Wix CEO: How a 10-year-old company innovates

By Avishai Abrahami, Wix.com Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

We tend to attach the word “innovation” to the latest app, device or software. Yet innovation is much more than that. It needs to be embedded in a business from day one and given room to sprout.

To truly thrive, companies must grow in such a way that allows for constant innovation and must recognize that it is not not merely a mechanism for a particular product or project.

Globally, the technology sector likes to pride itself on providing opportunities for individual achievement and high performing teams.

Companies focus on creating a progressive work culture with the idea that great teams build great things that make customers happy. We take it to the extreme.

With approximately fifty percent of Wix employees working on R&D, and no sales team, building on our ideas — innovating — is in the company’s DNA.

As we celebrate our tenth birthday, we recognize that internal innovation has been at our core since the start and is nurtured through a unique culture that is both employee and customer-centric.

A New Operational Model

From the start, create a model based on your goals, not on the success of others.

Too often, leaders feel the need to replicate business models of industry giants rather than bring a new solution to and old problem.

By having a realistic understanding of what your customers need, the service that your company provides, and how it differs from the competition, you can build on your internal innovation.

This takes creativity right from the start.

Wix began with a big idea on a beach. The best way to be innovative is to solve your own problem, that’s how my partners and I came up with Wix.

Quite simply, I needed a website and there was not an easy solution available. We surmised that if we had this problem, then others must have it too. By extending that insight for ten years and to all our employees, we have maintained the speed, soul and fun of startup.

Passion for the product and our customers is harnessed through the autonomy employees are given — they are encouraged to think big, take risks and work on their own projects. We ask one question.

What is a problem you face in pursuing your passion? Solve it.

Products such as Wix Music came alive because of musicians within the company trying to solve a problem that impacted them personally.

We realized building a website is not enough. So we shifted from being a website builder to becoming an ecosystem that provides users the tools they needed to bring their businesses online.

We have been able to harness this energy as we have evolved. We make sure to structure our teams to promote independence and creativity. For instance, internally we organize our teams into a series of mini-start-ups. Not divisions, not task forces. True min-start-ups.

Vertical teams are separated into their own companies: each has a CEO, chairman, and resources that promotes product development. Then we divide support for the teams such as marketing, BI, operations, HR, legal into Guilds who work across the larger group.

We believe that this organizational structure fosters employee creativity and autonomy without limiting communication and support. These separate companies promote focus on understanding consumers’ needs and allow for dedicated staff to meet those needs.

Really Learn From Your Customers

As a B2C service, our model needs to both fuel our growth and at the same time align with the demands of our users. Solve our problems and solve our users’ problems.

The internal innovation that fuels product advancement stems from a dedicated workforce that is customer-centric. Our employees are also consumers of the product — they are the first people to test and provide feedback before rolling out new features.

This makes our employees not only our customers but also brand ambassadors. They embody the mission of the company and give it life.

But internal innovation and testing is not enough.

Using a freemium model has allowed us to meet user demands, test new features, and to be rapidly responsive to the needs of the marketplace. The data we have amassed serving more than 85 million global customers has only added to our ability to build better and faster solutions.

This allows design fueled by a combination of the best technology, the competitive needs of our users, and our team’s big ideas to inform our new products.

These are our drivers and they allow us to grow at a rate of 1.5 million users per month. The sharp global increase has created a greater and more diverse base that powers the product in such a way that it has become easier to use and at the same time robust enough for the savviest customers.

Through continuous implementation and keeping users in mind we have built the brand and the business, and maintained authenticity to ourselves and our customers.

Internal innovation for us is not a slogan or motto, not even a static goal but a circular and powerful current. Our growth fosters the innovative spirit of our employees who are given the freedom to build new products.

Employee autonomy leads to new products and technologies based on their understanding of the market and their curiosity.

As a founder of a company celebrating our tenth birthday, I can honestly say that I’m as excited for what comes next as I was that day on the beach.

This post is by Avishai Abrahami, Wix.com Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, and first appeared in Hot Topics.

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