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Box CEO Aaron Levie: 'I thought Google Wave was the future of the Internet, but I was wrong'

Box CEO Aaron Levie: 'I thought Google Wave was the future of the Internet, but I was wrong'

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aaron levie box
aaron levie box

Aaron Levie is the 27-year-old cofounder and CEO of Box, a cloud computing company leading the charge against Microsoft to modernize the workplace. He's Jack Dorsey's favorite entrepreneur, and a guy known for his keen ability to elicit both laughs and investments. Levie took a few minutes to talk to The Verge about the best tennis shoes to wear with a suit, tweeting uncensored, and if "the cloud" as we know it will exist in a decade. You can find him on Twitter at @levie.

What are you doing right now?

It's 1AM and I'm trying to get through today's emails. Then planning for BoxWorks, our annual customer conference, where we'll be launching some amazing new technologies and partnerships. Thanks for asking!

You're the rare CEO who tweets whatever's on his mind without running it by a PR company. Have you ever gotten in trouble with your team for something you said?

How do you know we don't just have a really irresponsible PR firm, and in fact I do run everything by them? And yes, Box's head of communications often wants to fire me.

You often pair suit jackets with tennis shoes. What are your sneakers of choice, and why?

Tigers and Pumas are the best shoes in the world. It should be a mandate that everyone has to own a pair, and Zappos should get a Nobel Prize for awesomeness.

Box seems to iterate a dozen or more times per month. How do you guys keep up such a breakneck pace?

We're fortunate to have a world class engineering organization, now led by Sam Schillace, the founder of Writely and creator of Google Docs. We are organized into many subgroups, all focused on critical parts of our application, ranging from performance and security to mobile and end-user features. This affords us the velocity and throughput to keep us ahead of our traditional enterprise competition.

"Email can't die — it's an open standard that works everywhere and for everyone."

Box integrates with tons of mobile apps these days. What are the most innovative apps you've played with? Are apps "the future"?

Apps are the present. We think the future is when apps can easily and intelligently share data with other apps, and when you can light up any app and instantly get to all of your content. Today, mobile is dramatically changing how people work. If PCs shaped how workers collaborated and communicated in the office, post-PC devices will do the same for everyone outside the office walls. It turns out the vast majority of the world's workforce doesn't go into a cubicle and type on a keyboard throughout the day. The rise of smartphones, tablets, and apps will enable nearly a billion more individuals to change how they work.

What do you think of email? Will we be using it years down the line, or will we be using more contextual services at work like Asana or Trello?

Email isn't going away. I thought Google Wave was the future of the internet and perhaps would even usher the return of Elvis, but alas, I was wrong. Email can't die — it's an open standard that works everywhere and for everyone. That said, much about email can be improved, and many applications, like Asana and Box, solve processes that email is poorly designed for (task management and content sharing, respectively).

Are people going to be talking about "the cloud" in ten years?

Yes, but only in the same way that people are talking about mobile phones and social networking today. It will be assumed that everything is "in the cloud" just as it's assumed that we're mobile and connected socially online; but that's not to say there will be no innovation left. In ten years, there will continue to be new use cases that are enabled by infinite computing and being able to share and access information anywhere.

"It will be assumed that everything is 'in the cloud.'"We're often quick to forget that each time one type of technology reaches a point of saturation, its ubiquity enables some new kind of capability and technology. We'll get vastly more innovation once more cloud services connect to one another, and when data can be leveraged to solve far more interesting problems (Healthcare? Genetics?), and when we can truly work from anywhere.

What company or CEO do you most admire?

It's now trite to say one admires Steve Jobs and Apple, but it's true. He taught entrepreneurs everywhere that underdogs can win, that you really can build amazing software and experiences, and he exposed the right reason to build a business: to change the world. Many other companies and CEOs are driven by similarly inspiring guiding principles, like Marc Benioff, Jack Dorsey, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Michael Dell.

What's the best book you've read lately?

The Ultimate Entrepreneur, about Ken Olsen, the CEO and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation. It's like Twilight, but about mainframes and minicomputers.

What new technology excites you the most?

I get excited by lots of different kinds of technologies. Anything that dramatically makes you more efficient, speeds up business processes, or expands the market for previously cost prohibitive technology. One company called Keychain uses iPhones to build a shipping and logistics network by empowering individual truckers to plot their moves in real-time. As for others, in no particular order: the iPhone 5, Exec, Uber, Stripe (disclosure: I'm an investor), and robots.

How do you stay focused?

Sorry, what was the question?

What's the last thing you think before falling asleep every night?

I hope to God no one breaks into my apartment while I'm asleep. Right before that I'm thinking about the competition and our product roadmap.

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