Look at the buzz around Box's IPO filing and you'd think the company was going down the drain.
The big headlines have revolved around Box's net losses and the fact that wunderkind CEO Aaron Levie sold off a majority of his equity to keep the company afloat. So far, the picture painted is one of a company filing out of desperation, but there's something missing - the basic fact that Box is running away with the race and is in pole position to dominate the nascent cloud storage and content collaboration market.
First, the winner takes most. History has proven that the number one player in a market generally captures the lion's share of shareholder value. Salesforce.com and Amazon are two excellent examples. Box's aggressive investments have made it the clear leader in enterprise cloud storage today. When enterprises and users think about buying an enterprise cloud storage solution, Box is tops on the list. That type of mindshare is invaluable in market that is still only in the 2nd or 3rd inning.
Secondly, while many want to compare Box to Dropbox, it's an apples and oranges comparison.
Box is going after the enterprise, not the consumer market, and that's where it's made a big splash. By convincing enterprise CIOs to put their most precious data in the cloud, Box has transformed the IT landscape in much the same way that Salesforce.com did a decade prior. It has opened the floodgates for a range of other cloud-based applications to penetrate the IT sector.
Box has done more than simply bring the cloud to IT, though. It has made enterprise storage sexy again. Its users are passionate about being associated with the brand and see it as a validation of their own thought leadership. To be a Box user or a CIO who buys Box is to be a part of an exclusive club of progressive and visionary IT leaders.
There's just one question that remains - can Box continue to innovate in the wake of its IPO?
So far, the company has hired on CIOs who know how to talk the talk in order to land partnerships with giants like HP and Salesforce, but it has toed the line and remained innovative. That could all change with the looming pressure of quarterly earnings calls. Investors want to see results more than mindshare and thought leadership. At the same time, if Box becomes too much like its stale, enterprise brethren, it risks losing its swagger and the sexiness that brought it to this position in the first place.
Everything up until this point has Box leading the cloud storage race. It's what happens next - innovation leading to a better enterprise collaboration platform - that will determine if Box leads out of the gates and takes the win or falls behind and fades away to an also-ran.
Alex Gorbansky is the CEO and founder of Docurated, an enterprise SaaS company which makes it easy for sales and marketing teams to find and use content buried in cloud and local file and folder based repositories. Prior to Docurated, Alex co-founded Frontier Strategy Group, a leading emerging markets research and data business. Earlier in his career, Alex was a storage industry analyst at Taneja Group and held product management roles at EMC and Loudcloud. Follow Alex on Twitter @docurated.
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