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File-sharing company Box acquired Crocodoc today because your documents are boring and no one wants to read them. Crocodoc’s technology can turn them into interactive experiences using HTML5.

Box announced the acquisition today, but declined to reveal the terms of the deal. Chief executive Aaron Levie did say that the deal was a cash-and-stock transaction and that all of Crocodoc’s employees will be absorbed into Box. Crocodoc founder Ryan Damico will join Box as director of platform.

Crocodoc, once a Y Combinator company, was born in 2007 to make documents are more enjoyable experience. Many people feel that text documents are boring, even if you layer on as many PowerPoint transitions as possible. Using Crocodoc, you can turn your documents into carousels, flip-books, and more.


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The company first started working in Flash to take elements of a document and make them more pleasing to the eye and interactive. But it quickly moved on to HTML5 as soon as the technology was available. Indeed, Crocodoc only complete its transition to HTML5 within the last few days.

Ryan Crocodoc

Above: Ryan Damico, founder, Crocodoc

Image Credit: Meghan Kelly/VentureBeat

“Things like document experiences haven’t really been modernized, they’re still very clunky, very cumbersome,” said Levie at the announcement today. “You think about what viewing videos looked like in 2005 before Youtube videos came around. You had to have all these different plugins and players just to view a video somebody sent you. We see the same sort of experience required for documents today.”

Box assures Crocodoc’s customers that, for the time being, the service will continue to run as normal. This means it will continue to work with Box competitor Dropbox. The technology will also be integrated into Box’s existing products and some form of rebranding will happen in the coming months.

The conversation often turned toward bringing “consumer-grade” products into the enterprise. This type of attitude seems to be flowing throughout Silicon Valley — the idea that consumer-grade apps are more beautiful, usable, well-built than enterprise-grade apps, which are characterized as clunky and outdated.

“It’s very consumer-grade design … I think that’s really the standard that you have to shoot for now,” said Box’s vice president of engineering Sam Schillace at the announcement. “Documents kind of seem boring. … We’ve had them for 20 years, but they are undergoing this interesting evolution.”

Damico told me that he is particularly excited to start building out new use cases for the healthcare industry, which could certainly use some consumer-grade love. This might include turning research papers into more-digestible flipbooks, or turning medical images into HTML5-based interactive documents in some way.

Damico may also tackle electronic health records — a massive market opportunity, given that so many healthcare institutions find them cumbersome, hard to read, and slow. A different presentation of a patient’s medical history might make all the difference. (For more on electronic health records, check out VentureBeat’s upcoming HealthBeat conference, May 20-21 — it’s one of the event’s major themes.)

Security, of course, is at the top of the priorities list when it comes to any health-related documents. Box recently received HIPAA compliance, which opens the doors for Crocodoc, which otherwise wouldn’t have been able to achieve that security itself.

Ryan Damico and Aaron Levie images via Meghan Kelly/VentureBeat

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