Earlier this summer, Box announced it would push its cloud collaboration tools into a notoriously tricky sector, health care. Now, the Silicon Valley-based startup has announced it’s trying its luck in education.
Box believes it can help create “more modern classrooms” by introducing schools to its file-sharing technology.
The team has reasons for optimism. Revenue drawn from the education sector has grown 119 percent in the previous year, and more than 100 universities and hundreds of K-12 institutions have been using Box for years.
Indeed, Box is betting that the future of education is the cloud.
The company has partnered with open-source learning management system Canvas by Instructure, so students can upload content (homework, research papers, assignments), and teachers can grade and review it within the application. Students can view their marked-up work on any mobile device, whether it’s an iPad or a smartphone.
To reach an even greater number of schools, Box has teamed up with a number of other education software tools, including learning management system (LMS) giant Blackboard and social learning platform Edmodo. These partners will gain access to Box’s HTML5 document collaboration tools, acquired through the acquisition of Crocodoc.
“Cool things start to happen when we become the glue behind education-focused apps that don’t talk to each other,” said Whitney Bouck, Box’s enterprise general manager, in an interview.
Bouck is the brains behind Box’s vertical strategy; she’s experienced success with this approach at previous companies. She proposed that Box target specific industries after conducting extensive research. She found that the cloud technology was utilized far more certain sectors than others. These industries include health, education, media and entertainment, and law.
Box has not invested heavily in building new software or hires to appeal to customers in these markets. Instead, the biggest hurdle is the laborious and costly regulatory process to achieve HIPAA compliance, which is necessary for the health and education sectors (most major universities have teaching hospitals). HIPPA is a set of standards that govern how companies can use highly sensitive, individually identifiable health information.
Box is now HIPPA compliant, which is a major competitive advantage. According to Bouck, most of the direct rivals — with the exception of Microsoft — are not, so they will have trouble reaching a large swathe of customers.
For Box, education has been the most challenging sector from a regulatory standpoint. “It is the most security-focused industry we have ever worked with,” Bouck explained.
Teachers and parents are concerned about the security of student records, and fear the consequences of a security breach or hack.
To calm some of these concerns, Box has secured a partnership with Internet2, which Bouck describes as a major coup for the marketing team. Internet2 is a nonprofit computer networking consortium that counts over 200 higher education institutions as its members. It is known in education circles and amongst its customers for its strict standards for data security.
Through this partnership, Box has gained a greater access to higher education institutions. Since the launch of the Internet2/Box program in April 2012, more than 1.5 million Box accounts have been purchased across 49 universities.