Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 23rd 2013 Contents BG26| INTERNATIONAL
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 2013 • WEEK FOUR
As a man who loves tinned spaghetti
hoops, drives a six-year-old car, and
holds meetings over a burger at
McDonald s, it is fair to say that Aaron
Levie is not your average multimil-
He lives in a modest apartment, doesn t take hol-
idays and, at the age of 27, says his biggest luxury
is his iPhone.
Yet a multimillionaire Levie most definitely is, with
an estimated worth of US$100 million (£6 million).
The boss of fast-growing US cloud storage business
Box, Levie is too focused on work to be bothered
about luxuries. He doesn t leave the office until the
early hours of the morning at least six days a week.
"I work so many hours because I love what I do.
I m incredibly stimulated and excited about the busi-
ness," says Levie.
"But at the same time, I realise that you do have
to a certain level of discipline and determination to
succeed in life - you have to work hard and make
lifestyle sacrifices. That applies to everyone."
Based in Los Altos, California, in the
heart of Silicon Valley, Box provides
companies and consumers with remote
electronic-data storage, also known as
In simple terms, instead of buying a
hard drive or server, customers rent
space on one of Box s, which they access
via their computer or smartphone.
The company is used by 460 busi-
nesses on the Fortune 500 list of the
largest US firms by revenues; everyone
from consumer goods giant Procter and
Gamble to advertising company Clear
Box s revenues last year totalled
US$70 million, up 160 per cent from
2011. And it is worth an estimated US$1
billion after securing hundreds of mil-
lions of dollars of venture capital invest-
This is not too shabby for a company
that was founded only in 2005 after
Levie, a Seattle native, dropped out of
university in Los Angeles to set up the
business with his childhood friend
"When we started Box in college, it
was all about discovering a much better
way for people to store data. It was a
very exciting time," says Levie, who got
into computer programming as a
The thinking hammocks at Box s
headquarters Box s headquarters are
very much in the fashionable style you
would expect from a Silicon Valley
But as in most start-ups, funds were
tight to begin with. Levie says he was
initially as cash-strapped as he had
been as a student.
"We were making very little money
to begin with. I d pay myself just
US$500 a month salary [£330] and live
off instant noodles and Spaghettios.
"And for the first two-and-a-half
years I slept on a mattress in the office.
It was like living on a submarine---I d
roll out of bed and start work.
"I d go more than two days without
ever leaving the building."
Fast forward eight years, and both
Box and Levie s finances have obviously
Yet while most people in their 20s
would probably consider spending
extravagantly if they found themselves
a multimillionaire, Levie says that
doesn t interest him.
"I m certainly not into money and
prestige. For me there is simply nothing
more exciting than people involved in
the creation of great products. That is
what drives me.
"I don t live on the office floor any
more---now I have an apartment six
minutes drive away---but there is cer-
tainly no mansion up in the hills.
"And I still really like Spaghettios.
I d be happy to eat them all the time.
My taste buds really haven t developed
much from there.
"The only time I m in a fancy restau-
rant is if a client wants that, but we
recently concluded a deal while eating
at McDonald s."
Back when Box launched back in
2005, there weren t many people who
had heard of cloud storage, so securing
financial backing for the company was
initially a challenge, despite all Levie s
"You have to remember that the com-
puter industry was a very different place
back in 2005. This was (five years) before
the iPad for example.
"So we certainly had many, many
rejections from potential backers. We
knew the potential we had, but it cer-
tainly wasn t that obvious for potential
"But we were confident, so we just
wrote to potential investors. Because we
were so confident in Box we had a high
tolerance to people saying no . It really
didn t dampen our spirits."
One of Box s biggest breaks was send-
ing an unsolicited letter to Mark Cuban,
the Texan technology investor who sold
internet radio company Broadcast.com
to Yahoo in 1999 for US$5.7 billion.
Cuban s involvement meant other
investors were keen to follow and Box
began to grow very quickly.
Levie has turned down a number of
offers to buy Box.
"There are such fundamental changes
continuing to take place in the landscape
(of the computer industry) that Box has
tremendous opportunities going forward.
[To sell up] would really compromise
on our opportunity," he says.
Now leading Box s international
expansion, Levie also says he doesn t
think he could ever work for someone
"I think I m the kind of person who
would be very difficult to employ. I m
pretty annoying, but driven." (BBC)
Not your typical
multimillionaire Aaron Levie, CEO of the Box.
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