WIX Case Study – How Do You Keep Up Innovation When the Company Grows?
Israel has been considered the “start-up nation” since 2009, but the small companies from back then have either gotten larger or been acquired by megacorporations. Now they have to learn how not to lose their pioneering edge even after growth and success. WIX is an excellent example of a company that found an interesting way to both be “big” and act “small.”
- WIX is an Israeli company that developed a website-building platform. Users can create their own sites- without any prior programming or design knowledge. Founded in Israel in 2006, today WIX has over 110 million users in more than 190 countries.
- Some 1600 Israel-based WIX employees (out of a total of 2,600) work at the Tel Aviv Port company offices, which are projected to move in 2022 to a new campus, located at the Blue Tel Aviv complex north of the city, near Tzuk Beach and the Glilot Interchange.
- Over the years WIX has acquired several Israeli startups (Appixia, OpenRest, Moment.Me) and recently Eran Gefen’s creative agency as well, with the goal of continuing to develop and becoming one of the hundred leading brands in the world.
- The company is already considered extremely creative, especially in its marketing efforts. Notable accomplishments include five Super Bowl commercials and sponsoring sports teams in the U.S., England and Latin America.
- Currently traded on NASDAQ, WIX is valued at $6.9 billion.
Many foreign groups that come to Israeli ask to visit WIX, to learn from them about creative initiatives and thinking outside the box. They want to get an impression of the company’s extremely informal culture, that stems both from its unique location on the Tel Aviv coast and from the unpretentious, straightforward, egalitarian air of the employees – who basically wear jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops.
I recently visited the company, accompanying a delegation I had lectured on Israeli business culture. Some WIX team members shared with the delegates their personal stories, which perfectly corroborated my model of the seven characteristics of Israeli culture in the business world. The model is based on my original research over the past decade, including 350 interviews with businesspeople all over the globe who related their experiences working with Israelis. It also employs my OLM-Consulting Culture Calculator for quantitative analysis.
Here are the seven characteristics of Israeli business culture (using the word ISRAELI as an acronym) – you can also read more about the model in my book Israeli Business Culture:
And yes, WIX exhibits all of these qualities. Like in so many other companies, WIX got started with the aim of solving an existing problem while its three founders were working on a completely different startup! They wanted to create a website for the startup, but encountered one obstacle and difficulty after another. The process was incredibly complicated and expensive. That’s when they came up with the concept of a free site-building platform for anyone and everyone.
The company’s guiding values are ownership, trust and transparency. And yet, out of all the points shared with the delegation on that visit, I was most impressed when I heard that every department at WIX functions as a separate unit. That was an aha moment for me. I found it fascinating, and perhaps the key to how WIX maintains its original small-company atmosphere and inventiveness even now that it’s so big and successful – by keeping its teams intimate and empowered.
Prof. Yoram Solomon, an innovation culture and trust builder, once told me that “Bureaucracy reduces innovation in corporations and so we should look at groups within those companies. Product design/development groups, for example, should have zero bureaucracy, and allow creativity to flow freely. Second, the role of a team leader is to shield his/her team from the bureaucracy in the outside organization.”
Yoram’s words fit in exactly with the WIX approach of dividing the company into small, separate units. Each WIX product has its own professional team that makes autonomous decisions, often without requiring authorization from higher up. This gives rise to remarkable flexibility and innovativeness in a company of this size. In other words, it allows a large organization to still act small and fast, and to preserve internal communication that encourages taking responsibility and being open to change.
So here’s something to think about: If you feel like bureaucracy has taken over your company and restricted your employees’ freedom of action, and the sheer size of the business has ruined all imaginative and innovative thinking – then maybe you should consider restructuring your teams, and giving more authority and power to each department. Good luck!