Box will fight Google Drive with ecosystem push

With Google Drive(s goog) hitting the cloud storage market like a gale force wind, Box continues to position itself as the preferred cloud storage supplier for business users. Toward that end, it’s polishing up its API;  adding new partners to its OneCloud network and building alliances with two New York startup groups to boost its profile beyond Silicon Valley.

In the past few months, the jockeying among cloud storage vendors — newbies like LogMeIn and more established players like SpiderOak, Box, Microsoft, and others — has been off the charts. All of these companies are trying to make themselves the Dropbox of the enterprise, Dropbox being the cloud storage choice for millions of consumers.

New API aims to ease integration with third party apps

Box aims to accomplish this, in part, by making it easier for third-party ISVs to make Box their de facto back-end storage with a new “V2” API, said Chris Yeh, VP of platform for Los Altos, Calif.-based Box. With the new API, it will be much easier for companies to deploy Box behind their apps –so the file-sharing and collaboration happen in Box, Yeh said.

A new “instant on” capability will also make it easier for users to opt for Box as the backend storage when they use other, affiliated applications. For example, up until now,  each LinkedIn(s lnkd) user had to create a Box account and log into it from LinkedIn. “With Instant Mode, LinkedIn sends Box the user’s email address and if we don’t have an account for you, we autocreate the account and a folder for you in LinkedIn,” Yeh said. “If the user approves it, it will show up to them as a Box folder within the LinkedIn account.

Finally, Box is working with TechStars and General Assembly, two New York-based groups that focus on tech startups. Box will sponsor TechStars’ HackStars program — which brings on experienced developers and designers to work with TechStars portfolio companies. And it will make Box resources available for members of both the TechStars and GA communities. General Assembly is a co-working effort that recently garnered a $4.25 million investment from DST Global’s Yuri Milner.

 Yeh said the New York alliances will help establish Box beyond Silicon Valley, to bring startups aboard the platform for their own users, and also keep track of cool new technologies. Box has also been active in other startup havens, participating and sponsoring the recent AngelHack event  in Cambridge, Mass. for example.

Whistling past Google Drive

The appearance of Google Drive, after many fits and starts, looms over any and all cloud storage efforts now.  And, while most of the reverbs about the new arrival focused on its impact on Dropbox,  the rest of the market, including Box, is on high alert.

While Box CEO Aaron Levie downplayed the Google threat in some arenas, he also posted  a blog called “When elephants attack”  that deals with the Google threat. In the post, Levie took pains to point out less-than-stellar Google projects like Google Wallet, Wave and Google Health.

Seelie wrote that it’s impossible for smaller, innovative companies to avoid the “elephants” in technology which need to enter any and all large markets. But he said Box’s history of focusing on business users — especially CIOs who pay for value-added storage and collaboration services — will keep it in good stead. Levie wrote:

“If we avoided all markets with competitors that are larger or better funded, the world would be all but devoid of innovation. So we’re taking a different, yet highly recommended approach:  “Climb a large tree. Preferably one without thorns, stinging ants, or lions.” Our tree just happens to be filled with CIOs.

The one problem with that statement is that of all of the 10 million users Box claims, it’s far from clear how many actually pay for the service. Box does not break out that information.