Neil Patel

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In the bustling world of Silicon Valley, where success stories and innovations are born, one individual stands out with a remarkable journey that spans continents, cultures, and challenges. Vlad Magdalin, the co-founder and CEO of Webflow, has not only carved a niche for himself in the tech industry but has also overcome incredible odds to get there.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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A Humble Beginning in the USSR and Moving to the US

Vlad Magdalin’s story begins in a small village on the border of Georgia and Russia during the final days of the USSR. Life in this rural setting was a stark contrast to the technological landscape he would later conquer.

Vlad’s early years were shaped by sustenance farming, self-built houses, limited electricity, and a complete absence of modern technology like TVs. The Magdalin family, consisting of six siblings and his parents, lived a life of self-reliance, cultivating their own crops and raising animals.

At the age of nine, just as the USSR was collapsing, Vlad embarked on a life-altering journey with his family. Landing in the US in 1991 and eventually settling in Sacramento, Vlad faced the challenge of adapting to a new culture, language, and way of life.

His first English word, “cloud,” unknowingly foreshadowed his future endeavors in the tech world.

Shaping Values through Struggle

The struggle of Magdalin’s family, navigating a foreign land with a language barrier, fueled a deep work ethic and sense of responsibility.

Witnessing his parents’ resilience and dedication to creating a better life in a country often viewed with skepticism back in the USSR instilled in Vlad a drive to make them proud. He recalls how his new life changed his worldview entirely.

Vlad talks about appreciating opportunities like financial freedom, career progress, and success that came naturally in America. And that everything else he was able to achieve was like “the cherry on top,” as he terms it. “Life is a world of possibilities,” Vlad realized.

College, Dropout, and Finding a Calling

Vlad’s journey to his current role wasn’t a straight path. Initially pursuing computer science at Cal Poly, he found himself disenchanted with the field. He took a detour into graphic design thanks to a fascination with 3D animation before programming recaptured his interest.

The pivotal moment occurred sometime in early 2001-2002 during art school. It was around the time when Pixar was becoming popular, and Vlad saw the potential to merge design, animation, and programming.

Vlad has an exciting story to tell about how his interest in programming was rekindled. A chat application that his friends were using to communicate crashed after the dot-com bubble burst. To help his friends, Vlad ordered a book on Amazon on how to build a web app and learned how to rebuild the service.

He ended up recreating the service and enjoyed the creative aspect of designing an application while thinking about the user experience. Vlad loved having the ability to implement it and bring it to life. This experience led him to continue to study programming since he saw a lot of potential in it.

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Going Back to School

That’s when Vlad decided to go back to school to get his computer science degree. He remembers having to take out a bunch of loans to pay for the expensive course. He also took a side job at a web agency to supplement his income.

This company created amazing websites for Apple, Quicksilver, and a tennis channel. That’s where Vlad was inspired to build software that helps web designers bring their ideas into production on the web. At the time, websites needed to be built by a professional coder.

Vlad’s idea to develop a better way was the foundation of Webflow in around 2005. He was able to land the domain name and start his entrepreneurial journey as a solo founder. Although he was ready with the concept, he had to put it on the back burner.

For an interim time, Vlad took a job at Intuit to provide for his family while his new wife was going through nursing school. Being an engineer took up all of his time, and he found himself coding some nights and over the weekends.

The Birth of Webflow: Four Attempts and Perseverance

Vlad’s journey to creating Webflow wasn’t without its challenges. Four attempts at building the platform saw setbacks, name disputes, and cease-and-desist letters. However, each failure became a stepping stone, teaching Vlad valuable lessons about resilience and determination.

Vlad was approached by a designer friend who suggested applying to Y Combinator as part of their first cohort to get funding for his company.

The duo started putting together a pitch deck and talking to lawyers to incorporate the company and get funding for it. They also invited a third co-founder to join them.

Over the next six months, Vlad did his best to raise funding while juggling day jobs. They were largely unsuccessful because investors wanted to see a product prototype.

In around 2007 and early 2008, the trio brought in a law firm that was open to providing them with free legal services to get incorporated. They also got funding and started working nights and weekends to get an actual product out there.

Unfortunately, they received a cease-and-desist letter from a company in Florida claiming to own the trademark of the name Webflow.

The back-and-forth was a setback since they were running low on funds to keep going. For a time, Vlad considered building websites for clients and gradually improving on that.

In 2011, Vlad received a letter from the US Trademark Office informing them that he and his co-founders owned the Webflow trademark. That, along with watching a conference talk called Inventing a Principal by Brett Victor, was a turning point and fresh inspiration.

