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From startup to public company: How to keep the startup spirit going

Being a startup founder is very different from being an entrepreneur—the difference lies in the attitude.  While anyone who has the capital and an idea can start a business, entrepreneurs have the drive and an eye to spot an opportunity and tap into it quicker than the rest of the world.   Forging the path to success can be a risky venture that involves plenty of dedication and persistence for a company and its members. 

An entrepreneurial spirit is required to build close-working relationships, balance emotions of excitement and cohesion, as well as maintain an agile environment where productivity is high and problems are quickly solved.    

At Wix, we went from a small startup based in Israel to a publicly listed business with over 92 million registered users. I’m pleased to share with you a few tips and advice on how to keep thinking and acting like a startup, even if you are not one anymore:

Keep innovation at the heart of everything you do     

Innovation should be at the heart of the company and needs to be embedded in the business and its employees at every stage--from the product to communications. It’s crucial to encourage innovation to your employees as this allows them to push boundaries and come up with new creative solutions. So the main question is: how do you do it?    

A significant number of companies adopt a more corporate attitude as soon as they become public. However, I think the added value of keeping the startup spirit can only contribute to your business success.  

Keeping the culture and a positive attitude is critical for when a company grows. Many companies may have a great culture initially, but it takes the back seat once profits become a priority. It’s key to remember that it’s equally important to keep a vibrant culture that rewards innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Stay passionate about your business

Passion is vital from the moment you start your company and will help you overcome difficult moments throughout your business journey. It might start fading away over time if your employees start to have a feeling that they are not making a difference; therefore, make sure you incentivise them to innovate and reward them appropriately when they do so. 

At Wix, we do it in all kind of ways: one is to make sure they know everything that is going on and another is that we allow them to try and fail, do and make mistakes, as long as they learn from it and try again to do better. We also host our own internal Hackathons where employees come with their own brilliant and crazy ideas. You want to have passionate employees that act as brand ambassadors and foster the same passion and excitement that you have about the company.  

Innovation comes from the data you already have - keep, measure and analyse all the time

Innovation is what keeps every single business going. Innovation attracts new partners, new investors, media, but most importantly new clients.   

For example, at Wix, we have gathered invaluable data from millions of customers and combined it with our team’s ideas which led us to our latest product: Wix ADI – Artificial Design Intelligence. 

This revolutionary piece of AI is changing the way individuals and small business build their presence online and it was only possible due to our constant focus on innovation.

We changed our organisation structure so we won't slow down

Startups are agile and can solve problems quickly. As your business grows, it’s important not to get stuck with processes and growing layers of decision making. An idea might be to create small and independent project groups like we have at Wix. 

This way you can stay agile and make decisions faster so you are always ahead of your competition. It was easy to move fast when we were around 100 employees but scaling makes it hard to move fast in a startup mentality. Therefore, we break the company into smaller teams that work together around one product-line, which have their own resources and sit together with one leader.

Continue to take risks and allow failures

No matter what you do risks are always involved, regardless of whether it’s a startup or a large company. Generally, startups have already evaluated the business risk and are still willing to take the dive but due to their personality have a tendency to be more enthusiastic. They embrace risks, make room for mistakes and refuse to give up if something goes wrong.    

This positive, can-do attitude and energy is important to keep the organisation focused and goal-driven. With this startup attitude, you can explore collaborations with new people and organisations to work smarter and reach your goal. In the business world, there are always ups and downs--learn from the setbacks and move on.  

Transparency is crucial. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Quite often companies become too big that no one knows what is going on in each department, and new team members are not familiar with the company’s vision or values.    

Communication is a crucial part of ongoing success. In order for employees to improve, they must be empowered with responsibility and knowledge to grow. Communicating everything that happens to all enables conversation. Conversations lead to creativity and brilliant ideas that push the company forward.   Your employees should constantly be updated and exposed to everything that is going on. On the company’s latest developments, both success and failures.   

Don’t undervalue the power of a good internal communications strategy. Your employees are the best brand ambassadors you can get; if they are not enthusiastic about the business and where the business is going, who will be?

Think about the user, be the user

Your partners, your employees, and most importantly, your users, can give you good ideas and suggestions that you might have never thought about so keep an eye out for them. There’s a variety of ways you can incentivise that.  Having been in business for ten years, we know that getting to know our users and incorporating their feedback into our product development is key to success. Since our formation, we are the first to use our own products. 

When we decided to build the Wix website, we debated whether it should be built with our own platform or not. Building on the Wix platform provided us with immediate feedback: what are the product breaking and pain points, what should we fix and improve.  Wix employees are the first adopters and the first to provide feedback before rolling a new feature out. 

After releasing new a feature we constantly looks at our users’ feedback - and from there we get the most ideas for new features.  

Nir Nohar, President and COO, Wix (opens in new tab)

Image source: Shutterstock/Kzenon

Nir Nohar is the President and COO at Wix. Since 2007, he has spearheaded all efforts to develop and implement Wix' strategic plans geared towards accommodating the company's growth objectives and business goals.