Cloud

For Box’s IPO to succeed, it needs developers more than customers

SAN FRANCISCO — At its first developer-oriented conference, Box made sure to pack in as many incentives in an attempt to reach one main goal: Get as many developers as possible to build as much as possible on its platform.

During the today’s opening keynote at BoxDev, and mixed in with chuckle-inducing music and clever jokes, Box chief executive Aaron Levie brought out a couple of his company’s leaders to make some new product-related announcements that should help establish Box as a robust developer-friendly platform.

Box currently has about 34,000 paying customers and 25 million users, and works with 99 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, according to the company.

New pricing

Senior vice president of product and platform Chris Yeh introduced a new pricing model. The company now has over 35,000 developers building on its platform, 1 billion API calls per month, and a 292 percent growth in Box customers’ use of third-party apps since last year.

But it turns out that Box’s customers don’t want to be charged based on their user numbers. They want consumption-based (meaning, based on API actions) pricing, and that’s exactly what Box is giving them now.

Although these moves aren’t that big, they show that Box is listening to its enterprise customers and attempting to tailor its product to their needs.

Yeh later shared that engagement and intelligent use of information extracted from documents are the areas his team will be focusing on next.

‘Enhanced context for your content’

Product manager Ted Blosser announced and explained Box’s first (real) product release of the day: the Metadata API. As the company works to expand its product and how well it serves enterprise customers, Metadata will enable developers to add context to their stored content — such as the location from which a picture was taken, a patient’s personal information for a medical file, and so on.

Metadata is now a part of Box’s mobile software development kits (SDKs) for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and it’s also now in the Box search engine.

Levie then treated the crowd by bringing out a Skycatch drone to demonstrate an “exciting” use of Metadata, though it was likely just to amuse the crowd before resuming with the regularly scheduled program of product announcements.

Viewing what you upload

“Let’s talk about where files are going in the future. [Crocodoc] built the world’s best HTML 5 document-viewing technology,” said Levie as he brought out Crocodoc chief executive and now Box platform director Ryan Damico on the stage. 

Damico introduced the third and last release of the day: Box view, a repurposing of Crocodoc’s technology (Box acquired the company last year) into an API that enables HTML-based viewing of Microsoft Office and PDF files uploaded to Box.

“Can you imagine if on Flickr you had to download you photos to view them?” he asked.

Good point, Damico.

But beside being used within the traditional Box application, akin to the Flickr analogy, this technology also opens some doors for other apps integrating Box. One of Damico’s examples is UberConference, the conference-calling company.

“People are usually on conference calls to talk about documents,” he continued. Now, UberConference can integrate Box View to enable people to upload, share and view the files they are presumably jumping on a call to chat about. 

So far, 100 companies are using Box view, including accounting software Xero, customer-service product Zendesk, and enterprise giant Oracle.

Box is also releasing part of that technology as a Javascript-based open-source project on GitHub. Viewer.js powers the client-side experience of document rendering with Box View. The company is not missing a beat in its efforts to pull in the developer community — even open -ource is now part of its culture.

Levie later highlighted “openness” during Zendesk chief executive Mikkel Svane’s brief time with him onstage by asking him his take on the idea in general.

“It’s natural for us to think of the Internet as our platform,” Svane replied. 

This pretty much sums up the theme Levie and his team went after with this first BoxDev conference. From the opening narrative of how enterprise technology has made it to today’s cloud-based trends to the company’s release of viewer.js, it’s becoming clear that expanding the platform is Box’s priority right now.

And if you’re wondering whether Levie said anything about the S-1 document Box filed earlier this week, well, he didn’t — instead we got a joke about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR yesterday as being the “elephant in the room.”

More information:

Box was founded on a simple, powerful idea: it should be easy for people to access, collaborate, and share all their content, wherever they are. Co-founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, along with our fast-growing team, have since esta... read more »

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