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Box’s CEO Is The Latest Silicon Valley Exec To Teach A Stanford Class

Box Inc. CEO Aaron Levie InterviewBox Inc. CEO Aaron Levie Interview
Aaron Levie, co-founder and chief executive officer of Box Inc.Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Box CEO Aaron Levie is the latest Silicon Valley exec to head back to school—to teach a class that is. Levie will be co-teaching a Stanford class at the graduate business school starting in January.

The irony, of course, is that Levie himself never graduated from college. Cloud software company Box (BOX) was born from a research project that Levie was working on while at the University of Southern California. He ended up dropping out in 2005 to found Box.

It’s called “Industrialist’s Dilemma,” and Levie’s class, taught with Stanford lecturer Rob Siegel, will look at how large companies become disrupted by startups, and how startups can approach taking on massive corporations.

The subject of the class is interesting considering the history behind Levie and cloud software company Box’s aim at taking on Microsoft (which is now a partner). There’s several classes taught at Stanford recently that explore how to build and grow startups including incubator Y Combinator and its chief Sam Altman’s startup school, as well as Greylock partner Reid Hoffman and fellow investor John Lilly’s class on how to create fast-growing “scale-up” companies.

In contrast, explains Levie and Siegel, there’s never been a more pressing time for large Fortune 500 companies to understand how data and technology is changing their own businesses, and how all companies, regardless of industry, are becoming digital companies. Each course will examine a specific company (whose CEO will be speaking to the class) to brainstorm the challenges and opportunities the company is facing as it relates to data, technology, and innovation.

A host of Fortune 500 CEOs and executives will be speaking to the class, including Visa’s
(V) CEO Charlie Scharf, Ford’s (F) CEO Mark Fields, and Kaiser Permanente’s CEO Bernard Tyson. In addition, the class will include startup founders who are aiming to disrupt some of the large incumbents including Stripe’s CEO Patrick Collison, Nest’s CEO Tony Fadell, and 23andMe’s CEO Anne Wojcicki.

“We want to help students think through the question of what General Motor’s CEO Mary Barra or Fields does when Apple (AAPL) builds a car,” Levie said in an interview with Fortune. “Or what Ford and General Motors should be doing when most people won’t own a car thanks to Uber or Lyft.”

The subject of the class echoes statements Cisco chairman and former CEO John Chambers said at the Fortune Global Forum in November. “Forty percent of the companies [at the conference] (including Cisco) won’t be around in a meaningful way in 10 years,” Chambers predicted, explaining that these companies would eventually be replaced by upstarts.

Levie admits that Box could one day be the company that is being disrupted by a Silicon Valley upstart. “I’m selfishly doing this for my own company,” he said.

For more on how Fortune 500 companies are being disrupted, watch this video:

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