Box CEO Aaron Levie says UK tech sector needs some bigger startup wins

Aaron Levie, CEO and cofounder of file sharing and content collaboration platform Box, today said the UK startup scene needs some bigger startup wins.

“On the UK side, there doesn’t seem to be any significant change [in the startup scene] in the past couple of years,” he told Techworld at the Box World Tour conference in London today.

The 29-year-old entrepreneur, who is thought to have a net worth of approximately $100 million following the stock market listing of his firm in January, said “There’s been no material change, positive or negative [in the UK startup scene]."

“The community takes time to build," he continued. "We’re comparing something that has been trying to be built for a few years to something that has had 30 to 40 years to have all the systems built up [Silicon Valley]. That’s just going to take time and it’s going to ultimately look a little bit different to what we have in Silicon Valley.”

The remarks from the Califonia-based CEO are likely to come as a blow to the Conservative party and the government-funded Tech City UK quango, which have been busy shouting about the success of the UK tech startup scene over the time frame Levie refers to.

While there have been several successful UK tech IPOs and a number of large funding rounds for UK tech startups, the nation is yet to create anything on the same scale as Google, Apple, Amazon or Facebook.

Is Box a startup?

Box expanded to the UK approximately three years ago and it now has an international headquarters firmly planted in Mayfair, London, where it employs around 140 people.

Levie added that he still perceives his enterprise cloud company, which added Dundee University and Lancaster University to its customer base today, as a startup in many respects, albeit with a slightly more serious approach.

“My focus is to make sure that Box is always run like a startup in that we have the mindset, the agility and the speed of a startup,” he said. “At the same time, there’s a whole bunch of additional responsibility and robustness that we have to have because of the kind of customers that we serve and the kind of industry we’re in.”

But juggling a startup mentality with robustness isn’t always easy, said Levie.

“That’s a tension at times and we’re always trying to figure out the balance between moving quickly and innovating and being ahead of the market, while making sure we have a very stable and robust platform so that we can work with our customers as if they were working with a much, much larger enterprise.”

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