Aaron Levie traps GE in a Box

medium_454494396Cloud storage and collaboration firm Box has just signed up a massive new customer in the form of GE, the Industrial Internet giant that wants to power the next generation of connected devices.

The deal, which was reportedly negotiated over for two long years, was revealed by Box CEO Aaron Levie in a blog post. It will see GE’s 300,000 employees in 170 countries use Box exclusively for all of their cloud storage and content-sharing needs.

GE has of course, embraced software in a big, big way. Recently it built its own software development center in San Ramon, California, and we know all about its grand ambitions for the Industrial Internet. GE also likes to throw around its cash, something demonstrated by the $150 million investment it made in Pivotal not so long ago.

Levie alluded to this in his blog post, pointing out that GE has a track record for early adoption of new technologies to bolster its organization. He notes that GE was one of the first Fortune 500 firms to make use of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, adding that the company’s CIO Jamie Miller is “progressive” when it comes to using new technologies.

Levie’s praise towards GE does little to disguise what a monumental deal this is for Box, and one that’s in line with his long-term strategy. Earlier this year Levie gave an interview to Re/Code in which he announced his plan was to “attack all industries”, adding that most companies these days are becoming reliant on software, building their own apps to manage work flows.

The deal is also an extremely timely one for Box, considering the beating it’s been taking recently. There’s been much speculation over the cause of the delay with its IPO, and more recently it’s been hurt by moves from rivals like Dropbox and Microsoft, which are now giving away far more storage space, at a cheaper cost than Box.

Box has a problem – it needs to prove to potential investors that it has more going for it than just the hype, which in many ways is driven by the charismatic Levie. It’s one thing to claim the company can be a change agent, but to prove that it needs real-world customers to win over the cynics.

GE is of course, a massive score for Box and will go some way towards swaying those investors. Even so, one can’t help feeling that Box may need to win a few more deals like this if it’s going to silence its critics.

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