Building for the Enterprise

Aaron Levie, Founder of Box, describes how the enterprise market differs from the consumer space for startups and how to best build products for it.

Aaron Levie – @levie


  • 50s – Introduction
  • Why building for enterprise is better than consumer, history of box, state of enterprise, patterns in enterprise
  • 3m01s – 99% of Fortune 500 using box
  • How did we get here?
  • 2004 really hard to share
  • cost of storage dropped, more powerful browsers, faster Internet; look for changing technology factors
  • 2005, funding from Mark Cuban; 100,000 users; 1 gb free storage; over-serving consumers; under-serving business
  • 10m30s – 2006: need to choose consumer or business focus; consumer hard to monetize (pay or advertise)
  • consumer: mobile $35 billion, advertising $135 billion; enterprise: $3.7 Trillion on IT yearly
  • enterprise very competitive and unappealing because slow to build, to sell, software generally complex, no love and care, sales process intermediary
  • 16m40s – 2007: investers, “you’ll never make it in the enterprise”;
  • strategy: do it differently; how do we move to customer directly; build for user beyond RFP; look for technology change
  • 240,000 business customers
  • architected solution to enterprise
  • 19m51s – what has changed about enterprise and made it easier to enter in past 5 years
  • now is magical time to enter enterprise: cloud; cheaper low cost computing, open platforms (customize above software), larger market (2 person business to 300,000 business), international, because of mobile IT more user focused, user led (finance, marketing, …)
  • IT now has to manage smart phones
  • 3 billion people online changes how business gets product to people
  • every industry is changing, need help dealing with distruption; they will need helpl from startups
  • 27m00s – changes in retail, healthcare, media creation & distribution, and every other
  • 30m56s – every company in the world needs better technology to work smarter, faster, more securely
  • 31m55s – How to get started
  • spot disruptions – look for new enabling technologies that create a wide gap between how things have been done and how they can be done
  • 34m27s – PlanGrid example in construction industry
  • 36m11s – Intetionally Start Small – and expand over time, if people call it a “toy” you’re on to something
  • zenpayroll example
  • 38m52s – find asymmetries – do things that incumbents can’t or won’t do because it’s economically or technically infeasible
  • go after suite players by building platform agnostic; benefits
  • 41m25s – Find the Almost-crazy Outliers – go after the customers that are working in the future, but also haven’t totally lost their mind
  • skycatch example – enterprise drones
  • 43m08s – Listen to Customers – but don’t always build what they want, build what they need
  • Palantir example
  • 43m58s – Modularize, Don’t Customize – every customer will want something a little bit different. Don’t make the product suffer for this.
  • Salesforce example
  • 44m15s – Focus on the User – Keep “customer” DNS at the core of your enterprise product. This will always pay dividends
  • box example
  • 44m37s – Your product should sell itself – Sales should be used to navigate customers and close deals, not be a substitute for great product.
  • Mixpanel – analytics for mobile, get foot in door with developers, then inside sales
  • Recommended reading: Crossing the Chasm by Moore; Innovators Dilemma by Christensen; Behind the Cloud by Benioff

Additional Reading



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