Brainstorm Tech Spotlight: Aaron Levie, Co-Founder and CEO of BoxJune 27, 2013: 2:26 PM ET
To achieve balance he tries to leave work by 2 A.M.
FORTUNE -- Fortune's Brainstorm Tech Conference (July 22-24 in Aspen, Colo.) regularly brings together the best and brightest minds in tech innovation. Each week, Fortune will turn the spotlight on a different conference attendee to offer his or her own personal insight into business, tech, and entrepreneurship. This week, we asked Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie to answer 10 questions about his own education, the entrepreneurs he admires most, and industry advice for young entrepreneurs. His responses follow.
What was the last book you read?
My three most recent books are: Jack: Straight from the Gut (epic stories), Judo Strategy (how to kill the competition), The Ultimate Entrepreneur (epic stories on killing the competition).
What would you say to a group of young people looking to enter the tough job market?
Now is as good a time as any to start a company, and there's an infinite amount of opportunity in the world today. Every product category is facing significant disruption by new technologies and services that bring better value to customers through more direct and simplified approaches. And if that doesn't work out, we're hiring.
What would you do if you weren't working at your current job?
Doing something with 3-D printing, attempting to change our broken health care system using technology, or living in my parents' basement.
What was your biggest missed opportunity?
The great thing about the technology market is new opportunities show up every couple of years, like clockwork. When you hit on something big, it only lasts for a couple of years max; and if you miss something big, you can always catch the next wave. Your job is to always be recorrecting so no opportunity is ever fully missed.
What was the most important thing you learned in school?
How backwards school is. We spend most of our time learning about what happened in the past, but so little time is spent teaching students how to build the future. This leads to people being great at rote memorization, but ill-prepared for creating progress and change in the world. We need to do a way better job at educating and training students for how drastically different our economy will look in just 10 years.
What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?
I'm a professional admirer -- you can learn amazing lessons from watching what others have built, and how they've accomplished their missions. Entrepreneurs like Jack Dorsey, Tony Fadell, and Elon Musk who design products and create businesses in historically staid categories; Marc Benioff, who has built a $22 billion company by re-writing the rules of enterprise software; and Larry Page and Jeff Bezos, who've focused on world-changing innovation as opposed to the incremental improvements we get from most blue chip tech companies. And, of course, Steve Jobs.
What technology sector excites you most?
I hear cloud computing is pretty hot right now. The principles of the cloud -- elastically scalable resources, simplification of complex technologies, and the democratization of software -- extend to many industries that are now facing significant change and disruption: health care, manufacturing, financial services, and many more. We're going to see an incredible increase in the velocity of business as everyone in the world can connect to partners, colleagues, clients, and suppliers instantly.
What do you do to live a balanced life?
I try and leave work by 2 A.M.
What is one characteristic that every leader should possess?
Remain deeply passionate about what they're doing. Great businesses are built by teams that utterly love what they're working on.
Is business school necessary for entrepreneurs?
If by "business school" you mean "reading Andy Grove's Only the Paranoid Survive," then yes.