Box CEO Aaron Levie Wants to Talk About Dropbox’s Planned IPO

Box CEO Aaron Levie has some thoughts about Dropbox’s public filing for an IPO.

Although both Box and Dropbox sell to customers online storage for their documents and data, Levie argues that they are two very different companies that target different kinds of customers.

He volunteered to comment to Fortune about Dropbox’s planned IPO, publicly confirmed on Friday in a regulatory filing, to help Wall Street understand the differences between the two businesses. While Box and Dropbox are “similar in some ways,” he says it’s “mostly in name” only.

“It’s his fault,” Levie joked, referring to Dropbox CEO Drew Houston giving his company a similar name two years after Box debuted in 2005. “He came after us.”

Levie praised Dropbox’s financial results, revealed for the first time in Friday filing. Dropbox’s sales are increasing year-by-year while it reduces its annual losses, albeit they were still a sizable $111.7 million in 2017.

“From the financials, it seems they like they put together an exciting business,” said Levie, who led his still-money losing company through an IPO in 2015.

What separates his company from Dropbox, according to Levie, is that Dropbox primarily caters to consumers and small businesses instead of larger ones like Box. Instead, Dropbox mostly caters to consumers and small-to-medium sized businesses, Levie said. Indeed, Dropbox said in its filing that it has “limited experience selling directly to large organizations,” although it does count some big companies as customers like Adidas, Expedia, and News Corp.

Still, Dropbox said in its regulatory documents that it plans to hire more sales staff as a way to sell more to large companies. But Levie downplayed the notion, saying that Dropbox has failed to make much progress with big companies like banks or pharmaceutical firms after targeting those customers for years.

Levis explained that Dropbox’s difficulties with larger customers is because its product isn’t tailored for the regulatory and security requirements of big businesses. His view, of course, isn’t exactly unbiased.

In reality, many analysts say that large companies have only just begun experimenting with cloud services like online storage and that Dropbox, therefore, has time to tweak its products. Nothing is set in stone–at least not yet.

After reading Dropbox’s filing, Levi said that he expected it to have more paid users. Only 11 million customers pay for Dropbox’s premium services out of 500 million registered users. The company’s corporate version of its service Dropbox Business, counts 300,000 users, the Dropbox filing notes. Box, on the other hand, says on its website that it has 41 million users and according to it’s latest earnings, has 80,000 paying customers, which include companies like General Electric and AstraZeneca.

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Levie said that Dropbox’s IPO is well timed. “I think it’s a great time to go public if you have a strong business model,” he said, citing other fast-growing businesses like Airbnb and Lyft that could benefit by going public this year.

Asked about what advice he’d give to Houston about leading his company after an IPO, Levie said to expect change. In light of that, Houston should remain focused on Dropbox’s corporate culture and core products, Levie said, while dealing with the increased demands of having public investors.

“I think there’s a lot of distraction that comes from Wall Street,” Levie said, who himself has three years dealing with it.

Jonathan Vanian
http://fortune.com/2018/02/23/box-dropbox-aaron-levie-ipo/

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