Itai Sadan Of Duda: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Every day, a new AI-powered tool or application emerges, promising to generate instant results and accomplish tasks that once took weeks or months. It can be hard to know which tools are all hype, and which tools will have staying power and will drive real value for your agency.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Itai Sadan.

Itai Sadan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Duda, a professional website builder for web professionals and SaaS platforms. Under Itai’s leadership, Duda rapidly expanded its professional website building platform with an emphasis on empowering web professionals with cutting-edge tools to help them create beautiful, conversion-driving websites at scale. Duda hosts more than 1 million active websites built by over 20,000 customers globally.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series.  Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I always had an entrepreneurial mind. From a very young age, I would jot down ideas for innovative products and read financial and business newspapers. I started my first business in the area of document scanning and storage at the age of 21, which didn’t last very long as I was eager to go to college and study computer science. After completing my studies, I worked as a developer for several different software companies. Eventually, I relocated to the Bay Area while working for SAP. There, I was further exposed to the startup ecosystem, which ultimately led me to leave SAP and start my own company with my co-founder Amir Glatt, who was a good friend and college roommate. 

Amir and I talked for a long time about starting a company together, but it took a while until we landed on the right idea. The mobile boom in 2007–2008 — when Apple released the first iPhone and Google the first Android phone — led us to realize that businesses were getting an ever-increasing amount of traffic from mobile phones. At the time, websites were designed for desktops, and they performed very poorly on these new types of smartphones. Our first product was DudaMobile, and it enabled small businesses to provide a better mobile experience to their website visitors. Over the years, the product evolved into what it is today: a fully responsive website builder for agencies and SaaS platforms that are looking to build high-performing websites at scale.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes our company stand out is a very clear focus on our customers: web professionals and SaaS platforms. We deeply understand their pain points when it comes to creating web presence and have built an exceptional product that solves their pain points and allows them to scale their businesses, serve their customers well, and sleep well at night knowing that their customers’ websites are up and running. There are other web design platforms out there, but none is 100% focused on the customer like we are. We also deeply care about our customers, and I believe they feel that when they interact with us on a daily basis.

In the beginning, we were not exclusively focused on web professionals. But we found that SMBs and web professionals needed different and sometimes conflicting things from their website builder. SMBs needed simplicity, while web professionals needed a sophisticated solution. We realized 9 years ago that we needed to choose between the two, and we decided to focus on web professionals. Although it was difficult to give up what was at the time 50% of our user base, it ended up being the right decision because it brought a tremendous amount of focus to all levels of the company. Product knew which features to prioritize, marketing knew how to message them, and sales knew who to target. We feel that decision has propelled us to the success where we are today.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I’m pretty level-headed at all times. I think that’s an important trait, as running a business with 200 employees and over 20,000 customers can be stressful at times. There are always things that might go wrong, different challenges that might arise, and I believe that trait allows me to think clearly and provide solutions to those issues.

My management style is very open and collaborative. I enjoy working with people in the company to make them successful with whatever they are working on. It won’t be rare to see me working with the sales team to help them engage with new prospects, working with the marketing team on positioning, or helping teams and individuals bridge challenges and work better together through issues.

I lead by example. For instance, I like to make sure that we are efficient and effective with our spend, so I also don’t spend extravagantly. As an example, in 14 years of running the business, I don’t think I’ve ever flown business class.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI is rapidly changing how digital agencies do business. Clients are expecting agencies to deliver more and faster, this puts agencies at a challenging spot as the cost of human capital to do the work is continuously increasing. The only way to really address client demand is by leveraging AI and automation to ensure that you get much more output from each employee in the agency. As a result, AI is transforming how agencies go to market, how they operate day to day, and ultimately, helping them drive better client outcomes faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

I would say OpenAI has had a massive impact on our industry. We have been embedding multiple AI capabilities into our product in the past year, and the adoption of those features is extremely high — almost unprecedented. These features include the ability to have AI write website content, generate SEO metadata so that the site ranks better on search engines, and instantly add alt text to site images to improve accessibility compliance and search visibility. Soon, our customers will also be able to use AI to create whole sections and pages instantly. All of these tools are cutting down website development time for our customers in a very significant way.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

I knew AI would be game-changing for website builders, especially in the agency world, when I saw the unprecedented rate of adoption for ChatGPT, which accumulated over 100 million users in just 2 months. For scale, it took TikTok 9 months and Instagram 2.5 years to reach the same number of users.

This immediately made waves in the industry, and there was a real sense of FOMO and some concern that AI would diminish the role of the agency. Agencies started to see their own clients hop on the AI bandwagon, and it raised a major question: how can agencies demonstrate the value of their services in an increasingly AI-enabled world?

I quickly realized that AI was not here to replace agencies. Rather, used effectively, AI could become an incredible force multiplier to help agencies grow their businesses faster and increase their efficiency like never before. Further, while AI is indeed reshaping how SMBs run their businesses, it’s clear that the value of the agency is here to stay. However, agencies do need to restrategize the way they support their clients and create value.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

We want to make sure our employees are all using AI by encouraging them to use tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Gemini, or, for developers, GitHub’s Copilot. Further, we make sure they have the time to investigate and use the newest AI technologies.

