Box Reaches Out to Developers in a Bid to Promote Its Cloud File Sharing Service

11/21/11Follow @wroush

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an e-discovery solution. But where we are going to be different from Twitter is that our [developer] program is designed to be pretty high-touch. We are going to try to meet with most of the people who want to come into /bin in some form, whether it’s an e-mail or a meeting with the people directly. We will get a much better sense of what people are building.

We have so much work to do just to continue to grow our core business at the rate it’s going that the areas we want to partner around are very clear right now. It’s also obvious, having been in the company a few months, what our engineers are extremely good at doing and areas where they don’t have the skills or the charter. So I’m not saying it couldn’t be a problem in the future, but we are pretty focused on building out Box as a horizontal file- and content-sharing system, and I don’t see us moving into any of the spaces you are talking about.

X: You announced on Thursday that Box is going to invest up to $2 million in companies building applications that integrate with Box. How will that fund work?

CY: We have some focus areas where we want to start, such as security. What we said is that we would take $2 million and set it aside to invest over, say, a 24-month period. When we have started doing our first investments we will have a better sense of how much and when. The idea is to invest either as an equity investment, or in a co-development, or even in IP and talent acquisition if we decide to take stuff to market. But it’s not a formal investment fund like the fbFund [Facebook's seed fund for social media startups]. It’s an amount of money we have set aside so that we can work with partners in these various forms. The whole point is to get stuff to market.

X: When Evernote started billing itself as a platform for third-party developers, it created an online directory that it called the “Trunk” to feature the new apps. Are you thinking about doing something similar at Box?

CY: We have a form of that—it’s something called the Box Apps Marketpalce that allows third-party developers and partners to make apps that run on top of Box visible to our customers. That’s a place you might see DocuSign or Google Apps or E-Fax. A user can just add E-Fax to their account, and then any file they want to send through E-Fax can be sent through an action on the file within Box. What we don’t have is a marketplace for the more complex integrations like LiveOffice, the ones that require more work to deploy. We are thinking about whether we want to extend the Box Apps Marketplace into a thing where everything built by customers can have exposure. The difference between us and Evernote is that we are so enterprise-focused. We can take bundles of apps and expose them through our sales force and get them in front of customers that way. That’s one of the benefits we provide to partners—this direct-to-market channel.

X: What kind of reactions to the new program are you getting so far?

CY: I’m super excited about getting this out the door. It’s interesting, talking to you a day after the event. I’m looking at an e-mail inbox that’s jammed with people with different ideas. So I have a different stress now than I did before launch, which is handling this volume of people coming in to talk to us. We want to do that as well as we can, as fast as possible but with a human touch.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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