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New Podcast: “A Drop in the Bucket” with Duda’s Itai Sadan (Video)

In this episode of the Above the Cloud podcast, Duda Co-founder and CEO Itai Sadan talks about the website builder business and how the company plans to use its recent $25 million equity round. This round brings Duda’s fundraising total to $50 million since the company was founded in 2009 by Itai and CTO Amir Glatt. 

Duda is a software company based in Palo Alto (with an R&D office in Tel Aviv) that provides a website builder platform designed for use by agencies to create websites for small business. Duda’s roughly 6,500 resellers range from individual consultants building websites for clients to large publishers and digital agencies. Duda reseller list includes many of the biggest names in local search, including Thryv, Hibu, Sensis, 1&1, Publicar, and others.

To date, Duda’s reseller partners have built more than 560,000 websites for small businesses.

The podcast discussion went beyond the fundraise to delve into the overall health of the site-builder space to how sales channels are evolving from agencies and publishers to SaaS platforms.

We share some podcast highlights below with timestamped links that navigate you to the relevant moment in the episode.

The Big Payday

(Starting at 1:53) Duda wants to swim in a bigger pond, play on a larger field, whichever cliche you prefer. The company plans to apply the $25 million that’s currently burning a hole in its pocket to amp up sales and marketing efforts. But the greatest emphasis appears to be on beefing up its R&D efforts so it can innovate faster. Getting more product features developed and delivering them into the hands of its partners faster seems to be Itai’s biggest priority for the funds.

“Our partners have built more than 560,000 websites to date and we think that is a drop in the bucket,” Itai said. “We think there is a lot of room to grow and this [money] will help us accelerate.”

In this video clip, Itai talks about how Duda will invest the $25 million it raised from Susquehanna Growth Equity.

The Shift to SaaS

(Starting at 4:35) Itai notes that while Duda’s reseller channel has a very long tail of small agencies and freelancers, it’s no surprise that the big agencies deliver most of Duda’s volume. But Itai also validated what we’ve been observing for a while, which is that the center of gravity in channel partnerships is shifting from agencies and publishers to SaaS platforms.

“Over the past year, we have seen the rise of different SaaS platforms serving different SMB verticals. The leading platform for spas and yoga, the leading platform for real estate, for orthodontists and so on,” Itai said. “Each of these is a billion-dollar company and rising, and they are aggregating a lot of SMBs.”

Focus, Focus, Focus

(Starting at 5:08) A big trend among companies offering single-point solutions to SMBs is to move in the direction of offering a full-stack solution. The argument being that customer retention and average value improve if you have a solution for every stage of the small business customer journey.

Itai isn’t an adherent to that philosophy. He’d rather invest in making Duda’s website platform more robust and sophisticated.

“These are companies offering CRM, or booking, maybe billing and invoicing, a lot of the back office stuff,” Itai said. “When they start to think about, we want to help our customers, on the digital marketing front, to help them get leads, that is where Duda comes in, specifically around digital presence.”

Duda has made a decision, for now at least, to focus on web presence and avoid the all-in-one solutions path.

In this clip, Itai discusses why Duda has remained focused on websites vs offering a full suite of tools for SMBs, a la competitors like Camilyo and Websplanet. It’s all about focus.

There is a Lot to Do in Web Presence

(Starting at 7:43) Rather than going broad, Duda focuses on improving both product and process. On the product side, Duda is developing things like dynamic pages, which are “automated, dynamic sites built automatically based on data customers have in a database, or in a populated Google Sheet.”

On the process side, Duda recently introduced Site Comment, which “addresses the feedback loop between an agency and an end client. Historically that communication happened over email or text messages, with screenshots. Not very efficient. We have brought all of that communication into th Duda platform.” He described the tool as “InVision meets Slack.”

Another focus is on improving page speed. “We know the impact a fast loading site has on conversion. Every second decrease of speed decreases conversion by about 10%,” Itai said.

DIY is DOA

(Starting at 14:07) While Duda is arguably a DIY platform that is used by agencies (a statement true of many platforms), he is firmly in the DIY skeptic camp. He thinks agencies will remain the primary enabler of web presence for SMBs. And this is to the SMBs’ benefit.

“The tools are becoming simpler and anyone can build a website with a little bit of technical proficiency,” Itai said. “The difference between putting something on the web and having a successful digital marketing strategy is huge. And that is where the agency comes in.”

No, Websites Aren’t Dead

(Starting at 17:39) Not surprisingly, Itai sees a bright future for websites.

“I don’t think the website itself is going to go away,” Itai said, while acknowledging that other forms of digital presence, GMB, Facebook and so on, are increasingly important. “The website is the one source where you get organic traffic and can maintain a direct relationship with your clients. You should never give that up.”

You can listen to the full podcast here:

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