The Virtues of Specialization: A Conversation with Duda’s Itai Sadan

Our latest guest on the LocalAgency video series, Duda CEO Itai Sadan, believes in focus. His company has made a firm decision to focus on being the best website builder it can be. It has made a conscious choice not to pursue the full-stack SaaS for SMBs path.

Duda’s chosen path has been validated by investors, who poured $25 million into Duda last year to help the business scale up into the next tier of site builder platforms. Think Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, and the like.

Digital agencies and freelancers are important partners for Duda, which doesn’t sell directly to the small business market. So naturally, Itai is a big believer that digital agencies, despite the beating they have been taking during the pandemic, have a solid future. Currently, there are 8,000 active agencies building sites on Duda’s platform.

“Agencies are here to stay,” Itai said. “And they have tremendous opportunities. And their opportunities are only growing.”

Here are some highlights from the interview. You can access the full conversation on LocalogyLive!

On COVID’s Impact on Agencies 

Itai acknowledged the pandemic has been tough on agencies. But it’s been tougher on some than others.

“Agencies that are tacking the online side for SMBs have seen an uplift in demand,” Itai said. “And of course, agencies that are focused on hard-hit verticals have had a rough time.”

He added that the pandemic had motivated small businesses to move online in a way that no previous catalyst has.

“You know 10 years ago, all the companies in the space that service small businesses were saying, ‘Oh there’s a huge opportunity out there. Fifty percent of small businesses are still not online,” Itai recalled. “In the back of my mind, I would think, what’s going to make a company that wasn’t online in 2020 get online? Well, here came COVID and forced a lot of these businesses that were never online to [finally] come online.”

On How Agencies Must Adapt to Automation

Itai is highly skeptical of the notion that the increase in DIY tools for search, social advertising, and other marketing functions will make digital agencies less necessary. After all, even in a DIY environment, he believes, small businesses must have the skills of a marketer to execute effectively.

“The digital landscape is becoming much more complex. It’s not enough to put a website out there and hope that customers will flock to it,” Itai said. “In order to execute a digital strategy, you need to put on a marketing hat. The typical plumber or pizza restaurant owner doesn’t have the skills needed to build a digital strategy.”

On Consolidation in the Website Builder Space

Itai acknowledged recent consolidation in the site builder space. He cited Bauer’s acquisition of Mono and Camilyo and Wix’s acquisition of Websplanet, for example. But he said the website industry’s path isn’t necessarily linear.

“Obviously, there is consolidation happening,” Itai said. “But it’s amazing. Every month, it seems, I see another website builder pop into the market. Usually, a name that I haven’t heard. So I don’t necessarily see consolidation because the market can bear multiple big successful companies.”

On Why This is a Good Time to Start a Business

Duda launched in 2010. Right in the midst of the Great Recessions. So Itai has direct experience with the old adage that a down economy is the best time to launch a startup. The main reason Itai cites is the availability of top talent at a discount.

“It is the best time to start a business. Right now,” Itai said. “Tough to get funding perhaps. But what isn’t tough to get is employees.”

Now is the time to build and iterate, Itai says. So that when the economy picks up, the business is poised to scale.

“And it will be interesting to see a couple of years from now the companies that were started in this period.”

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