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As Box CEO Aaron Levie prepares his company for the future, he’s taking inspiration from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
If Box is going to stay relevant for years or decades to come, it can’t take anything for granted, Levie told Business Insider on Wednesday in an interview following his company’s latest quarterly report. It has to try to capitalize on what it sees as its big opportunities, even if that means making investments in things that aren’t obvious and won’t pay off immediately.
In saying that, Levie was consciously channeling Bezos, who’s famously tried to instill in his company that it’s “always Day 1,” and there is room to experiment and make big bets.
“That’s exactly our mentality,” Levie says. “We’re starting over right now.”
Box has a good base to build on. The cloud content management service (don’t call it a file storage app), reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Wednesday afternoon. Its loss narrowed from the year-ago period and, for only its second time, it posted positive free cash flow for a quarter. The company also upped its guidance for the rest of its 2018 fiscal year
All that led Box shares to jump about 4% after the closing bell.
With the company now about two and a half years out from its IPO, Levie is focused on his company’s future.
The whole notion of “work” is slated for massive upheaval over the next decade, as automation, artificial intelligence, and the slow demise of the PC change the way that offices operate, Levie says. With its focus on intelligently organizing files and making them accessible from any device, Box can benefit from that transformation, he says.
“The first core principle is that we have to grow fast enough to capture this opportunity,” says Levie. “We want to power how the world works together.”
Levie says that Box is making two big bets for the future.
First, it’s upping its investment in the Box Platform, which lets developers build Box’s storage and file organization into their own apps. By providing developers with a system that lets them store and retrieve files across devices, Box stands to benefit no matter what the next generation of computing looks like, Levie says.
- REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Second, Box is trying to expand internationally as it looks to grow its base of customers.
Customers who are using Box today are better-positioned to take advantage of the wild, AI-powered, cross-device world of tomorrow, thanks to the company’s investments, Levie says.
“We need to build a platform that works with that next decade of work,” he says.
The challenge Box faces is to balance those next-generation aspirations with the kinds of things that shareholders want to see, Levie says. Box is already taking steps in that direction too. Not only did its overall loss narrow in its most recent quarter, its sales and marketing spend, long a point of contention, was down as well.
While trying to keep a Bezos-like mindset, Levie says that he also wants to be responsible as Box moves forward.
“We want growth, but we want healthy growth,” says Levie.