Feb
11
2020
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Good news for enterprise startups: SaaS helped kill the single-vendor stack

In the old days of enterprise software, when companies like IBM, Oracle and Microsoft ruled the roost, there was a tendency to shop from a single vendor. You bought the whole stack, which made life easier for IT — even if it didn’t always work out so well for end users, who were stuck using software that was designed with administrators in mind.

Once Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) came along, IT no longer had complete control over software choices. The companies that dominated the market began to stumble — although Microsoft later found its way — and a new generation of SaaS vendors developed.

As that happened, users saw a way to pick and choose software that worked best for them, as they were no longer bound to clunky enterprise software; they wanted tools at work that worked as well as the ones they used in the consumer space at home.

Through freemium models and low-cost subscriptions, individual employees and teams started selecting their own tools, and a new way of buying software began to take hold. Instead of buying software from a single shop, consumers could buy the best tool for the job. This in turn, led to wider adoption, as these small groups of users led the way to more lucrative enterprise deals.

The philosophical change has worked well for enterprise startups. The new world means a well-executed idea can beat an incumbent with a similar product. Just ask companies like Slack, Zoom and Box, which have shown what’s possible when you put users first.

Dec
18
2019
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Three SaaS companies we think will make it to $1B in revenue

What’s the most successful pure SaaS company of all time? The answer is Salesforce, and it’s no contest — the company closed the year on an $18 billion run rate, placing it in a category no other company born in the cloud can touch.

That Salesforce is on such an impressive run rate might suggest that reaching a billion in revenue is a fairly easy proposition for an enterprise SaaS company, but firms in this category grow or drive revenue like Salesforce. Some, in fact, find themselves growing much more slowly than anyone thought, but keep slugging it out as they inch steadily toward the $1 billion mark. This happens to public and private SaaS companies alike, which means that we can look at few public ones thanks to their regular earnings disclosures.

It’s a good time to look back at the year and analyze a few firms that should reach the mythical $1 billion in revenue at some point. Today we’re examining Zuora, a SaaS player focused on building and managing subscription-based services. GuideWire, a company transitioning to SaaS with big ambitions and Box, a well-known SaaS player caught somewhere between big and a billion.

Zuora: betting on SaaS

We’ll start with the smallest company that caught our eye, Zuora . We’ll proceed from here going up in revenue terms.

Zuora is as pure a SaaS company as you can imagine. The San Mateo-based company raised nearly a quarter billion dollars while private to build out the technology that other companies use to help build their own subscription-based businesses. To some degree, Zuora’s success can be viewed as a proxy for SaaS as a whole.

However, while SaaS has chugged along admirably, Zuora has seen its share price fall by more than half in recent quarters.

At issue is the firm’s slowing growth:

  • In the quarter detailed on March 21, 2019, Zuora’s subscription revenue growth slowed to 35% compared to the prior year period. Total revenue growth grew an even slower at 29%.
  • In the quarter announced on May 30, 2019, Zuora’s subscription revenue grew 32% while its total revenue expanded 22%.
  • Moving forward in time, the company’s quarter reported on August 28, 2019 saw subscription revenue growth of 24% and total revenue growth of 21% compared to the year-ago quarter.
  • Finally, in its most recent quarterly report earlier this month, Zuora reported marginally better 25% subscription revenue growth, but slower total revenue growth of 17%.

Why is Zuora’s growth slowing? There’s no single reason to point out. Reading through coverage of the firm’s earnings report reveals a number of issues that the company has dealt with this year, including slow sales rep ramp and some technology complaints. Add in Stripe’s meteoric rise (the unicorn added tools for subscription billing in 2018, expanding the product to Europe earlier this year) and you can see why Zuora has had a tough year.

Adding to its difficulties, the company has lost more money while its growth has slowed. Zuora’s net loss expanded from $53.6 million in the three calendar quarters of 2018. That rose to $59.9 million over the same period in 2019. But the news is not all bad.

In spite of these numbers, Zuora is still growing; the company expects around $276 to $278 million in revenue in its current fiscal year and between $206 and $207 million in subscription top-line revenue over the same period.

