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Website Builder Webflow (YC S13) Went from Near Bankruptcy to $72M Series A (forbes.com)
155 points by jaoued 76 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments



Hey HN! I'm Vlad, CEO and one of the co-founders of Webflow.

It was over 6 years ago now, a just several months a rejection email from YC and a few weeks from being essentially bankrupt (my daughter had an unexpected surgery while we had only catastrophic health insurance), we posted a Show HN about Webflow (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5407499). It was our last "hail mary" to show something tangible to the world before promising our partners to go back to our old jobs to actually get some income again.

Luckily, the Show HN took off like wildfire and we stuck to the #1 spot nearly all day. Tens of thousands of people signed up for our beta. This really helped us reapply to YC with tons more traction (and boundless confidence this time), and we were lucky enough to get in to the next batch.

We're now a team of over 120 people across 20 countries, serving billions of requests for tens of thousands of paying customers. I'm very confident that we wouldn't have been able to achieve this had the HN post not taken off here, and we're so thankful for the positive reception. Luckily, we didn't get those funny "I can build this in a day with some bash scripts!" kinds of comments :)

Even though it's been many years since then, we're still on the same mission to empower millions more people to build powerful websites (and increasingly, more powerful software!) without code. We believe that in the end, democratizing software creation will multiply the potential of the internet, likely by at least an order of magnitude.

A HUGE and humble thank you to the community here, and for your support way back when!


Vlad, thanks for building Webflow! My team and I love it. Building a company these days requires a website that looks and works great - but as a founder I'd rather spend my time working on the product and talking to customers. Webflow is perfect for it. Our designer Blanka knew nothing about web design, she used to do photoshop / illutrator mockups and rely on me or another person on the team to make it into a website. We switched to Webflow, and I spent an hour on a Skype call with her showing her the basics. Now she does everything herself. This is the website -> https://datacue.co - was all done by someone who knew 0 about web dev.

The best thing about webflow for me is how it makes advanced features like CSS animations accessible to people. If you resize the website width till you see the mobile version, a hamburger menu pops up. Click on it and you'll see a little animation. I can't tell you how proud Blanka was that she did it herself, was really great to see.

Sorry this sounds like such an advert for you guys - but I'm a very happy customer.


Thank you so much for the kind words, and so happy to see that you've found Webflow to be so useful! Go Blanka!


I own a large web design agency, do you have options for partnership? We are always interested in new tools and better ways of doing things for our clients.


Hey Vlad,

I'm one of the users that signed up when you first posted to HN years ago. I've been a happy customer for several years now. It's the perfect tool for me. Thank you for saving me from Wordpress!


This is great perseverance on your part. I feel overwhelming joy for you all. Congratulations.

Btw, your story made this news.yc thread one of my favourites of all time: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16409768

I wonder how yathletics is doing...


Congratulations Vlad, it's been very exciting to see Webflow succeed!


just shows how much YC applicant evaluation sucks. Thanks to the community comprised mostly of other rejects YC was able to realize their mistake and fund this awesome company.


I honestly don't think it was a mistake the first time. We had almost nothing to show for what we wanted to build, it must have looked like a toy at the time. Our first application was more of a "fancier web inspector plugin" with no validation that there was a market for such a thing – I probably would have made the same exact call if I was sitting on the admissions/evaluation side.


Congratulations on your success! I have never heard of Webflow, but after checking out your site it seems pretty slick. I will consider it for future projects.

Again congratulations!


I think the main differentiator for webflow is the user experience of their tool. Its very well done, intuitive, easy to use but doesn't oversimplify. If designing app front ends was this easy it would be awesome.

In my mind the hook into their hosting service is keeping them from their potential. If they had a stand alone tool I could use or a corp lvl tool, it could be big.

That being said, maybe there is more money in it for them to do it this way. But as a designer I see so much missed opportunity to unit design and code for front end work. (And eventually basic app functionalities)


I agree. I have been a very regular user of Webflow for the past eight months and it has given me a 10x productivity boost despite being capable of coding it all by hand.

