Microsoft competitor Box lands $81 million funding

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:03pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Business-software company Box has won $81 million in funding to expand its business, illustrating investors' continued appreciation for start-up companies that tap into the cloud.

The new funding almost doubles Palo Alto, California-based Box's previous round, $48 million raised in February. New backers included strategic investors salesforce.com and SAP Ventures, along with Bessemer Venture Partners and NEA. Prior investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Draper Fisher, also joined in the round.

Box, formerly known as Box.net, plans to use the funds for expansion, with a goal of doubling employees to about 600, Chief Executive Aaron Levie told Reuters. In a program dubbed the Box Innovation Network, it also plans to start funding and consulting developers working on applications that work with Box, much as apps from Google Apps, salesforce.com and others do now.

Box allows companies to store and access data in the cloud-- networks of servers often run and maintained by others, allowing for access from anywhere. Box also runs apps that perform common business tasks such as managing orders and production scheduling.

Levie said the company wants to take business from established players that overlap with Box, like Microsoft's Sharepoint or Oracle. About 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies already use Box, he said.

Similar players include San Francisco-based Dropbox, which is geared toward consumers and is raising its own new funding round. Domo, a startup based in Salt Lake City that offers business-intelligence services, raised an initial $33 million round in July.

Venture-capital backers are placing increasing chunks of cash in cloud-computing companies as businesses and consumers step up their use of remote storage. Major companies such as Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc, and Apple Inc are also making sizable investments in the area.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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