At the revenue growth pace set in its most recent quarter (17% in the third quarter of its fiscal 2020) the company is eight years from reaching $1 billion in revenue. However, Zuora’s rising subscription growth rate in the same period is very encouraging. And, the company’s cash burn is declining. Indeed, in the most recent quarter Zuora’s operations generated cash. That improvement led to the firm’s free cash flow improving by half in the first three calendar quarters of 2019.

It also has pedigree on its side. Founder and CEO Tien Tzuo was employee number 11 at Salesforce when the company launched in 1999. He left the company in 2007 to start Zuora after realizing that traditional accounting methods designed to account for selling a widget wouldn’t work in the subscription world.

Zuora’s subscription revenue is high-margin, but the rest of its revenue (services, mostly) is not. So, with less thirst for cash and modestly improving subscription revenue growth, Zuora is still on the path towards the next revenue threshold despite a rough past year.

Guidewire: going SaaS the hard way

Nov
27
2019
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Box looks to balance growth and profitability as it matures

Prevailing wisdom states that as an enterprise SaaS company evolves, there’s a tendency to sacrifice profitability for growth — understandably so, especially in the early days of the company. At some point, however, a company needs to become profitable.

Box has struggled to reach that goal since going public in 2015, but yesterday, it delivered a mostly positive earnings report. Wall Street seemed to approve, with the stock up 6.75% as we published this article.

Box CEO Aaron Levie says the goal moving forward is to find better balance between growth and profitability. In his post-report call with analysts, Levie pointed to some positive numbers.

“As we shared in October [at BoxWorks], we are focused on driving a balance of long-term growth and improved profitability as measured by the combination of revenue growth plus free cash flow margin. On this combined metric, we expect to deliver a significant increase in FY ’21 to at least 25% and eventually reaching at least 35% in FY ’23,” Levie said.

Growing the platform

Part of the maturation and drive to profitability is spurred by the fact that Box now has a more complete product platform. While many struggle to understand the company’s business model, it provides content management in the cloud and modernizing that aspect of enterprise software. As a result, there are few pure-play content management vendors that can do what Box does in a cloud context.

Sep
22
2019
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TechCrunch Disrupt offers plenty of options for attendees with an eye on the enterprise

We might have just completed a full-day program devoted completely to enterprise at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise last week, but it doesn’t mean we plan to sell that subject short at TechCrunch Disrupt next month in San Francisco. In fact, we have something for everyone from startups to established public companies and everything in between along with investors and industry luminaries to discuss all-things enterprise.

SaaS companies have played a major role in enterprise software over the last decade, and we are offering a full line-up of SaaS company executives to provide you with the benefit of their wisdom. How about Salesforce chairman, co-CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff for starters? Benioff will be offering advice on how to build a socially responsible, successful startup.

If you’re interested in how to take your startup public, we’ll have Box CEO Aaron Levie, who led his company to IPO in 2015 and Jennifer Tejada, CEO at PagerDuty, who did the same just this year. The two executives will discuss the trials and tribulations of the IPO process and what happens after you finally go public.

Meanwhile, Slack co-founder and CTO Cal Henderson, another SaaS company that recently IPOed, will be discussing how to build great products with Megan Quinn from Spark Capital, a Slack investor.

Speaking of investors, Neeraj Agrawal, a general partner at Battery Ventures joins us on a panel with Whitney Bouck, COO at HelloSign and Jyoti Bansal, CEO and founder of Harness (as well as former CEO and co-founder at AppDynamics, which was acquired by Cisco in 2017 for $3.7 billion just before it was supposed to IPO). They will be chatting about what it takes to build a billion dollar SaaS business.

Not enough SaaS for you? How about Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer at Okta discussing how to iterate your product?

If you’re interested in security, we have Dug Song from Duo, whose company was sold to Cisco in 2018 for $2.35 billion, explaining how to develop a secure startup. We will also welcome Nadav Zafrir from Israeli security incubator Team 8 to talk about the intriguing subject of when spies meet security on our main stage.

