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Box moves toward IPO destiny

Posted October 3, 2013

It’s the quintessential Silicon Valley tale: Two kids start a company in a dorm room. The company grows, adds millions of users and within a few years is worth more than $1 billion.

Only Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith aren’t helping people swap MP3s or status updates: They’re selling data-storage software to the Fortune 500. And though they’re both just 28, they’re widely expected to soon launch one of the tech industry’s most anticipated stock offerings.

“There aren’t a lot of people Aaron’s age who are actually passionate about the enterprise – even though that’s where the money is,” said analyst R. “Ray” Wang of Constellation Research. By some estimates, the cloud storage market in which Los Altos, Calif.-based Box competes is worth more than $7 billion a year, and Wang is among those who predict strong demand when the company finally kicks off an IPO.

Like any good chief executive, Levie won’t cop to a timetable for an initial public offering, but he’s well aware Wall Street’s appetite for enterprise software is razor-keen. While consumer companies such as Twitter get the buzz, stock investors have shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars recently to buy stakes in the likes of Marketo and FireEye, which help businesses analyze and safeguard their data remotely.

So how did a college sophomore fall in love with enterprise software?

In an interview after the annual BoxWorks conference, which drew thousands of people and celebrity speakers last month to a San Francisco hotel ballroom, Levie recalled how he’d gone to the University of Southern California with dreams of breaking into movies. Instead, he found himself in a business class where he and his fellow students were told to analyze a market.

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