It does have serious limitations though. Many times I have needed to tell clients: "you can't do that because it's not (yet?) supported in Webflow". For example, you can't have "lists of lists" (i.e. nested maps or loops in JavaScript), which makes a huge number of designs virtually impossible. There are also random CSS properties, like vertical text alignment, missing from the Webflow interface, requiring custom coding, and they have arbitrary maximum file sizes for a number of assets. With Webflow, you either stay within their limitations, or you have to do a lot of things in custom code embeds.

Despite this, I've found that, even with Webflow's brutal price structures, working around those limitations in order to stay on Webflow's infrastructure has generally been worth the pain compared to spending a whole lot more time/money on doing things by hand, especially because my clients have a tendency to completely change their mind several times during the process. I'm not yet aware of anything with a shorter iteration time — there's CodePen, but its hosting features are even more limited than Webflow's...


Yeah, my main complaint about Webflow is the lack of a standalone tool. Last time I was designing for a client, I was travelling in east Africa, and simply couldn't afford to pay refill cards for the data needed to use Webflow online.

The closest competitor I've found that is standalone is Pnegrow. It is pretty cool, but still not nearly as intuitive and fast to learn as we flow, sadly.


Sorry for the typos (mobile keyboard, arrgh).

For completeness, the link to the Pinegrow editor:

https://pinegrow.com

Also, I seem to have forgot to point out that one requirement I was looking for was Linux support (Pinegrow runs fine on Xubuntu).


Dude, this is not a roaming tool...


Congrats to these folks. But I have a serious, genuine question: How many of these click-and-drag, WYSIWYG website creators are we going to see?

I get there's a need for the long-tail of web traffic (small businesses, etc) to create an internet presence. But is it all that profitable, which I imagine is plenty of competition to undercut your prices? I don't know how a Wix, etc. can stand out or have a competitive advantage in this space. There are so many of them it seems.


Webflow is different. It doesn't limit to set of templates and their styling, which most other site builders do. It's a GUI layer above raw CSS and HTML, which gives you the ability to build virtually anything. It's an order of magnitude more powerful than its competitors. Webflow's own website[1] is a great example of what you can make with it.

Considering how many marketing departments I have seen struggling to pull someone from the dev team to fix a tiny, tiny change, this is a massive opportunity.

[1]: https://webflow.com/


So when there isn't a template to do what you need, you have to know CSS and HTML, and must code yourself. The premise is "no-code". The uniqueness of this editor is it's ability to play nicely with anything you write yourself.


Nope. You don't have to code anything. That's the whole point. If you don't have a template, you start from a blank page and you build it using the GUI.


My original discussion point (top-level comment) was that feature alone doesn't sound like much of a differentiator from other WYSIWYG web builders out there.


That is, in fact, our main differentiator – and the main reason people choose Webflow. Check out this very diverse set of sites [1] that can be built with Webflow, this ability to visually develop any kind of custom layout/experience really does go a long way to distance us from any competitors.

[1] https://webflow.com/discover/popular


These sites are quite varied, I do agree. One small thing I noticed. Some sites could have improved tab navigation, for example https://www.memberstack.io/. The site, without any interaction, is buttery smooth 60fps. When I start tabbing through the "What others are saying..." carousel, though, it destroys the animation frame rate (Chrome, Mac OS, 32 GB RAM).


Most WYSIWYG web builders are about assembling pre-existing blocks. Webflow gives you total freedom. Webflow is to Wix/Builders as Photoshop/Illustrator are to Canva.


I tried looking on the site but wasn't able to find a definitive answer, does this support the ability to add custom JS?


Yes, you can! https://university.webflow.com/article/embed

One thing to note is that we're also creating visual abstractions over common things that are hand-coded with JS. For example, see our declarative GUI for interactions and animations [1] – it allows designers to get the same exact effects that you'd build out manually, but without the need to learn how to write that JS from scratch.

[1] https://webflow.com/interactions-animations


Thanks for the info


webflow's designer seems to be heavily inspired by https://grapesjs.com/


I think it's the other way around


Bingo :)


Well, ironically Lambda School uses Webflow (https://twitter.com/austen/status/1159145385891205120), so it's not just "mom and pop" small businesses that are customers. If anything, those businesses would be better served using something like SquareSpace or Wix, not Webflow.