You probably want to hear from some enterprise company executives too. That’s why we are bringing Frederic Moll, chief development officer for the digital surgery group at Johnson & Johnson to talk about robots, Marillyn A. Hewson, chairman, president and CEO at Lockheed Martin discussing the space industry and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg going over the opportunity around 5G.

We’ll also have seasoned enterprise investors, Mamoon Hamid from Kleiner Perkins and Michelle McCarthy from Verizon Ventures, acting as judges at the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield competition.

If that’s not enough for you, there will also be enterprise startups involved in the Battlefield and Startup Alley. If you love the enterprise, there’s something for everyone. We hope you can make it.

Still need tickets? You can pick those up right here.


Sep
03
2019
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Starboard Value takes 7.5% stake in Box

Starboard Value, LP revealed in an SEC Form 13D filing last week that it owns a 7.5% stake in Box, the cloud content management company.

It is probably not a coincidence that Starboard Value looks for undervalued stocks. Box stock has been on a price roller coaster ride since it went public in 2015 at a price of $14.00 per share before surging to $23.23 per share. It had high share price of $28.12 in May 2018, but the price dipped into the teens in March and was at $14.85 as we went to press. It has a 52-week low price of $12.46 per share.

Screenshot 2019 09 03 17.22.05

 

The company, which began life as a consumer storage company, made the transition to enterprise software several years after it launched in 2005. It raised more than $500 million along the way, and was a Silicon Valley SaaS darling until it filed its S-1 in 2014.

The S-1 revealed massive sales and marketing spending, and critics came down hard on the company. That led to one of the longest IPO delays in memory, taking nine months from the time the company filed until it finally had its IPO in January 2015.

In its most recent earnings report last week, Box announced  $172.5 million in revenue for the quarter, putting it on a run rate close to $700 million.

Aaron Levie href=”https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/08/box-ceo-aaron-levie-is-coming-to-tc-sessions-enterprise/”> will be appearing at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise on Thursday.

We emailed both Starboard Value and Box for comments, but neither has responded as we went to publish. If this changes, we will update the article.

Aug
21
2019
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Box introduces Box Shield with increased security controls and threat protection

Box has always had to balance the idea of sharing content broadly while protecting it as it moved through the world, but the more you share, the more likely something can go wrong, such as misconfigured shared links that surfaced earlier this year. In an effort to make the system more secure, the company announced Box Shield today in Beta, a set of tools to help employees sharing Box content better understand who they are sharing with, while helping the security team see when content is being misused.

Link sharing is a natural part of what companies do with Box, and as Chief Product and Chief Strategy Officer Jeetu Patel says, you don’t want to change the way people use Box. Instead, he says it’s his job to make it easier to make it secure and that is the goal with today’s announcement.

“We’ve introduced Box Shield, which embeds these content controls and protects the content in a way that doesn’t compromise user experience, while ensuring safety for the administrator and the company, so their intellectual property is protected,” Patel explained.

He says this involves two components. The first is about raising user awareness and helping them understand what they’re sharing. In fact, sometimes companies use Box as a content management backend to distribute files like documentation on the internet on purpose. They want them to be indexed in Google. Other times, however, it’s through misuse of the file-sharing component, and Box wants to fix that with this release by making it clear who they are sharing with and what that means.

They’ve updated the experience on the web and mobile products to make it much clearer through messaging and interface design what the sharing level they have chosen means. Of course, some users will ignore all these messages, so there is a second component to give administrators more control.

2. Box Shield Smart Access

Box Shield access controls (Photo: Box)

This involves helping customers build guardrails into the product to prevent leakage of an entire category of documents that you would never want leaked, like internal business plans, salary lists or financial documents, or even to granularly protect particular files or folders. “The second thing we’re trying to do is make sure that Box itself has some built-in security guardrails and boundary conditions that can help people reduce the risk around employee negligence or inadvertent disclosures, and then make sure that you have some very precision-based, granular security controls that can be applied to classifications that you’ve set on content,” he explained.

In addition, the company wants to help customers detect when employees are abusing content, perhaps sharing sensitive data like customer lists with a personal account, and flag these for the security team. This involves flagging anomalous downloads, suspicious sessions or unusual locations inside Box.

