Danny Brigido of Wix, an Israeli company that created one of the world’s most popular website design platforms, says Florida — and particularly the Tampa Bay area — has a compelling story to tell to tech firms like his that look to escape the high taxes and cost of living in Silicon Valley.
“You know what you have here,” says Brigido, Wix’s Miami-based director of customer solutions, speaking at the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA) Innovation Fusion event last week.
What Tampa has, he adds, is a surprisingly deep reservoir of tech talent. The challenge, though, is getting that message out to fast-growing firms like Wix, which has seen its user base skyrocket from 8 million in 2011 to more than 130 million today.
Brazilian by birth, Brigido, 40, is a University of Tampa graduate who originally harbored dreams of a career in television. After graduating from UT with a communications degree, he obtained a master’s degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design before returning to Tampa, where he worked at Tridimensional Studios, an animation studio.
He joined Wix’s San Francisco office as a language support specialist in mid-2012, just as the company was taking off. In 2016, Brigido was named to a team tasked with setting up an east coast headquarters for the company in Florida.
In a separate interview with Coffee Talk, Brigido attributes the company’s success, in part, to “the ability to find talented people in Florida.” He says the Miami office blossomed more quickly than anyone anticipated, growing from 36 to more than 120 employees in a year and half and necessitating a new space that opened in January.
“It was something we weren’t expecting,” he says. “We found a lot of people who had the tech skills, but they just didn’t have a career in tech because they didn’t have very many options. So we were able to come in early and recruit a lot of the people who are now the foundation of our [Miami] office.”
Brigido says he’s not aware of any plans for Wix to open an office in Tampa. But he's impressed by some recent development efforts, like Jeff Vinik’s Water Street Tampa project, that aim to make downtown more marketable and attract and retain talent.
“It’s so amazing to see, and it’s very encouraging,” he says. “Building out the city will make it more appealing not only to tech companies, but to college graduates who will want to stay in Tampa. I chose to come to Tampa because I wanted to be here. I stayed as long as I could after graduating. Now, let’s see where Tampa goes.”