Box announces $81M in funding; taking on SharePoint

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Box.net announced Oct. 11 it closed an eye-popping $81 million in funding from a mix of investors including NEA, Bessemer Venture Partners, Salesforce.com, SAP Ventures and existing investors. You may recall we covered the Salesforce.com funding last month.

In a blog post, Box CEO Aaron Levie explains the main reason for needing so much money at this point in the company's development, stating succinctly, "Now is the time to scale." The question is: Why now?

Well, Box has major aspirations and for that they need significant capital. Levie devotes four paragraphs to explain he wants his company to take on Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). That would appear to mean SharePoint. Box after all is famous for it's Box.net vs SharePoint billboards in California--shown in the picture below. This one was on display in the cafeteria of their headquarters last year.

And Box does some things much better than SharePoint. First of all, as a pure cloud product, it's much more agile. Updates come on a weekly basis instead of every three years with SharePoint (although to be fair SharePoint's Jared Spartaro told me they would be releasing updates on a quarterly basis moving forward). Box is available on virtually every mobile platform, whereas SharePoint is currently only available on Windows Phone 7.

Dan Keldsen (formerly of Information Architected), partner at Human 1.0 says Box is clearly different from SharePoint and other traditional content management vendors. "Where traditional content management is about risk and transactions, Box is about people and ad hoc needs," Keldsen explained.

To its credit, Box makes it easy to share files, to collaborate and it works well with other enterprise software. But--as Peter Monks pointed out on Twitter in a debate with Box Communications Director Ashley Mayer--it doesn't come close to the breadth of functionality you find on SharePoint, which provides the ability to build a portal, share files, collaborate, manage records and more.

While Box does a limited number of things very well, SharePoint does a lot of things in a satisfactory manner (and leaves a lot of gaps to be filled by its hundreds of SharePoint partners).

"To justify the claim that 'Box is like Sharepoint' you need to have some minimum set of SharePoint features (or equivalent)," Monks tweeted. 

And Keldsen says Box is clearly missing some key content management components. "So does Box offer everything a company could want from CM? Absolutely not. Certainly they're missing features that traditional DM/CM would consider a necessity--notably, workflow and metadata," he said.

Keldsen believes this a crucial time in Box's evolution as a content management offering. Up to now, they have pushed the right buttons and pulled all the right levers, but with this money comes pressure to produce, and Box will have to live up to its considerable billing as a leading cloud player.

As Keldsen puts it, "The proving ground of Box's future success is going to be laid over the next 6-12 months, and it should be pretty obvious after that time whether the bet is a winner."

I'm not so sure it's do or die time just yet for Box, but with that kind of cash in pocket and brash words for the content management old guard, it just might be time for it to put all that money where its mouth is.

For more information:
- see the Box.net press release

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