Box debuts /bin platform with $2M app developer fund

Box, the online file storage and sharing company, on Thursday debuted the Box Innovation Network, also branded as “/bin,” a platform to make it easy for third party developers to create enterprise-focused apps utilizing Box’s APIs. The company also announced a $2 million fund aimed at supporting developers building the most promising apps on /bin.
Box has assembled a number of partners for /bin’s launch, including Heroku, Rackspace (s RAX) and Cloud Foundry, whose services can help host the apps that are built using Box’s framework. Twilio, SnapLogic and Appcelerator are also /bin launch partners, and their services can be used to help developers build apps more efficiently.

Order of magnitude app growth

Box isn’t new to working with third-party app developers: The company currently has an app store with around 150 applications on it today, Box CEO Aaron Levie told me in a recent interview. But /bin is aimed at making it easy for many more apps to be built using the company’s technology framework. “We wanted to make an order of magnitude change in the amount of Box-oriented apps out there,” Levie said. (Levie will be speaking at our Net:Work event on Dec. 8.)
/bin was born largely out of necessity. Many Box customers have requested specific features, such as the ability for a doctor to use an iPad (s AAPL) to access a patient’s CAT scan image document hosted on Box. “We get requests every day for features that we don’t offer in some really specific but useful areas,” Box VP of platform Chris Yeh said in an interview. “These kinds of things we’re never going to be able to build out ourselves, and /bin makes it easier for other people to create those things.”

Adding cash to the equation

To that end, Box says it will spend up to $2 million within the next year to invest in applications built on /bin. The money will go toward equity investments in apps, intellectual property acquisitions, and co-development projects.
Overall it’s a very promising program, but certain details are still fuzzy. For example, no financial details of the /bin platform have been solidified yet, meaning that there are no established rules for whether Box will take a cut of any revenue generated by an app built on the platform, or how much that cut will be. Yeh tells me the company will probably establish that on a case-by-case basis going forward, as /bin matures. It seems to me that those details should be firmed up soon to make developers confident about making serious apps on the platform. But in general, it will be interesting to see what kinds of apps are built with /bin in the weeks and months ahead.
Here’s a video explaining how /bin works: