Aaron Levie was just 20 years old when he co-founded Box and became its CEO.
As the file-sharing company grew and gained attention, Levie’s young age always seemed to be a thing. Every headline or story about Box mentioned it. (And still does, including this one: He’s 28.)
But, even though he’s still under 30, he’s no longer considered a kid in the eyes of the Valley elite. He’s now running a company that was recently valued at $US2 billion.
We talked to a Valley insider who’s known Levie from the beginning who told us about a particular moment when Levie grew up: when he turned down a $US600 million acquisition offer from a well-known software company. Our source wouldn’t reveal who the software company was, except to say it wasn’t Microsoft. UPDATE: The company was Citrix, Forbes reported at the time.
At the time the offer came in, Box had raised about $US100 million or so in funds, our source said and the VCs were pressuring Levy.
The buyer wasn’t a strategic fit for Box and Levie ultimately turned them down, and swayed his board to stick with him and his long-term vision.
That win gave him confidence as a leader, our source said, and to plow ahead with his vision on taking Box beyond a file-sharing site, to a software development platform and beyond.
This story shows that even a wunderkind like Levie had to do battle to become successful, often with the very people that signed on to help him.
We asked Levie his thoughts about that event. He told us:
“In these kinds of situations (generally) it just takes a while to figure out what your own priorities are and make sure you collectively share a vision for the future as a board. In this case we did, which was to continue to run Box as an independent company given how big the opportunity was.”
Box has since raised a total of $US409 million, from a wide range of investors. It’s $US2 billion valuation is quite a bit more than the $US600 million offer. The company is expected to go public soon, too, possibly this year.
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