Box To Provide Search Intelligence Through Butter.ai
Earlier this month, Aaron Levie, CEO of Box teased of new growth at the end of 2018 and some small acquisitions in the future. He mentioned that the company had plans to invest more into core technologies, like artificial intelligence, security and workflow. "We might make small acquisitions ourselves in terms of growing that technology. We are very confident in the position we occupy and just want to expand that from there," and so they did! With the recent acquisition of Butter.ai, a startup that helps customers search for content across all business applications powered by machine learning.
Started by large founding team Jack Hirsch and his cofounders, Juan Carlos Perez, Jordan Knox, Danial Jaffry, and Adam Walz started working on this problem about two years ago. Last September, the company came out of a private beta with a chatbot in Slack called “Slack bot” that was designed to help businesses search across multiple enterprise services such as Google Drive, Trello, Evernote, Confluence, and Dropbox.
The company was one of the first investments by former Evernote CEO and then General Catalyst Managing Director Phil Libin in 2016. Earlier this year, Butter.ai was one of 10 startups to join All Turtles, an AI startup studio also cofounded by Libin.
Butter.ai was built to be an enterprise platform to help people find and share internal information easily to and from chats. The modern knowledge worker uses so many tools, and Butter.ai wanted to create one universal interface for finding files and documents wherever they are. The idea was to find what you need, whenever you needed it, and to be your best self.
Initially launched as a chatbot in Slack they did achieve some scale but not enough engagement to sustain a long-term independent company on one platform. As it turned out, Slack was mainly a communication platform and not a way to find documents. The cofounders knew they had something strategically valuable, especially when cold acquisition offers started flowing in.
So, How Does Butter.ai Work?
“After launching in September 2017 our customers were loud and clear about wanting us to integrate with Box and we quickly delivered. Since then, our relationship with Box has deepened and now we get to build on our vision for a MUCH larger audience as part of the Box team,” the founders wrote in a Medium post announcing the deal.
Levie also emphasized the importance of remaining "platform neutral" so as to integrate seamlessly with customers other services, and discussed a few techniques he said would drive growth rate by the end of 2018 and into 2019. "We are going through an evolution of our sales model, where instead of selling the core product to customers, it's about add-on services and platform capabilities," Levie said. "That's going to have the impact of growing average contract value."
“The team from Butter.ai will help Box to bring more intelligence to our search capabilities, enabling Box’s 85,000 customers to more easily navigate through their unstructured information — making searching for files in Box more contextualized, predictive, and personalized,” Jeetu Patel, Chief Product Officer at Box mentioned in a blog post announcing the acquisition.
Because Box’s product strategy is to build something enterprise-grade, bring more content onto Box, and adding context and intelligence to that content, Butter.ai is a perfect strategic fit for that product mission. "As organizations move to the cloud to modernize and create a digital workplace, it is fueling an unprecedented creation of business content," said Patel. "And as the amount of data continues to grow, it's getting harder, more costly and time-consuming to make sense of it all."
Box's customers and other businesses, have to contend with an ever-growing amount of data and files, making it critical for workplace tool providers like Box to help them sift through and filter all that information. "For now, Box's integration of Butter.ai's technology will be focused on searching through files," says Levie. But he adds that the company eventually wants to help users find things in other work tools, like chat.
Box’s Former Acquisitions
In early June, Box also acquired Progressly the Intelligent cloud platform that help transforms your operations. It’s the first Operational Performance Management platform, powerfully connects simple workflows across your critical systems. The platform unifies people, processes, and performance, centralizing work for easy collaboration so you can increase transparency, lower operational costs, and improve information security, allowing companies to move their business from paper to digital seamlessly.
In 2016, Box announced it's workflow tool Box Relay along with its partnership with IBM to sell it inside large enterprises. Patel said “Relay is great for well defined processes inside a company like contract management or employee on-boarding, but Box wanted to expand on that initial vision to build additional types of workflows. The Progressly team will help them do that.” He also went on and mentioned that “What we wanted to do is just make sure that we double down in the investment in workflow, given the level of appetite we’ve seen from the market for someone like Box providing a solution like this,” Patel explained.
By acquiring Progressly, they will have a team dedicated and focused to the understanding of workflows and will help continue to build out that automation engine and incorporate it into the Box platform. This will allow Box to build workflows that not only run within Box, but ones that can integrate and intersect with external workflow engines and to build more complex automation in conjunction with the Box other set of tools and services. This will allow both internal and external employees/organizations to move content through a more sophisticated workflow than Box Relay currently provides.
Starting a decade ago, Box is truly living up to its promises of repositioning itself as a cloud content management provider from its B2B storage roots. Box is riding the wave of "a multi-year secular shift from legacy enterprise content management solutions and storage technology in the on-premises environment to the cloud." Levie continued, "We believe we're best positioned to be able to take advantage of that migration." I truly find this company very interesting, from its starting days to how it’s grown today. Im curious to see what else Box will bring into its fold this year?