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Startup Secret No. 17: Chase storms

A great product will only take you so far. You want to be at the center of economic change, too.

"Attach yourself to a tornado."

--Aaron Levie, CEO, Box

I'm impressed with Box and with its founder, Aaron Levie. His company has managed to find traction in a murderous commodity space: online storage. Box did it by focusing on the enterprise market, which is smart, but also unusual for a company run by such a young guy. Aaron is 27 and started Box when he was 20. Usually, I think, the whippersnappers build products for other kids. Think Jobs and Zuckerberg. (Gates was an anomaly).

Aaron is aggressive beyond even what I see in most startup founders. And that's where today's tip comes in. I'll let Aaron speak for himself:

At Box, we decided to go storm chasing. We set out to achieve massive customer adoption by finding markets where the tornadoes were emerging--something we could bet on before our larger competitors could. Mobile computing became one of these tornadoes, with iPad, iPhone and Android devices coming to dominate the enterprise. It's a dramatic market shift in technology away from Microsoft.

Within three hours of the iPad being announced by Steve Jobs, we put together a tablet product development team. We've quadrupled our engineering efforts around mobile in the enterprise in the past two quarters.

As more and more enterprises adopt a BYOD (bring your own device) policy in the workplace, we've seen Box adoption accelerate in parallel. At Box, a large majority of our enterprise growth (200%+ per year) is due to this mobile acceleration.

Zynga did this on Facebook. PayPal did this with internet commerce. Apple did this with digital music. Find a host platform, or a market that's about to explode, and make sure you sit at the center of it.

Now, obviously, it's one thing to be able to forecast the weather, and quite another to be able to change it. You need a product that delivers on your vision. But to grow rapidly from nothing, you really do need that vision, too.

Startup Secrets will be taking a short break while I am at CES next week. Watch for me on our CES live coverage, especially on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 12:30pm Pacific Time, when I'll be hosting the video show, CES In Depth. Startup Secrets will return on Tuesday, January 17th. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter. See all the Startup Secrets.