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Interview With Wix Co-CEO Allon Bloch

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Interview With Wix Co-CEO Allon Bloch

WixWix is an Israel-based online Web site and widget creator that launched in private beta a couple of weeks ago. Orli has a good review of the product along with a demo video. To learn more about Wix, I spoke with Co-CEO Allon Bloch to learn more about the application along with his tips for startups. Our interview transcript is below.

Allen: Can you each provide a brief bio about yourselves?

Allon Bloch: The company was created by three founders:

Gig Kaplan (CTO)- a serial entrepreneur who has been managing Internet companies for 13 years. Gig also spent several years at an elite technology unit in the Israel army.

Avishai Abrahami (Co-CEO) – a serial entrepreneur as well. Before Wix he was co-founder of Sphera – a hosting infrastructure company, and was also an executive a distance learning company called Arel. Avishai also served at an elite technology unit in the Israeli army.

Nadav Abrahami (VP R&D, Nadav and Avishai are bothers): was previously a senior engineer at Oberon, the casual games company

Ni Zohar: head of operations. Nir runs most of the company operations.

The company was started two years ago, I joined full time in February as Co-CEO. Previously I was a General partner at a Venture Capital firm called JVP, a $700m venture firm, where I lead the media investments. Avishai’s previous start up (Sphera) was a JVP company. Before that I was a consultant at McKinsey & Company.

We also have a number of stellar creative people, engineers and marketing people such as Amit. We don’t want to provide too much information about them…

Allen: What is Wix?

Allon: Wix is a web-top publishing platform. We believe it could become the platform people use when they want to publish something online, whether it’s a business site, a family site, widget, flyer, blog etc. Obviously it’ll take time to provide all the features to fully cover all segments, but we believe our publishing framework is robust enough to allow a multitude of applications. The only areas that are not relevant for wix type publishing are medium and large businesses, people who are willing to pay millions to create and maintain their websites, or text-only publications.

Allen: Why did you decide to enter the online Website creator market?

Allon: Wix was born out of the frustration the founders had of creating a decent web site without a lot of technology/coding. They felt that this basic self expression need was ignored, where good solutions involved either high end publishing packages or template based solutions that constrained creativity and often didn’t look good. There simply was no decent solution that enabled users to create good looking web content without the need to code but also without being constrained by templates. As wix developed we decided to focus also on the emerging widget market, as this is a classic form of self-expression online. We also felt that the problem wasn’t only creating a website once, but also enabling the freedom for people to update their content without going through their service provider.

Allen: It appears that you must host your Wix Web site with Wix – do you see this as a potential turnoff for customers who might want to use your tool to create a basic business site?

Allon: The content is hosted on wix. In the near future you’ll be able to use any URL you’d like (you can do this today, but it takes several stages). So I don’t believe it’ll be a turnoff – a user won’t feel the difference. As long as users are provided with an acceptable hosting service they will care only about the content. There is no problem for us to work with multiple hosting companies, but as this product will have numerous versions, we don’t want to create multiple versions of wix at different locations that need version upgrade etc.

Allen: What’s the technology behind Wix? How do you go from Flash creator to live Web site so seamlessly? Is the final Web site also in Flash?

Allon: Technology: Wix is a framework for enabling multiple media objects (video, audio, text, animation etc) to be published on one site and act in a unified manner. You can do that today in two ways: by coding in flash or HTML, or by using template based solutions that don’t give users choice (and are essentially coded for a specific configuration). Enabling users the freedom to create stuff means we needed a WYSIWYG drag & drop editor that acts as an abstraction layer to everything that happens underneath. This kind of framework is difficult to build as in the heart of the technology. The final website is also in flash (although we also create an XML stream that allows the website to be searchable like any other search engine).

Allen: Who are your competitors?

Allon: Competition: there are multiple offerings that provide consumers and small businesses the ability to publish online, but as mentioned earlier they have either a template type limitation or coding type limitations. Sprout seems to have a good offering for create widgets online, but seems to be more of a tool for professional marketers working online, and less for the general consumer population.

Allen: What makes Wix special versus the other online Website creators?

Allon: What makes wix special:

a). the capability of enabling true freedom in developing content in flash without the contratinst limitation

b). The UI is fun: wix was built like a video game: easy to start – hard to master. It’s a fun experience and very rewarding. It would be difficult to replicate that.

c). Wix is the only offering to non-coders that provides a complete solution for publishing online

Allen: How do you plan to market Wix?

Allon: Marketing/monetization: we have a plan but we’re still in early stages and haven’t finalized all the points. You can see a glimpse of how we’re approaching it in the current landing pages. I would be happy to talk about this further in a month or two.

Wix has offices in NYC and Israel – why did you select NYC and not Silicon Valley as your U.S. base of operations?

Allon: Wix’s R&D is in Israel. We wanted to have a US HQ. We felt NY was better for two reasons:

* wix needs to cooperate with media companies – both established and Web 2 companies. NY has probably more relevant companies than anywhere else.
* the time difference and travel to Israel are easier from NY comared with the west coast.

Allen: Can you share two lessons you’ve learned since starting work on Wix and how you dealt with each?

Allon: Lessons learnt: many… give me a few more months in the company to answer that.

Allen: Lastly, what tips or advice do you have for others wanting to begin work on a startup?

Allon: Advice re working on a start up: I mentioned I was a VC and I invested close to $100m in various early stage companies, so I’ve seen a lot of company situations. Start ups are a great place for people to fulfill themselves, and are incredibly rewarding, but you need to have the tolerance and the ability to persevere through the ups and downs. That’s not for everybody and definitely not for the faint hearted…
Thanks To Allen Stern of CentreNetWorks.