Cisco’s Padmasree Warrior: Why I’m backing Box

Mar 21, 2014

Michal Lev-Ram has been a senior writer at Fortune since 2011, writing frequently about technology.

FORTUNE -- Earlier this week, the file-sharing service Box announced that Cisco Systems (csco) CTO Padmasree Warrior will join its board of directors. The Los Altos, Calif.-based company, which recently raised $100 million in new funding at around a $2 billion valuation, is expected to make its public market debut in the coming months.

Snagging Warrior is a good step along the path to legitimacy with large enterprises, which are Box's target customers -- unlike competitor Dropbox, which has traditionally catered more to the consumer demographic. In a blog post, Box CEO Aaron Levie said Warrior will help the startup transform from a file sharing and storage service to a "far more strategic partner for our customers, and a much more powerful platform for the next wave of enterprise applications."

Fortune caught up with Warrior -- currently at the TED conference in Vancouver -- to find out why she's throwing her weight behind Box and what she thinks she can bring to the boardroom table.

Fortune: Why did you join Box's board?

Warrior: I believe information technology in the next decade will be shaped by three major transformations -- cloud, mobile, and the Internet of Things. Box is innovating at the intersection of two out of these three trends. It is one of a handful of companies that has the potential to become the next generation enterprise leader. With my years of experience in mobile, cloud, collaboration, I can contribute to their trajectory going forward.

How long have you known [Box CEO] Aaron Levie, and how would you describe your relationship?

I have known Aaron for more than two years. We first met at a small dinner and debated the future of business. I have to say, it was a fun and robust debate. On the surface, we each represented the proverbial conflict in ideologies -- disruption vs. consistency; ideation vs. scale, chaos vs. discipline. At a deeper level, we both share a passion to change business and enterprise software as we know it today. Since that time we have become friends, and I watched Box mature as a business. I enjoy Aaron's intelligence, passion, bold vision, and, of course, his sense of humor. I would characterize my relationship with Aaron and Box thus far as that of an informal adviser.

What do you think you can contribute to Box as a member of the board?

I have over two decades of experience in the tech industry with expertise in a broad range of domains from semiconductors to mobile to cloud -- covering consumer and enterprise. For businesses to grow profitably there are challenges to be tackled across multiple fronts -- building highly scalable technology operations, establishing new routes to market, driving new business models, attracting and developing talent, and so on. As Box continues to grow, I hope to contribute my expertise in technology, strategy, talent development, and global scale.

What do you see as the company's trajectory and potential? 

I see Box redefining enterprise solutions for the next generation of IT. Their key strength is uniquely combining technological disruptions with a delivery model from the cloud and on mobile. They have the potential to become the platform for the future enterprise.

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