Aaron Levie finally admits it -- the timing for Box’s IPO filing was bad.
“What is obvious is that we should not have filed when we did,” he told Bloomberg West’s Emily Chang. And though he points to the “bit of market correction” that was happening with SaaS and other high growth tech stocks at the time as the reason, he seems to have sobered up a bit about his company’s “horrid financials” and the fact that he’s had to “deal with a lot of distraction because of the filing.”
Hats off to Levie for stepping up to the plate and dealing with the market on the market’s terms. It’s one of the first times we’ve seen him put aside his charm and sense of humor to show that he can trudge a rocky path and not just a yellow brick road.
Box's Second Act
What he’s going to have to do next is write a second act in order to reframe the way the market thinks about Box. Because while Silicon Valley might be all in on just about anything Levie sells, the enterprise needs to understand what’s different about what Box has to offer that the more than 99 other vendors in the Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) do not. And a feature here and a feature there isn’t going to cut it when you’re competing with the likes of Microsoft Office 365 plus Dropbox, EMC Syncplicity, Citrix ShareFile, Airwatch by VMWare and so on ….
It’s highly doubtful that Box can win this market as an EFSS pure play, especially if it wants to make money.
So what Box needs to do next is to step outside of the market it helped to build. Why? Because Box is not going to become “Dropbox for Work,” as it’s sometimes called now. There are too many other companies, including Dropbox, that are going to do that and charge less. Some of them can even afford to lose money in the process, if that’s what it takes to win new, or hold on to, existing market share.
Tells a New Story
What Box needs to do instead is to rebrand its story, or at least the way the world hears its story. After all, if Box was introducing itself today, Dropbox, Citrix ShareFile and VMWare’s AirWatch would not be the competition. Sure, Box can do many of the things they do, but it’s not where Box plans to add the most value.
Box’s SVP of Global Marketing, Whitney Bouck, made this abundantly clear at BoxWorks, the company’s annual user conference in September.
Speaking of EFSS, she said, “We certainly do that, but that’s not where the value is. That’s table stakes.” She went on to explain that Box is, “not just about sync and share,” it automates people and content related to workflow, which includes branching (meaning the flow can split off, as in “if this, then that"), metadata templates (which groups content according to attributes), inheritance and machine learning and so on. Bouck also highlighted a number of industry specific solutions for music and entertainment, life sciences, healthcare and others.
This is the stuff that Levie needs to learn to talk about now. The badly timed IPO and horrid financials (provided that they’re becoming more palatable) are history.
It’s time to step out of one box and into a new one.