Investors Bet Big on Box.net with $48M Round

Box.net may just have shattered the notion that you can build a successful Web 2.0 company without much capital.

Aiming to redouble its already startling growth rate, the Palo Alto, CA-based online document sharing startup said today that it has collected a whopping $38 million in Series D funding from six top Silicon Valley venture firms. First-time investor Meritech Capital Partners led the round; it was joined by new investors Andreessen Horowitz and Emergence Capital Partners. Previous investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Scale Venture Partners, and US Venture Partners also chipped in.

In addition to the equity-based financing, Box.net said it has arranged for a $10 million secured capital line from Hercules Technology Growth Capital (Nasdaq: HTGC), a specialty venture-debt provider.

In its previous three rounds of venture fundraising, Box.net collected only $30 million in total. So this big new cash infusion—raised against a valuation that was “significantly higher” than the company’s Series C valuation one year ago, according to Aaron Levie, Box.net’s co-founder and CEO—is an important sign. It means the investors are even more confident than before in Box.net’s technology, which allows individuals and companies to share and annotate documents stored in secure online folders on cloud servers owned by Box.net. “We’re obviously very bullish about what we’re building, so we wanted to make sure that we had the financial capability to really see this mission through,” says Levie, 25.

What is that mission? Matt Holleran, a venture partner at Emergence Capital, says Box.net “has the chance to be the cloud content management service provider” for businesses. That’s an audacious goal, given that giants like Microsoft and EMC would also like to own the market for enterprise document sharing. Those companies have spent many years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing and marketing systems like SharePoint, Microsoft’s server-based document sharing system, and Documentum, EMC’s own platform for content management and collaboration.

But Box.net is a child of the Web and the Facebook era, rather than an earlier age of desktop and server-based enterprise applications built to work only inside corporate networks. That means it’s less intimidating to use—and it also means word about the service spreads more virally. “You don’t get to the 5 million users they have today and the 60,000 businesses without users actively introducing it to others in their workflow, and that is a fundamentally different model from SharePoint,” says Holleran. “Box.net has the opportunity to grow that market substantially and become the leader.”

Sustaining Box.net’s current growth rate—the company’s revenues grew by 340 percent in 2010—is going to take money and people. In 2010, Box.net doubled its head count from 70 to about 140, in part by hiring senior talent away from established tech strongholds like EMC, Google, Intuit, Oracle, and Salesforce.com. Now the company must … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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