Convincing investors to pay attention to a startup is not easy, especially if you’re a college student and you’re trying to attract high-profile investors like Mark Cuban.
For Aaron Levie, now the CEO of cloud-based file-storage company Box, an early investment came by trying to get press.
Cuban had one of the most popular tech blogs – blogmaverick.com – when Box was founded in a dorm room in 2005. After Levie sent the Dallas Mavericks’ owner a cold email asking him to write about Box on the blog, Cuban decided to do something even better.
“He became interested in investing in the company, and we had never even met, but he did full due diligence, and then our first time meeting him was at a basketball game,” Levie said in an interview for Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It.”
Here’s part of the pitch email Levie sent to raise Box’s angel round of financing, which he shared on Twitter.
The “Shark Tank” star ended up investing a few hundred thousand dollars, according to Levie, which was enough to convince him and his co-founder, Dylan Smith, to drop out of college and focus on the business full-time.
Check out the episode with Levie explaining how he took Box public by age 29, below, or keep scrolling for a transcript of how he attracted Mark Cuban with a blind email.
Here’s the relevant part of the podcast, explaining how they did it:
Shontell: One thing you said in there that’s really interesting is that Mark Cuban was an early investor, and he invested blind, right? You two had never met, yet somehow you tracked down his email. What was it like hustling to get Cuban involved? You were kind of the first startup in “Shark Tank,” I guess you could say.
Levie: You know, if you want to credit us with that, that would be awesome. I’m sure there’s somebody who came before us, but it was actually really random.
Back in 2004 and 2005, Mark had one of the most popular blogs on the internet, and it’s still his blog today, Blogmaverick.com. We were just pitching him to have him write about Box, through a set of conversations over email. He became interested in investing in the company, and we had never even met, but he did full due diligence, and then our first time meeting him was at a basketball game — you could think about it as our first official board meeting, which was, you know, pretty thrilling. And that investment was a few hundred thousand dollars. We decided to drop out of college and then go and kind of focus on this full-time.
Shontell: What was the product at that point?
Levie: It was incredibly basic. It was called Box.net, and it was a really easy way to upload your files to the internet and be able to access them from any device and be able to share them with anyone.
Soon after we got Mark’s investment, we opened up the service to give you a whopping 1 gigabyte of free storage, which was pretty groundbreaking at the time, in 2006. But the idea was: Hey, let’s give everybody a 1 gigabyte of free storage, and they will eventually pay us. I think it was something like $5.99 or $4.99 a month to be able to buy more storage space. Obviously, eventually we pivoted the company, but the core was always about making it so individuals could just easily access their files from anywhere.