Aaron Levie may be another of the lesser-known entrepreneurs who hit the big time in recent years but the truth is, Box and Dropbox are far from “lesser-known” and already incredibly successful.
In spite of popular belief, Box and Dropbox are two different concepts. While Box manages cloud storage for large organisations, Dropbox is more focused on individual and small business needs.
As with many of today’s entrepreneurs, Levie was a college dropout and started Box on a shoestring budget. However, together with his next-door neighbour, the entrepreneur grew a simple project into a major storage company which accounts for Amazon, Microsoft and other large companies as their main competition.
As yo may know, the company went public recently and has a current market cap exceeding $2 billion – a long way from the humble beginning of sleeping on a yoga mat. But more on that later.
Let’s take a look at five rules for startups and entrepreneurs from Aaron Levie:
1. Don’t Forget to Think Small
As already mentioned, Box tends to cater to larger clients while Dropbox is for everyone in between. More specifically, Adidas and Expedia are just two of the larger companies on their books.
However, Aaron says that the most successful strategy that they used has been their approach to small and medium-sized companies. After all, these account for most of their customers. With this in mind, Levie says that startups and entrepreneurs should never forget to think about the smaller customers and avoid getting caught up in becoming a major company before they take the appropriate steps.
Takeaway – Small and medium-sized businesses are often a better target market for startups and entrepreneurs.
2. Hire the Right People to Get the Company Humming
Eric Levie is no stranger to late nights and striking a balance between work and leisure. In fact, when Box was first started, he was known to sleep on yoga mats at the office. However, Levie knows that in order to nurture the same drive-in employees, the company must be culture-centric.
That is to say, they need to hire the right people and create a sense of community that can nurture the best possible product. Without both of these key aspects, Eric is certain that a startup or entrepreneur is confined to being average at best.
If you take a look behind the scenes at Box, you will see that the endearing charm of “the funniest CEO in tech” is evident in the general happiness and sense of pride in the company culture.
Takeaway – Hire the right people and know that company culture is often the differentiator for a startup.
3. Startups Should Recognize the Most Inevitable Opportunities
As you know, every business or product should solve a problem or at least aid a task of some kind. However, according to Levie, it’s just as important for startups and entrepreneurs to watch current trends and know that future opportunities are inevitable.
That is to say, every product or business is created on assumptions that eventually become irrelevant or outdated. If startups can recognize when these assumptions are no longer relevant, they can identify and take advantage of opportunities.
In order to make inroads into any market or even to stay relevant with an existing product, Levie says that startups need to be aware of trends and take advantage when any openings appear.
Takeaway – Watch and follow trends closely. Even as an established business, this is crucial to stay relevant in any market.
4. Focus 100% on Building the Product
When it comes to the start of business, Levie is very clear that the one and only focus should be to create the product and get it out there. As for scaling, hiring, sales and marketing, all these things come later and should be largely ignored until the product is 100% right.
In fact, Levie says that this was one thing that separated Box from other businesses at the time – they focused on the product and put off everything else that was likely to come afterwards. He also goes on to say that the company should be focused at all times on creating the best of everything, from products and customer service to workplace environments and company culture.
Takeaway – Build the product and get it out there. Worry about scaling, hiring and even market feedback later on.
5. Remain a Startup (Especially When You are No Longer a Startup)
Levie is always quick to cite the early beginnings of Box as the foundation for both past and current success. In other words, he says that every company should remember the key reasons or factors that made them successful in the first place. What’s more, it should be a priority to replicate these factors as the startup grows and continue to use the same principles long after these early beginnings.
Aaron is a lot more specific in terms of this effort or aim and says that the same factors should be considered any time the company is creating a new product or entering a new market or changing any aspect of what the company or product might do.
Takeaway – Always remember what made the company successful and deploy the same strategies with every concept, product or market.
Some Final Advice from Aaron Levie for Startups and Entrepreneurs
In spite of the many ways in which you can describe it, success is often a fleeting goal and an elusive objective that can seem next to impossible. It takes strategy, perseverance and passion to move a startup from being an idea into an actual product and successful company.
But in the words of Aaron Levie, startups and entrepreneurs should “Take risks. Fail fast.” – a testament to the fact that known mistakes can be corrected and getting started with the wrong idea is better than thinking about a good one that nobody will ever hear about.