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Aaron Levie

Aaron Levie

How do you keep a company agile while it grows?

What we've tried to do is always keep in mind the same practices that we had when we were a small startup. What we bear in mind is that the best innovation, the best execution comes when you have a relatively small team that is incredibly focused on a very specific problem that they have full autonomy and ownership to go and solve and they can rapidly innovate, collaborate, and iterate on their ideas directly with customers. We're aligned to a singular mission, but our execution happens in much smaller working groups across the organization. And this is what we've learned from companies like Amazon, Netflix, and others of how do you scale to tens of thousands or more employees and still remain a very agile, very flexible, very innovative culture.

How will machine learning impact job opportunities?

If you take some of the tasks that we do today that are really inefficient or highly laborious where we're trying to find data or we're trying to connect the dots between different work that's happening, we think a lot of that work goes away and computers are actually going to help augment our work and intelligence in our daily execution so we can make decisions faster, so we can support our customers better, so we know which clients to go after, so we know which markets that we should launch products into and so AI and machine learning isn't going to wholesale replace our jobs. It's going to change the nature of our work so we become more efficient.

How have companies changed in the digital age?

I think if you look at the way that companies operated in what we classically defined as the Industrial Revolution - so in the 20th century - very command-and-control organization structures, very hierarchical organizations. None of that works in the digital age. The speed of business, the speed of how markets are evolving and how our customers are demanding new products and services from us requires that companies become much more dynamic and much more flexible and much more innovative. And so both the technologies that we use as an organization and the cultures and how we use those technologies and how we collaborate and how we share, how we innovate are going to be completely different in the future.

What advice do you have for other start-ups?

We got very lucky when we started Box. We had the confluence of trends like the cost of computing and storage dropping pretty rapidly, internet getting much faster, people working on multiple devices. So we had three mega tailwinds and mega trends that were benefiting our company that we could ride on top of. So get really, really crisp on what are the tailwinds that are going to propel your business. How can you make sure that you are as disruptive as possible to your market to open up the size of the market or go after a new customer base? Make sure that you have a product or service that is 10 times better than the existing incumbents or the legacy players in your space. And all the while make sure you're building a culture with a focus on the team and talent that lets you stay competitive and build an incredibly healthy organization.

Overview

Scaling startups: Box founder Aaron Levie shares the secret of keeping a company agile as it grows and analyzes the digital landscape