Box has come a long way in two short years

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Everywhere you look these days, you see news about Box, the cloud storage and collaboration service. But it wasn't that long ago--two years this month at the info360 conference--that Box was a another small cloud startup looking for attention at the conference.

In fact, when I first met the Aaron Levie, the dynamic CEO of Box and Ashley Mayer, whose current title is Senior Manager of Corporate Communications; few people had heard of their company, in spite of the fact it had been around since 2005, and most of us considered the company to be a Dropbox kind of service for saving and sharing files.

We were wrong. Box's goal as its billboards and t-shirts trumpeted was to go after nothing less than Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) SharePoint. It was aiming for the enterprise.

That day in April 2010 when I met Levie and Mayer, Box was known as Box.net. To be honest, I couldn't help but be amazed by how young they looked. Seriously, at the time Levie looked about 12.

But both were 20-something wunderkids who grew up in the same Seattle suburb, and while they were young, they were also whip smart and I couldn't help but see how they understood the new ways of working the media.

Levie had a Zuckerberg-style story because he and a friend had in fact developed Box.net in a dorm room in 2005. He too dropped out of college (much to his parents' chagrin) to pursue his goal of launching an Internet start-up.

I was actually impressed enough after that meeting to ask Levie to contribute a guest post. I had no idea how quickly this company would grow.

Levie and his small group wanted to take on the enterprise, which seemed like a lofty goal at the time, but by the time I saw Box again the following year at info360 in Washington, D.C., it had grown up with a huge booth in the center of the floor. And suddenly, everyone was talking about content management in the cloud and Box was the poster child.

That was a quick two years, but with growth comes criticism--and there have been some, especially about what Box lacks around things like metadata building. Others attack the freemium model as a kind of rogue IT. For some, the cloud will never be secure enough and lacks the governance and oversight.

Earlier this month, Egnyte, which offers a hybrid cloud-on premises storage product, went after Box with both guns blazing, setting up what the company was calling, a "Box Buster Buy Out Program."

When I contacted Mayer for a comment from Levie about it, he only offered this, "We love the energy in the space, and we are very excited about the level of innovation going after what will quickly become a multi-billion dollar market."

Not much of a response, but apparently Box didn't want to give it much more attention than that.

Whatever you think of Box as a service, you can't deny how far it has come in such a short time. Two years ago, it had a what seemed to me an unreachable goal of becoming a serious enterprise player.

Two years later, while it continues to climb toward that objective, it's become one of the leading examples of enterprise content management in the cloud--and that in itself is something. - Ron

What are your thoughts on Box? What does it still need to do to become a more complete enterprise content management solution? Leave a comment and let me know.