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FCW : June 15, 2015
26 June 15, 2015 FCW.COM For the closing session of this year’s Management of Change conference, ACT-IAC invited Aaron Levie, the 29-year-old co-founder and CEO of Box, to discuss tech- nology trends and leadership strat- egies. The cloud-based document collaboration company went public in January and is now valued at nearly $2 billion. FCW Editor-in-Chief Troy K. Schneider sat down with Levie shortly before his May 19 presentation. Not to put too fine a point on it, why are you at MOC? Cambridge, Md., isalongwaytocomefora few hours at a federal IT conference. Yeah. [laughs] I thought it was a lot closer to the airport. I’m here because we’re ramp- ing up our investment within the federal space pretty aggressively. Starting a couple years ago, we saw that our product was being pulled into federal agencies. We recog- nized that there was a huge oppor- tunity to make a pretty big dent in how agencies collaborate, share and actually work together. Was there a catalyst that prompted you to say, “Hey, the public sector is actually a place we should focus on and worth the investment to meet the security and acquisition requirements”? In Silicon Valley, the government IT and agency ecosystem is very mysterious. It’s this black box that we don’t fully understand. You hear stories about billion-dollar IT proj- ects gone wrong. It’s this confusing landscape that you tend not to pay attention to. But it became obvious that actu- ally these organizations look a lot like the same organizations we serve in the private sector. They have the exact same talent issues. They have the same resource con- straints. They’re trying to get more efficient, more productive and more innovative. Somewhere along the way, we recognized that if agencies looked exactly like Procter and Gamble, General Electric, Eli Lilly and the hospitals we serve, then we could probably have a pretty big impact. Has government proven to be a different beast or is it just another regulated sector? There are unique flavors of the chal- lenges and of the things that we’ll run into but nothing that is opera- tionally different from the work that we had to do to get into financial services or to get into health care. In fact, in some industries, I wish there were a sort of FedRAMP equiv- alent because it creates a very nice standard across the ecosystem of how to adopt these kinds of technol- ogies. In the federal space, it’s nice to have that level of consistency. What does success look like for Box in the federal space? We’d like government to run better. We think technology can actually be that bridge. We can be that bridge between agencies. We can be that bridge between teams. We can be that bridge between agencies and the outside world. We think that with the right technology — not just Box, but lots of these up-and-coming plat- forms — the government can just be more efficient, be more productive. That translates into better ser- vices, better regulation, better costs. Those are all things that are incred- ibly important. That’s the ultimate goal. Are there lessons that you think agencies can learn from how Box operates — not just the tools it pro- vides, but the way your team works together? Yes! Now, we have a different set of factors in our business. We don’t have the procurement policies that government has. We don’t have the hiring policies. We don’t have a lot ‘ You can have a mindset of moving quickly’ Fir stPerson Box CEO Aaron Levie discusses innovation, the “black box” of government and getting Silicon Valley to engage with agencies DRAGUTINCVIJANOVIC 0615fcw_026-027.indd 26 5/22/15 9:22 AM
May 30, 2015
June 30, 2015