelerator for file uploads and have seen similar results to those recorded by the third-party tester.

Box Accelerator is available today, at no cost, for all Box business and enterprise customers. The service supports file uploads to the Box web application today and will extend to other features of Box in the future.  Check out the video for more details.

Box fresh

Founded in 2005 by Aaron Levie (CEO) and Dylan Smith (CFO), Box provides a secure content sharing platform where content can be shared internally and externally, accessed through iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone applications, among others, and extended to partner applications such as Google Apps, NetSuite and Salesforce.

The privately held company is headquartered in Los Altos, California and is backed by venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), Emergence Capital Partners, General Atlantic, Meritech Capital Partners, NEA, Scale Venture Partners, and U.S. Venture Partners, and strategic investors and SAP.

Strength in experience

Although Box was launched from a dorm room by two 19 year olds, in 2010 the company hired Dan Levin, an experienced Silicon Valley entrepreneur to strengthen its foundations in order to expand.

John Stein of DFJ suggested that Levin should get in touch with Box after investing in the series A round for the company. At the time, Box was starting to move away from a focus on customers and was starting to pay more attention to small and medium businesses, an area of expertise where Levin could advise.

Levin feels that although the tech industry is seemingly filled with young business people, a lifetime of experience can be a powerful addition to a startup. “In the modern age it’s very chic to think about the 23-year-old entrepreneur who’s out to change the world. In many cases they will reach out to someone who is more experienced and maybe a little more savvy about the interpersonal side of doing business,” he says.

“I think that the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world have opened people’s eyes to the fact that young people can be very creative and innovative. In many situations they can also be very successful. I feel very fortunate to be involved with Aaron and Dylan and to share their dream and their vision as well as help out,” he continues.

Levin himself was a young entrepreneur, launching his first company at 27. “At the time I was perceived as being very young, immature and inexperienced and if I hadn’t had a partner who was a few years older, I don’t know if we would have gotten the thing off the ground. Nowadays it’s almost taken for granted that a young entrepreneur can be successful.”

Your boss is going to be half your age?

The working relationship between Levie and Levin was worked out some time before Levin joined the company. Levin feels that it is a self-awareness on the part of the young CEO that makes the relationship work. “We’ve divvied up the responsibilities of running a fast growing company like Box. We’re each able to focus on the things we love to do and the things we are good at and I think that as a model can be very successful. But as with all relationships among human beings, it can also bring a lot of challenge and conflict. One of the things that made our relationship as good as it is, is that Arron and I worked together for a year with me in an advisory role and that gave us an opportunity to know and understand each other before we even really talked seriously about the idea of my coming on board full-time.”

Young entrepreneurs can benefit from more experienced business people joining their teams at critical points in their journey, but often when a company has been nurtured and bootstrapped, ensuring that the balance is correct can be a tough call and early stage entrepreneurs can be loath to give up so much control.

Levin says that this was not an issue when he joined Box, “Aaron has a clear vision of what the company can be and how to get there and the last thing I would want him to do is abdicate that responsibility. But there are skills related to leading a large organisation, communicating effectively, establishing and maintaining culture in a large organisation, structuring teams and those skills take time to develop. That’s where there is value in having someone around who has experience in that area. 20 guys in a room is a very different problem than Box today at 600 people hiring ten people a week.”

Rapid expansion

Box has seen impressive growth throughout the United States and now in Europe. When I spoke with Levin, he was sitting in Box’s new London’s West End which will be Box’s European HQ. “We’ve got five people in here, three visiting Americans and two permanently stationed. We hope to have about 100 people here by the end of next year.”

Box has hired David Quantrell to run the EMEA operations in partnership with Greg Strickland, VP of Global Operations and director of finance & business operations. In the past Quantrell ran McAffee’s EMEA operations and before that worked on Hewlett Packard’s software operations also in EMEA.

Crowded clouds

Since Box launched the cloud has become somewhat crowded with new services as businesses realise the possibilities for using these technologies. Levin acknowledges that the expansion in Europe may involve a fair amount of hard work. “I think we have a bit of a challenge in Europe because we are not as well-known here as we are in the United States”, he says. “But at this point we’re so much larger than some of the companies that are going after the same space that it’s really not a challenge for us to differentiate ourselves.”

Levin was retired when Box tempted him back into full-time action working with the company. When considering his own youthful endeavours, would he have thought that he would end up working for a company with a CEO in his twenties?

“I remember in 1994 I was strolling down a street in San Francisco with Jim Breyer of Accel and we were both young guys then. One of his older partners said, “What if the US government allowed the Internet to be commercialised?” and I said, “Well, that will never happen. The government has been very clear that this is an academic project, they’ll never allow commercial use.” and he pushed, asking “What if they did?” and I told them, ‘It will change the world as we know it.’”

“Back then I could imagine working at a company like Box, the internet and the services it enables, including what we now call the cloud. It was very much in my mind and in the minds of a lot of people, even 15 years ago. Could I have imagined working for a 24-year-old? Probably not. I was the guy with the hair on fire in those days, seeking the advice of my elders.”

Levin feels that working with a younger entrepreneur is not really an issue when he is focused on helping to push business growth. “We all want the same things in life,” he says. “We want to play for the winning team, we want to make a difference, we want to have fun and we want to be compensated for the value we create. At Box I found all of those things. I found a group of people I enjoy working with, a company I could take a lot of pride in building and a vision I could get behind and I’m having a fabulous time.”

Image Credit: Cathyse67

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