The Concept Behind Webflow

Vlad started to think about the idea of visual development and how you can abstract away really complex programming concepts and bring them into a visual format to democratize access to them.

He brought in his brother, Sergie Magdalin, and Bryant Chou as co-founders to finally get the company off the ground.

Webflow is a SaaS-based service, initially similar to Adobe, where users had to pay a monthly fee to access the service. However, they soon developed hosting plans.

Unlike Squarespace, where users can pick a template and change some images and text, Webflow allows developers to build complex professional sites.

Businesses and their branding and marketing teams or brand designers can build and manage their sites using Webflow. Essentially, businesses can pay Webflow a monthly or yearly subscription to develop the entire infrastructure to run and maintain their websites on a production scale.

Big partner channels, service providers, freelance agencies, marketing teams, and providers who offer professional web services, web design services, and SEO optimization can use Webflow directly to build sites for clients like larger companies.

Over the last four years, Vlad and his co-founders have moved from serving not just smaller startups but also large enterprises where thousands of people do large deployments on large sites that are mission-critical and run the majority of their web presence.

Series A at $15M in Revenue: Unconventional Success

Webflow’s Series A fundraising round, securing a staggering $70M when the company was already generating $15M in revenue, is a testament to its unique trajectory.

Vlad’s decision to bring in investors wasn’t just about financial support but finding partners who believed in the mission and vision of Webflow. The company has raised a total funding of $334.9M.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Vlad Magdalin was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Navigating Fundraising and Building a Sustainable Business

The decision to raise capital wasn’t taken lightly, and Vlad emphasizes the importance of aligning with investors who share Webflow’s values. The funds weren’t just a means to grow; they became a tool to amplify Webflow’s mission and serve a larger audience, from startups to large enterprises.

Vlad remembers having to build the product faster to keep up with the rising demand from customers who needed them to grow quickly. Since clients were now basing their entire livelihoods on the Webflow platform, they needed new products to maintain operations.

Vlad decided to raise “courage capital,” urged by their community of users to help them move forward and invest in the products they wanted to build. And, essentially, bring the solution into more hands as quickly as possible.

Raising the Series A round was about getting the capital and confidence to dramatically increase the platform’s capabilities and hire ahead of the business growth.

Vlad also wanted to bring on board more partners who believed in what they were doing and had the expertise they lacked to see around corners as the company scaled.

Vlad sees their investors as an extension of Webflow’s co-founding team that helps them tackle their challenges.

Ultimately, he wanted to build a fundamentally long-lasting generational company that continues to change the lives of people, a mission that feels like a huge responsibility and opportunity.

Lessons Learned: Confidence and Pricing

Looking back, Vlad wishes he had internalized certain lessons earlier in his journey. The importance of confidence, both in oneself and in asking customers to pay for value, stands out.

The realization that underpricing can hinder building a sustainable business became a pivotal moment for Webflow’s growth.

The revenue they started to bring in gave Vlad and his co-founders the confidence that they could build a scalable company.

As he opines, consider the value the product or service brings to the world, even when faced with criticisms about pricing. It’s important not to let a few negative voices dictate all decisions regarding fair pricing.

Conclusion: A Visionary’s Odyssey

Vlad Magdalin’s journey from a Soviet village to Silicon Valley’s forefront is a tale of resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to a vision.

As Webflow continues redefining how websites are built and managed, Vlad’s story inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to navigate the unpredictable terrain of the tech industry.

In the ever-evolving world of Silicon Valley, where stories of success are etched every day, Vlad Magdalin’s odyssey stands as a beacon of triumph against all odds.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Embrace challenges and setbacks as they often shape your perspective and build resilience, as seen in Vlad Magdalin’s journey from a small village in the USSR to founding Webflow.
  • Life-changing moments, like moving to the United States at a young age, can profoundly impact your worldview and instill a sense of gratitude and motivation for future endeavors.
  • The support and sacrifices of family, particularly witnessing the hard work of parents navigating a new country, can instill a deep work ethic and sense of responsibility that fuels determination.
  • Early career explorations may involve multiple attempts and shifts, as seen in Vlad’s initial forays into computer science, 3D animation, and web design, before finding the right path with Webflow.
  • Overcoming challenges often requires persistence, as illustrated by the four attempts to establish Webflow, with moments of doubt and setbacks eventually leading to a successful venture.
  • Prioritize values and long-term impact when seeking venture partners, ensuring alignment with the mission and vision rather than solely focusing on financial returns.
  • Don’t let excessive worry and negative thoughts hinder progress; learn to manage anxieties effectively to maintain focus on the positive aspects of your journey and business.


For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

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Neil Patel

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