On April 14, 2015, Box officially announced that it would be acquiring Verold. MaRS Market Intelligence was grateful for the opportunity to interview Ross McKegney, CEO of Verold. The conversation ranged from advice on launching a startup in Canada to the future of the Verold team post-acquisition. Read more about the acquisition on Techvibes.
Market Intelligence (MI): What is some of the key management advice that you have for startups that might be similar to Verold?
Ross McKegney (RM): I think Verold proves that you can invest in R&D. Our core asset was not our user base or any of the metrics that startups often track. It was the strength of the team and the best-in-class 3D engine. If I could go back and do it again, I would probably do some things differently, but the focus on building a strong team and investing in product leadership certainly paid off.
MI: What was the most instrumental factor in Box’s acquisition of Verold?
RM: Companies are using more and more 3D in their design process and even in operations. These 3D files contain a wealth of valuable information, but are currently locked in proprietary tools used by only some parts of an organization. Box saw the opportunity to unlock that data, to drive new business processes and to power new content experiences. When they surveyed the landscape, they found we had a very similar vision. The strong team and great tech were important factors, but I personally believe that they saw in us a way to execute their strategy, because we had a head start on where they wanted to go.
MI: How did your team react to the news of the acquisition?
RM: After you’ve spent three years working with your team on something at a promising startup, you’re always a bit apprehensive about letting it go. But what really sealed the deal was putting the two teams together. Our cultures are extremely well matched; despite being much larger than us, they have managed to keep a startup mindset and velocity. And with this alignment in vision, the team now gets to continue building what we started at Verold, but with more resources.
MI: What are the biggest takeaways from running Verold?
RM: The biggest takeaway is to surround yourself with great people. We built an awesome team at Verold and brought in some exceptional advisors—most notably our chairman, Marc Petit. Marc’s support and guidance was invaluable throughout the process of building Verold.
MI: Where do you see 3D on the web going in the next three to five years (especially with Microsoft doing a 180 in its browser strategy)?
RM: We’ve got two big trends marching in parallel. One, web browsers are becoming ever more capable, catching up quickly to the performance of native applications. Two, the big players are all lining up to create presentation technologies that will replace the screen. These two trends come together in the enterprise, because they are starting to look to future display technologies, but they don’t have the luxury of being able to deploy apps. Enterprise content needs to be scalable, secure, translated, and seamlessly integrated with other systems. But it also wants to be engaging and interactive. That’s why the enterprise is the killer app for web 3D.
To give you a simple example: we’re working with Pearson Education to produce some of the content experiences for the new offerings on their REVEL online learning platform. They want this content to be engaging like apps, but they want to tie it into their assessment system, analytics, and content management. Delivering interactive 3D on the web lets them achieve these seemingly contradictory goals.
MI: What is your opinion on augmented reality solutions? What about virtual reality solutions?
RM: We’ve got a couple of partnerships in the works on AR [augmented reality] solutions. Truly immersive AR seems to still be a ways out, with Magic Leap looking to be the current front-runner. But there’s lots we can do in the interim. If you look at a company like DAQRI, they are working with clients in the oil and gas sector, for example, where employees need to know hundreds of procedures that they will infrequently execute. Having AR-based training, which overlays data on the controls in the work environment, enables more effective, real-time training. I expect we’ll see more and more of this as web 3D matures. With this, we can build the content once and deliver it to desktop, mobile, or AR/VR [virtual reality] as required.
MI: To us, Verold always seemed to have slightly different focus in the tech space. What was the thought process behind joining the Box team?
RM: We had a community offering, but our revenues and big wins all came from our enterprise partnerships. That’s the business that I understand and it’s what I always wanted to achieve with Verold. I’m much more excited about seeing a manufacturing company, for example, use Verold across their ecosystem, with thousands of partners and suppliers, than praying for thousands of individual users to sign up. There are lots of opportunities across industries where we can fundamentally change workflows and processes.
MI: How tightly will Verold solutions be integrated into Box enterprise content collaboration solutions?
RM: Our joint roadmap is still being worked out, but you can expect to see Verold’s technology powering the preview experience for 3D files in Box, and to be part of their View API for building next-generation content experiences for the enterprise. In the preview space, this could include anything from the design review of products to building specifications to game assets.
In the View API space, you see a clear pattern with Box’s previous acquisitions: Crocodoc, MedXT, and now, Verold. Box is building out a content delivery platform for industry-specific use cases. The 3D presentation of the Onitsuka Tigers that was included in the press release is a great example. This type of interactive 3D presentation of product information is the way I expect most online retail will look in the future.
MI: How will this impact 3D content creation and editing outside of Box?
RM: My vision is that we have a lot of new career paths for CG [computer graphics] artists and game designers who want to apply their trades to enterprise workflows. In terms of content creation tools though, as much as I think there is room for improvement, I don’t foresee us taking that on. We’re happy to get 3D content from wherever it is created, and focus downstream on workflows using that content.
MI: Box co-founder, Aaron Levie, has a reputation as a brilliant young CEO. What’s your view?
RM: Working with Aaron was one of the strong selling points of this deal. He’s dynamic, engaged, and visionary. I am looking forward to being in the same time zone, since most of our email correspondence to date has been in the middle of the night. I don’t sleep much anyway, and it just happens that every time he emails me at 3 or 4 a.m., I’m still up and responsive. But knocking that back to midnight or 1 a.m. will be a nice change!
MI: How do you think Box will change the culture of Verold?
RM: My first job out of school was running due diligence for M&A transactions at a large mobile banking platform company. I learned there the value of culture, and that revenues and technology all become immaterial if the team culture doesn’t match. Box still has a startup culture and the teams really feel at home working together.
MI: Will your team and you still be based in Ontario?
RM: We will be relocating to the Box corporate headquarters in the Valley. But let’s see what happens—Box has plans to open another development office soon. Maybe that will be in Canada!