The tool also can work with existing security products already in place, so that whatever classification has been applied in Box travels with a file, and anomalies or misuse can be captured by the company’s security apparatus before the file leaves the company’s boundaries.

While Patel acknowledges there is no way to prevent user misuse or abuse in all cases, by implementing Box Shield, the company is attempting to provide customers with a set of tools to help them reduce the possibility of it going undetected. Box Shield is in private beta today and will be released in the fall.

Jul
23
2019
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Buy a demo table at TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019

Early-stage enterprise startup founders listen up. That sound you hear is opportunity knocking. Answer the call, open the door and join us for TC Sessions: Enterprise on September 5 in San Francisco. Our day-long conference not only explores the promises and challenges of this $500 billion market, it also provides an opportunity for unparalleled exposure.

How’s that? Buy a Startup Demo Package and showcase your genius to more than 1,000 of the most influential enterprise founders, investors, movers and shakers. This event features the enterprise software world’s heaviest hitters. People like SAP CEO Bill McDermott; Aaron Levie, Box co-founder, chairman and CEO; and George Brady, executive VP in charge of technology operations at Capital One.

Demo tables are reserved for startups with less than $3 million, cost $2,000 and include four tickets to the event. We have a limited number of demo tables available, so don’t wait to introduce your startup to this very targeted audience.

The entire day is a full-on deep dive into the big challenges, hot topics and potential promise facing enterprise companies today. Forget the hype. TechCrunch editors will interview founders and leaders — established and emerging — on topics ranging from intelligent marketing automation and the cloud to machine learning and AI. You’ll hear from VCs about where they’re directing their enterprise investments.

Speaking of investors and hot topics, Jocelyn Goldfein, a managing director at Zetta Venture Partners, will join TechCrunch editors and other panelists for a discussion about the growing role of AI in enterprise software.

Check out our growing (and amazing, if we do say so ourselves) roster of speakers.

Our early-bird pricing is still in play, which means tickets cost $249 and students pay only $75. Plus, for every TC Sessions: Enterprise ticket you buy, we’ll register you for a complimentary Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

TC Sessions: Enterprise takes place September 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Buy a Startup Demo Package, open the door to opportunity and place your early-stage enterprise startup directly in the path of influential enterprise software founders, investors and technologists.

Looking for sponsorship opportunities? Contact our TechCrunch team to learn about the benefits associated with sponsoring TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019.

Jul
08
2019
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Box CEO Aaron Levie is coming to TC Sessions: Enterprise

Box co-founder, chairman and CEO Aaron Levie took his company from a consumer-oriented online storage service to a publicly traded enterprise powerhouse. Launched in 2005, Box today has more than 41 million users, and the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies use its service. Levie will join us at TC Sessions: Enterprise for a fireside chat about the past, present and future of Box, as well as the overall state of the SaaS and cloud space.

Levie, who also occasionally contributes to TechCrunch, was a bit of a serial entrepreneur before he even got to college. Once he got to the University of Southern California, the idea for Box was born. In hindsight, it was obviously the right idea at the right time, but its early iterations focused more on consumers than business users. Like so many other startups, though, the Box team quickly realized that in order to actually make money, selling to the enterprise was the most logical — and profitable — option.

Before going public, Box raised well over $500 million from some of the most world’s most prestigious venture capital firms. Box’s market cap today is just under $2.5 billion, but more than four years after going public, the company, like many Silicon Valley unicorns both private and public, still regularly loses money. 

Early-Bird Tickets are on sale today for just $249 — book here before prices go up by $100!

Mar
11
2019
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Dozens of companies leaked sensitive data thanks to misconfigured Box accounts

Security researchers have found dozens of companies inadvertently leaking sensitive corporate and customer data because staff are sharing public links to files in their Box enterprise storage accounts that can easily be discovered.

The discoveries were made by Adversis, a cybersecurity firm, which found major tech companies and corporate giants had left data inadvertently exposed. Although data stored in Box enterprise accounts is private by default, users can share files and folders with anyone, making data publicly accessible with a single link. But Adversis said these secret links can be discovered by others. Using a script to scan for and enumerate Box accounts with lists of company names and wildcard searches, Adversis found more than 90 companies with publicly accessible folders.