Even if you remove the massive long tail for a second, there's huge opportunity in the enterprise. I've never really met a marketing team satisfied with the speed in which they're able to create, edit, and deploy changes. A bit hyperbolic of course, but there's definitely room in the market.


I've heard great things about Squarespace's customer service, which is why I recommend them. So from my perspective, customer service can be one way to differentiate one company from the other.


It might be all about projecting a number of tiny businesses without websites yet (or not maintained, or old, or only on FB, etc) and convince VCs that you can get a large cut of those.


I know Wix isn't making any money yet losing $30-$50M a year


Source?



Great story! Couple of minor suggestions.

> Before you dig in, note that while sites built in Webflow work in all modern browsers, we don’t actively support use of the Designer in Mozilla Firefox. Given all that has been said about BigTech, it will be awesome if firefox becomes a priority so that we dont need to use Chrome.

One feature suggestion - being able to import CSS and HTML and then work with them. Often I will buy wordpress themes and want to customize them a little bit. Or when I want to move an existing site to maintain it using webflow. This will also open up revenue channel, being able to buy themes from other marketplaces and use them in webflow.


I would say well deserved! I am not anymore into web design nor did I ever liked it much (I went low-level and to hardware design) but when I needed to do it I used webflow and it was delight. Easy, intuitive and really great tutorials were there.

Thanks Webflow team!


As a non-coding technologist I was also a skeptic about how this was differentiated from other non-coding options, but it seems I need to get on the Webflow train. I will now add it with Figma to the toolbox for my venture builder empowering immigrant entrepreneurs - seems to have a good story to match that too. Cheers Webflow team!


Congrats, but it's weird how $72M is series A. Facebook's Series C was $15M, Snap $50M series C. Weird.


It's because they were able to build a decently large business purely with their seed founding + ongoing revenues (It's called an A round because they've only ever raised a seed)


As someone who makes a living with react, I'd still turn to webflow if I had to throw together a quick design or help a friend out. Just feels way quicker and wysiwyg than doing it all by hand. Cheers for building such a nice product, and you know, surviving.


Congrats Vlad, Bryant, and Sergie! Very happy for you guys. Well-deserved!


Thank you, Glen!


Very cool. For people familiar with WordPress, specifically what's the value proposition/reasons why it's better relative to a common CMS like WordPress?


wonderful inspiring story about never giving up, showing how much luck & timing play in making or breaking a great idea, and that the American dream is still alive and kicking — as Ukrainian Refugee myself who migrated around the same time, has grew up poor through the wild 80s, and survived the Internet bubble..and still chasing it..I salut you!


Congrats Vlad + team!


Thanks Brandon!


Wow, designers must be shitting their pants. You could fire a whole department and use this stuff easily!


If you only need a static website then it's a great solution.

But it is NOT hard to start running into barriers. In my experience it's essentially impossible to use it as a frontend design tool with say a node.js backend. There's no templating support, very restricted export (their CMS costs extra per site, and isn't part of the export), etc.

If your website has a login button then I'd be impressed if you designed the whole thing in webflow.


Exact reason why we migrated a webflow site to Next.js/GraphQL/Contentful/Hasura stack.

Webflow is an awesome design tool, but the exported code is very messy to work with. If are a designer or plan to stay on webflow for simpler static sites, it wouldn't matter though.

However, It does create a technical debt if you happen to scale up and your needs grow.


Webflow doesn't eliminate the need for design, it eliminates the need for front-end development on static sites.


* eliminates the need for front-end development on static sites

I have been using it since its beta days for my blog and some mockups and am not sure I agree. It is one of the finest 'web design tool' that I have ever used. But one that will create a technical debt for the 'real front end developers' in the future.


I used to bump into Vlad and Sergey in Hackerdojo when they were hacking the very early version of Webflow.. I used the very first version and loved it..

Amazing story of persistence and focus. Keep up the great work folks!




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