How Box CEO Aaron Levie thinks about acquisitions

Credit: Matt Rosoff

Box made four product announcements at its BoxWorks event today, and two of them were based on technology gained in acquisitions.

A new file-previewing feature is based on Crocodoc, allowing users to view more than 100 filetypes rendered in HTML5, allowing users to zoom in, select and copy text, and so on. A new version of the Box iOS app is based on Folders, and gives users a much smoother way to preview files such as PDF documents from their iPhones or iPads. Box bought both of the small companies (with 7 and 1 person respectively) earlier this year.

Following his keynote speech, CEO Aaron Levie told us that Box still prefers to build when it comes to its core platform, but will occasionally buy companies who have innovated in adjacent areas

"We're very oriented around building in house," said Levie. "We have 160 or 170 engineers just working on extending the Box platform. But given the space we're in, there's a lot of adjacent innovation in mobile, in content previewing, in security. So we look for situations where there's a team or a technology that can extend even further on our core efforts."

Speaking specifically about these two acquisitions, "Crocodocs had five to six years of advanced technology around previewing in cloud. HTML5 was the best possible technology out there. It was such an immediate and obvious fit.... With Folders, we saw an app they were building on the Box API that was way better than our own app."

Platform VP Chris Yeh added that as Box gets bigger -- it's got more than 900 employees now -- acquisitions can help renew the entrepreneurial spirit at the company.

Levie pointed out, "Facebook innovated on that model, bringing entrepeneurial talent into company, it accelerates the cycle of building great stuff."

So what about those other two product announcements? The company also announced it's building a collaborative document creation feature called Box Notes; and that it's enabling customers to add metadata (such as descriptions about documents) in Box, obviating the need for companies to build adjacent databases just to contain these descriptions.

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