Not even Box’s own staff were immune from leaking data.

The company said while much of the data is legitimately public and Box advises users how to minimize risks, many employees may not know the sensitive data they share can be found by others.

Worse, some public folders were scraped and indexed by search engines, making the data found more easily.

In a blog post, Adversis said Box administrators should reconfigure the default access for shared links to “people in your company” to reduce accidental exposure of data to the public.

Adversis said it found passport photos, bank account and Social Security numbers, passwords, employee lists, financial data like invoices and receipts and customer data among the data found. The company contacted Box to warn of the larger exposures of sensitive data, but noted that there was little overall improvement six months after its initial disclosure.

“There is simply too much out there and not enough time to resolve each individually,” he said.

Adversis provided TechCrunch with a list of known exposed Box accounts. We contacted several of the big companies named, as well as those known to have highly sensitive data, including:

  • Amadeus, the flight reservation system maker, which left a folder full of documents and application files associated with Singapore Airlines. Earlier this year, researchers found flaws that made it easy to change reservations booked with Amadeus.
  • Apple had several folders exposed, containing what appeared to be non-sensitive internal data, such as logs and regional price lists.
  • Television network Discovery had more than a dozen folders listed, including database dumps of millions of customers names and email addresses. The folders also contained some demographic information and developer project files, including casting contracts and notes and tax documents.
  • Edelman, the global public relations firm, had an entire project proposal for working with the New York City mass transit division, including detailed proposal plans and more than a dozen resumes of potential staff for the project — including their names, email addresses, and phone numbers.
  • Nutrition giant Herbalife left several folders exposed containing files and spreadsheets on about 100,000 customers, including their names, email addresses and phone numbers.
  • Opportunity International, a nonprofit aimed at ending global poverty, exposed in a massive spreadsheet a list of donor names, addresses and amount given.
  • Schneider Electric left dozens of customer orders accessible to anyone, including sludge works and pump stations for several towns and cities. Each folder had an installation “sequence of operation” document, which included both default passwords and in some cases “backdoor” access passwords in case of forgotten passwords.
  • PointCare, a medical insurance coverage management software company, had thousands of patient names and insurance information exposed. Some of the data included the last four digits of Social Security numbers.
  • United Tissue Network, a whole-body donation nonprofit, exposed body donor information and personal information of donors in a vast spreadsheet, including the prices of body parts.

Box, which initially had no comment when we reached out, had several folders exposed. The company exposed signed non-disclosure agreements on their clients, including several U.S. schools, as well as performance metrics of its own staff, the researchers said.

Box spokesperson Denis Roy said in a statement: “We take our customers’ security seriously and we provide controls that allow our customers to choose the right level of security based on the sensitivity of the content they are sharing. In some cases, users may want to share files or folders broadly and will set the permissions for a custom or shared link to public or ‘open’. We are taking steps to make these settings more clear, better help users understand how their files or folders can be shared, and reduce the potential for content to be shared unintentionally, including both improving admin policies and introducing additional controls for shared links.”

The cloud giant said it plans to reduce the unintended discovery of public files and folders.

Amadeus, Apple, Box, Discovery, Herbalife, Edelman and PointCare all reconfigured their enterprise accounts to prevent access to their leaking files after TechCrunch reached out.

Amadeus spokesperson Alba Redondo said the company decommissioned Box in October and blamed the exposure on an account that was “misconfigured in public mode,” which has now been corrected and external access to it is now closed. “We continue to investigate this issue and confirm there has been no unauthorized access of our system,” said the spokesperson, without explanation. “There is no evidence that confidential information or any information containing personal data was impacted by this issue,” the spokesperson added.

When we asked Amadeus how it concluded there was no improper access, another spokesperson, Ben Hunt, said: “We have the full audit trail for Box and access of these files — none of the files have been downloaded outside of either Amadeus or authorized customers.”

The spokesperson declined to explain its statement when told files were downloaded to verify their contents.

