With its 48-hour hackathons, quirky offices and a growing pot of investor capital for startups to feed off, London is establishing the same vibe and culture as Silicon Valley, says Box CEO Aaron Levie.

Box CEO Aaron Levie
Box CEO Aaron Levie says London Tech City is the same as Silicon Valley - just with a different accent. (IBTimes UK)

A newspaper headline hanging in the Mayfair office of Box reads 'Meet the Funniest Man in Tech'. Its subject is Aaron Levie, who founded cloud storage and collaborative service Box in 2005 and is now looking to extend his company's global reach through a new London-based international headquarters.

Levie, usually dressed in suit and white trainers, is the polar opposite of every other executive with offices in this upmarket area of London, and as he bounds over with the excitement of a child with a new toy, past the black cab fashioned into a meeting room, you could be blamed for dismissing him as yet another Silicon Valley hipster who doesn't quite get our British ways.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey once described Levie as his favourite entrepreneur because "he's funny", but there's more to him than that - and having backed London's chances of becoming the next Silicon Valley, he and his team at Box have business sense to back up the bravado.

Tremendous innovation...tremendous talent

Levie praises London's "mix of having capital, talent, universities, companies and startups that begin to emerge, those are...factors you really need to have as a virtuous cycle for a great startup community to blossom and evolve...London and Tech City have those elements, for sure - there's no question."

The 28-year-old can barely keep still as we stand and chat in the middle of Box's huge open plan office space, stepping from side to side, exaggeratedly leaning in to listen to each question, then answering as much with his hands and arms as with words.

Levie is excited by the "tremendous innovation and tremendous talent," London offers, and believes there are "certainly some very high quality venture capital firms that have emerged with significant efforts in the area." This will be good news to those who have criticised London and Europe for not offering startups with as much private funding as in the Valley.

The same, with a different accent

Part of the reason for Box's expansion to London, then deciding to make the Mayfair office its international home - beating competition from France, Spain and others - is due to London's understanding of what a tech startup city should be.

Levie says: "I think between the government and businesses and venture capitalists, and between the universities, there's a very deep understanding [of what a city of startups should be]. We just had a developer event...before a 48-hour hackathon. It's the same kind of vibe and culture that you see in Silicon Valley - just with different accents."

Cartoon CEO

Levie's enthusiasm is hard to keep up with as he talks at 100 miles per hour, exchanging wide-mouthed expressions with his PR assistant out of shot whenever he says something amusing.

Is he like this all the time, I ask, or is this cartoonish version of Aaron Levie saved for interviews and keynotes?

"Oh, erm, no. I do this in bed, I do it in the bathroom, in the shower [cue expression of mock-surprise to the PR], everywhere. So we're very focused on moving quickly and trying to be as disruptive as possible."

Box CEO Aaron Levie
A life-size cardboard cutout of CEO Aaron Levie is on display in the Box office, next to a London taxi. (IBTimes UK)

Burnt out

Levie is certainly full of energy, with his shifting from side to side; loud, fast talking style; and break-neck shifts from one topic to another. Does he ever feel burnt out?

"I think the cool thing about being able to do something you're really passionate about is it never really feels like work, it feels like something you would always choose to do - even if you didn't have to do it you would still want to go be a part of it. So, you know, it tends to not burn you out."

When Silicon Roundabout became Tech City, few could see what all the fuss was about. Hipster kids were making iPhone apps in their bedrooms with no possible way of sourcing investment, let alone making a profit, but all that is changing as interest from the established and highly-respected Silicon Valley continues to grow.

Box and Levie might match their Mayfair surroundings like chalk and cheese. but they are proof that Silicon Valley startups with taxis for meeting rooms needn't be dismissed as yet another brash American firm setting out to prove us wrong.

There are many ways to describe the US and Britain's 'Special Relationship', but when it comes to technology startups, sharing knowledge, capital and office space is yielding success on both sides.