Box.net announced today a project called Box Innovation Network, which taps into developer communities and cloud technology partners to encourage development of enterprise software. The goal is to create a "vibrant ecosystem" for enterprise like Facebook did for social.
That's ambitious. A network for cloud-based software isn't nearly as spine-tingling as a new social network.
"Nothing will be cooler [than Facebook] for sharing photos with my grandmother and this isn't as sexy as daily deals," says Aaron Levie, the energetic CEO and founder of Box.net (now going by "Box"). "But this is technology that users can implement on their own within their companies and get excited about the projects they are working on."
He hopes employees will get excited by how easy it will be to share, edit, and collaborate on things like documents and presentations. Levie says Box is creating an open ecosystem that will let developers build and deploy Box applications instantly to their own unique company specifications. This ecosystem will include partners Appcelerator, Cloud Foundry, Heroku (owned by SalesForce), Rackspace, Twilio, and SnapLogic.
As a bonus to today's announcement, Box is providing $2 million in funding for startups that contribute to the expansion of the Box platform. The company hopes this will rally an army of developers to its mission. Wait, does that mean Box has left the startup nest?
"No, no," says Levie. "We're still a startup. But we need guys in hipster glasses making this stuff cool. I have to wear a jacket to work now."
Box has notoriously gone after big companies like Microsoft (it has SharePoint for collaboration software) and Google (it has Google Docs), but it seems the the day when Box joins their mighty ranks is approaching. A spokesperson recently boasted the company has "effectively flattened the competitive landscape in enterprise software." In October 2011, it announced $81 million in funding, bringing the total to $162 million. Box is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Emergence Capital Partners, Meritech Capital Partners, Scale Venture Partners, and U.S. Venture Partners.
Founded in 2005 in the dorm rooms of Levie and Dylan Smith (CFO), Box started as a consumer-focused online storage solution. It has evolved into an enterprise-class cloud content management company. Box helps nearly 6 million people and 60,000 businesses (70 percent of the Fortune 500, according to Box) share and manage content in the cloud. Box reports its revenue growth triples year over year.
"Slow-moving enterprise software giants have produced very little innovation in recent years," says Levie, getting in another jab at Microsoft. "Closed ecosystems have made it all but impossible for outsiders to create compelling experiences for customers. 45,000 developers currently use our API [application programming interface] to build new technologies. I'd love to see what 100,000 developers can do."