4440 El Camino Real, Los Altos, California, USA
Adhering to traditional startup narrative, Box was born in a dorm room; specifically that of Aaron Levie, Box’s CEO. The 28-year-old Levie, whose signature look includes Dylan Thomas hair and chipper red sneakers, co-founded the content storing and sharing platform with current CFO Dylan Smith back in 2005.
Today Box is used by 200,000 businesses (more than 20 million users) and employs nearly 900 people at several offices, many at its 97,000-square-foot Los Altos, California headquarters. Tech media covers the company and its CEO on a near-daily basis, and Inc. Magazine just named Levie its Entrepreneur of the Year.
Housing every hot 21st century startup is a hip office space, typically a clean and clever marriage of practicality and fun. Viewed from the street, Box’s beige exterior speaks only of the former, evidenced by the kind of serviceable architecture you’d expect from the extended-stay hotel that shares the building. When the occasional hotel guest wanders inside Box, they quickly discover the fun.
"Upon entering, people realize they’ve either made a giant mistake, or assume they’re in for the hotel experience of a lifetime," said Box UI Designer Nick Rolph. “Do hotels have giant yellow slides in their lobbies? I don’t think so.”
Also fun: ping-pong tables, a tiki bar, Nerf guns, Star Trek cutouts, hammocks, swings, billiards, video games, a piano, a drum set, guitars and a Marshall half stack. The Box Dribbblers we interviewed cited their particular favorites: Sang Lee and Siong Chin Chan like the stuffed animals, Nick and Mark Bauer shout out soccer at Oasis (the second-floor cafe), and Phil Sheffield likes the scooters. Almost everyone queried mentioned the food: snacks and drinks in three state-of-the-art kitchens plus catered lunches served at picnic tables in the company cafeteria.
"It’s a highly productive playground for almost-adults," Nick said.
Zaniness aside, Box’s “playground,” like Box’s product, centers on collaboration and evinces the company’s desire to not only focus on the future, but to be the future. Levie’s made a name for himself as a guy ahead of the curve — Box developed a Box iPad app before the first iPad was released — and Box’s teams are constantly enhancing the product (e.g. a new, streamlined preview) and creating what Box users might want next (e.g. content creation and collaboration tool Box Notes). The office layout encourages employee interaction, riffing on the old, and imagining the new.
"We have an open-plan work environment, which means no individual offices or cubicles," Nick said. "Rows of adjustable-height desks line each floor. … Scrum boards and sticky notes cling to some of the walls and provide a roadmap for short-term and long-term goals."
Employees have access to a well-stocked library for exploring and keeping up-to-date. Couches and chairs offer comfortable spots for impromptu brainstorming. Official gatherings take place in conference rooms named for Levie’s favorites (Starship Enterprise) or Box customers (SF Giants). Walls all over the building are lined with giant floor-to-ceiling whiteboards, beloved of Box designers.
"The whiteboard walls in the conference rooms are wonderful," said UI Designer Sang Lee. "There’s something about drawing on an entire wall that pushes you to keep exploring."
Speaking of wonderful, what about the slide? Only one of our Dribbblers even mentioned the slide! Maybe it’s old news for the Boxers, but a bright-yellow, two-story, winding tube that carries sliders from upstairs to the lobby bears mention, plus it meets the startup office criteria: practical and fun. The yellow slide typifies Levie’s personality and Box’s culture: If you’re going to do it, do it right, do it big, and do it fun.
Thank you to Box UI Designer Nick Rolph for all his help.