Avishai Avrahami (Wix) :
How to create a $1 billion strat-up
Financed by Mangrove Capital Partner in 2007, cloud-based web development platform Wix was listed on NASDAQ in 2013 and today has a market value of more than $1THAN $1BN. At his Tel Aviv office, CEO Avishai Avrahami explains how the business has grown so fast, and says Luxembourg needs to develop its own cultural heroes.
What have been the keys to success for Wix?
We’ve been good at focusing on a number of critical areas, including customer acquisition, marketing, being the first to adopt new technologies and working like fanatics!
What achievements are you most proud of?
Wix, an idea that was generated on the beach, has had a great impact on our 85 million users, but also on my country. After our Nasdaq listing in 2013, the biggest in Israel since 2002, we launched a new trend: «Scale but don’t sell». It’s unusual to see the same management leading a company to the billion-dollar mark after it has been listed. More importantly, the management is still in Tel Aviv. The Super Bowl campaigns, for example, were created in-house here by our marketing wizard, Omer Shai. Of course, Israel is a small country where the available talent is shared between a huge number of start-ups, so it’s a challenge when your workforce is growing by 77% in a year. One approach to HR is in building even more intelligent processes: this is an area where we still have room for improvement! But we have no intention of compromising on quality, and the company has opened offices in Vilnius, Lithuania and Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine's fourth largest city, to recruit the best talents.
« If the country wants to attract tomorrow’s leaders, it needs to develop other cultural heroes. »
Which advice would you offer Luxembourg’s
decision makers in guiding its recent digital
I have been to Luxembourg several times to visit my
friends at Mangrove. It is a great country with great potential, but mainly known for its bankers. If the country wants to attract tomorrow’s leaders, it needs to develop other cultural heroes. In the UK, for example, everyone’s talking about TV celebrities and footballers. In Israel, entrepreneurs are the heroes – this has always been part of our Jewish culture. People here spend a lot of time studying culture, religion and technology, often just for its own sake. Luxembourg needs to enable new cultural heroes that are neither bankers nor public servants. But everything else is there! And bankers do have their place – financing any kind of business in Luxembourg is really easy.
How did the Wix story start for Mangrove?
In 2007, we began to explore the Israeli market. As a result of this investigation, we were approached by a seed financer who told us about Wix and asked for our opinion.
Mangrove immediately purchased 3% of the company, before going on, 9 months later, to launch a financing round of 3 million dollars to help the start-up company move up to the next gear. This is completely in line with our philosophy, which is based on “getting a feel for” the company we are investing in, while aiming to acquire between 20 and 30% of the capital. At the time, the team in Tel Aviv had barely twenty members and the product was still in the test phase. However, the company’s three managers convinced us from the very start: these hardworking pioneers focused on innovating and on the precise statistic of the number of new customers acquired. They also had a broad vision of a platform offering unrivalled ease of use and encompassing different aspects of website management: creation, hosting, ranking, e-commerce, etc