PointCare chief executive Everett Lebherz confirmed its leaking files had been “removed and Box settings adjusted.” Edelman’s global marketing chief Michael Bush said the company was “looking into this matter.”

Herbalife spokesperson Jennifer Butler said the company was “looking into it,” but we did not hear back after several follow-ups. (Butler declared her email “off the record,” which requires both parties agree to the terms in advance, but we are printing the reply as we were given no opportunity to reject the terms.)

When reached, an Apple spokesperson did not comment by the time of publication.

Discovery, Opportunity International, Schneider Electric and United Tissue Network did not return a request for comment.

Data “dumpster diving” is not a new hobby for the skilled, but it’s a necessary sub-industry to fix an emerging category of data breaches: leaking, public and exposed data that shouldn’t be. It’s a growing space that we predicted would grow as more security researchers look to find and report data leaks.

This year alone, we’ve reported data leaks at Dow Jones, Rubrik, NASA, AIESEC, Uber, the State Bank of India, two massive batches of Indian Aadhaar numbers, a huge leak of mortgage and loan data and several Chinese government surveillance systems.

Adversis has open-sourced and published its scanning tool.

Feb
27
2019
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Box fourth quarter revenue up 20 percent, but stock down 22 percent after hours

By most common sense measurements, Box had a pretty good earnings report today, reporting revenue up 20 percent year over year to $163.7 million. That doesn’t sound bad, yet Wall Street was not happy with the stock getting whacked, down more than 22 percent after hours as we went to press. It appears investors were unhappy with the company’s guidance.

Part of the problem, says Alan Pelz-Sharpe, principal analyst at Deep Analysis, a firm that watches the content management space, is that the company failed to hit its projections, combined with weaker guidance; a tough combination, but he points out the future does look bright for the company.

Box did miss its estimates and got dinged pretty hard today; however, the bigger picture is still of solid growth. As Box moves more and more into the enterprise space, the deal cycle takes longer to close and I think that has played a large part in this shift. The onus is on Box to close those bigger deals over the next couple of quarters, but if it does, then that will be a real warning shot to the legacy enterprise vendors as Box starts taking a chunk out of their addressable market,” Pelz-Sharpe told TechCrunch.

This fits with what company CEO Aaron Levie was saying. “Wall Street did have higher expectations with our revenue guidance for next year, and I think that’s totally fair, but we’re very focused as a company right now on driving reacceleration in our growth rate and the way that we’re going to do that is by really bringing the full suite of Box’s capabilities to more of our customers,” Levie told TechCrunch.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research says failing to hit guidance is always going to hurt a company with Wall Street. “It’s all about hitting the guidance, and Box struggled with this. At the end of the day, investors don’t care for the reasons, but making the number is what matters. But a booming economy and the push to AI will help Box as enterprises need document automation solutions,” Mueller said.

On the positive side, Levie pointed out that the company achieved positive non-GAAP growth rate for the first time in its 14-year history, with projections for the first full year of non-GAAP profitability for FY20 that it just kicked off.

The company was showing losses on a cost per share of 14 cents a share for the most recent quarter, but even that was a smaller loss than the 24 cents a share from the previous fiscal year. It would seem that the revenue is heading generally in the correct direction, but Wall Street did not see it that way, flogging the cloud content management company.

Chart: Box

Wall Street tends to try to project future performance. What a company has done this quarter is not as important to investors, who are apparently not happy with the projections, but Levie pointed out the opportunity here is huge. “We’re going after 40 plus billion dollar market, so if you think about the entirety of spend on content management, collaboration, storage infrastructure — as all of that moves to the cloud, we see that as the full market opportunity that we’re going out and serving,” Levie explained.

Pelz-Sharpe also thinks Wall Street could be missing the longer-range picture here. “The move to true enterprise started a couple of years back at Box, but it has taken time to bring on the right partners and infrastructure to deal with these bigger and more complex migrations and implementations,” Pelz-Sharpe explained. Should that happen, Box could begin capturing much larger chunks of that $40 billion addressable cloud content management market, and the numbers could ultimately be much more to investor’s liking. For now though, they are clearly not happy with what they are seeing.

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