Box CEO Aaron Levie: Why Big Companies Need Small Teams

Like most startups Box, the San Francisco business software company, was only a handful of people when it was started by CEO Aaron Levie and his three co-founders in 2005. Today, it has almost 2,000 people on the payroll.

Levie says one of his top priorities has been preserving the speed and agility of the early days, even as the company grows in a bid to make a bigger impact on corporate productivity.

“You want no more than five or 10 or 15 people on a team—that is, a fully vertically integrated team that can iterate rapidly,” Levie says. “And then the question is, how do you scale dozens—and then hundreds—of those teams, and how do you interconnect them all throughout your organization so you can actually go and deliver on an aligned mission? That’s what I’ve been working on for 13 years.”

If small teams are ideal, why grow a company so big in the first place? It’s a matter of fulfilling the original mission, Levie says: “The impact you can have when you have the collective organization that can go and serve customers is enormous.”

It’s an ongoing project to remove friction from the company’s processes, and Box is using artificial intelligence—in particular machine learning—as one tool to accomplish that. But it’s early days for the technology, and the problem isn’t always the tech.

Says Levie: “Sometimes the threat is myself.”

For more, watch Levie’s interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky above.

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