One thing we do every year is a company-wide Hackathon where everyone stops working on their day-to-day projects. We split the company into diversified teams including developers, marketers, sales, finance, and support staff and give them two days to work on any project that they want. The only rule is that it has to be related to our company. We just did our most recent Hackathon a few weeks ago, and 90% of the projects leveraged AI in some way. There were amazing ideas, and some of them will see their way into the product for our customers to use.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

The biggest challenge or maybe risk is that AI is such a monumental shift, that it could give rise to a new entrant that will think about things in a different way and come out with a groundbreaking technology. For example, we may think about how to improve our product iteratively with AI while a new entrant might leverage AI in a whole different way and upend our industry. This is why it is important to do things like the Hackathon I mentioned earlier, to give people the space to reimagine how we could serve our customers better. We have seen how leading companies in different industries that didn’t adapt to change fell behind and opened the gate for new competitors with innovative solutions to take the lead.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

It is essential to recognize that AI is not the expert, you are. AI can hallucinate and produce inaccurate results, so it’s important to maintain human oversight whenever using AI in your agency’s process. The goal of AI is not to replace an expert, but to accelerate the most time-consuming aspects of their job, so they can focus on delivering the unique value only a human can provide.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

1. Don’t Get Left Behind
Duda recently published a survey of 200 agency owners worldwide, and 100% of them said they were already using AI in their web-building workflows, and many were already seeing good results from using AI to generate content for their client sites, create images and other visuals, and optimize client sites for SEO.

We also asked agency owners how they expect AI to change their business, and we found that 89% of agency owners believe AI will help them scale their businesses faster and acquire more clients, and 87% expect AI to help them speed up time-consuming workflows.

2. Experiment with Different AI Tools

Every day, a new AI-powered tool or application emerges, promising to generate instant results and accomplish tasks that once took weeks or months. It can be hard to know which tools are all hype, and which tools will have staying power and will drive real value for your agency.

While it’s impossible to keep up with every new innovation, a great place to start is by taking stock of the tools you already have available to you and experimenting with those. Many marketing technology providers have integrated AI tools into their platforms. For example, most website builders now offer AI content generation and SEO tools. These tools offer unique advantages because they allow you to use AI right within your existing workflows.

3. Think Beyond Content Generation

Digital agencies were quick to jump on board with AI in 2023, and yet many agencies are still only beginning to explore the vast potential AI offers. Content generation has been one of the most widely adopted use cases for AI, but it’s already become table stakes.

In fact, our recent survey revealed that in 2024, three of the top 5 areas of AI investment focused on content, specifically in content strategy (40%), content editing (29%), and content writing (26%). However, AI can be used for a wide variety of powerful use cases including implementing SEO best practices at speed and at scale, speeding up the client discovery process, streamlining client management, and more.

4. Use AI as a Catalyst for Market Expansion

Beyond increasing efficiency and driving growth, agency owners also say they anticipate AI to impact how they go to market, with 86% indicating they believe AI will enable them to go down market and serve more diverse clients by the end of 2024. Agencies can use the time-savings afforded by AI to take on clients that would have been too costly or time-consuming to serve otherwise. For example, agencies can take on more price-sensitive clients, and place them into upgrade flow.

Agencies can also use AI to scale their processes, so they have more bandwidth to take on additional clients. This enables agencies to expand their total addressable market (TAM), create a path for clients to upgrade to more advanced services, and ultimately allows the agency to increase their revenue without adding headcount.

5. Focus on Delivering a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy AI Cannot Replace

While AI can handle a variety of different tasks that once consumed large amounts of an agency’s time, the technology falls short in a crucial area: formulating and executing a comprehensive marketing strategy. This is where digital agencies continue to provide unmatched value.

The reality is that while AI can be an incredibly powerful tool, it’s just that: a tool. Meanwhile, the digital landscape is becoming more complex than ever and what is required from SMBs to succeed in the world today is more than what any one tool or set of tools can provide.

What SMBs need to succeed is a comprehensive digital marketing strategy based on a deep understanding of the unique business needs and opportunities facing the business. This strategy must then be executed, using the right tools together to drive business results.

AI is just one tool agencies can (and should) be using to deliver this value to their clients, and it allows agencies to do this at speed and scale — and at a lower cost.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

That AI will diminish the value of agencies. There’s a saying that “AI won’t replace you. Someone using AI will.” And that rings as true for agencies, as it does for any individual graphic designer or content writer. However, agencies absolutely need to be learning, experimenting, and leveraging AI in their workflows now to stay ahead of the curve.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Ben Horowitz, a very prominent VC, wrote in his book The Hard Thing about Hard Things that if you are feeling the pressure most likely you are not applying pressure. Sometimes, if I’m feeling challenged or under pressure, I try to look inwards, understand if I’m feeling this due to being passive and letting the environment dictate a certain situation, and consider if it’s time to take a more active approach to change the reality.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

I often spend time thinking about growth, ways to further accelerate growth, new channels and new opportunities. I invest time every week to meet with entrepreneurs working on problems related to our space, and I try to keep up to date with recent developments and innovations. I feel it is important to have a deep sense of where the industry is heading so I can make sure that Duda is taking the right steps to always stay current and relevant to our customers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I don’t know if this is a movement per se, but I think that if there was a source we could turn to in order to help us find “the truth” to many topics in this world, it would help advance societies further. In this world with abundant information, the issue of disinformation or incentive groups pushing a false narrative is a big problem. It’s gotten to a point where we need to fact-check our own leaders. If there was some service or place where people could read about a topic and know that it covers most angles in an objective and factual way that would be very helpful to move us forward, where we are not stuck with disagreeing about whether an issue is real or not (e.g. climate change, immigration etc), but actually solving it to better the world and human life.

How can our readers further follow you online?

At and on LinkedIn:

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.