Family-Owned Widen Has Reinvented Itself from a Pre-Press Services Business into a Global Tech Company that Provides Digital Asset Management Software to Leading Customers
Widen, a provider of digital asset management (DAM) software, is celebrating seventy years in business. Founded in 1948, Widen is an anomaly in the software space: a family-owned plate engraving business that reinvented itself into a global technology company.
Widen’s history demonstrates how companies can adapt and thrive through technological disruptions.
In 1948, Emily and Arthur Widen founded Widen Engraving, a company that engraved plates for newspaper presses. Under their son, Mark Widen, the company expanded into additional pre-press services, evolving from plates to film negatives and color printing. In 1985, Widen invested $3 million in color scanners and Scitex equipment not realizing how soon they’d have to divest.
When You Try New Things – It’s Motivating to Unlock Human Potential
On their seventieth anniversary, Matthew Gonnering, CEO at Widen, said, “Outside of the standard, ‘help customers stay at the forefront’ answer, the motivation inherent in advancing and changing our position over 7 decades of business is the opportunity to get closer to realizing our fullest potential. You learn more when you try new things – it’s motivating to unlock human potential.”
Matt added, “In the last 30-years we’ve transformed our business model, created a software platform that powers content for the most influential brands in the world, and architected a service experience that redefines how an industry should give care to customers. Stay tuned, the next 30-years should be pretty good.”
The CEO said, “Widen value statements don’t adapt. The business adapts to market conditions and the values serve in inspiring and making those changes happen the right way for our customers. Specifically, we have cultivated decades-long relationships by challenging each other every day to figure out how we be the best part of our customers’ day, every day. We look to inspire changes in other organizations as a result of applying our values to transform the markets we serve.”
The Recipe for Success at 70: Stay Relevant, Embrace Change
In 1996, Widen, led by Mark’s son Reed, began dabbling in digital technology. The company put $4 million into digital printing services and an R&D program. In 1996, the R&D team produced Widen’s first image database system, long before anyone used the term “digital asset management.” In 1998, Widen started selling this software to customers who, increasingly, were designing and storing marketing images on computers.
When asked what does 70 years in business mean to you, Widen employees said–
“Stands the test of time! The ability to pivot and evolve supported. To see beyond today with a focus on tomorrow. Bottom line – incredible!” – Rebecca Running, Customer Experience Manager
“70 years in business means that we know what we’re doing and we’re good at it!” – Brooke Emley, DAM Software Implementation Consultant
“We’ve weathered the storm, for 70 years and counting we’ve done what it takes to stay relevant, embrace change, and put our customers first.” – Ben Dotte, Director of Software Engineering
“Widen being in business for 70 years for me represents adaptability, resilience, courage, innovation, community and plain awesomeness. I love being a part of one of the best places to work and innovative software companies around. Cheers to 70 more!” – Mandy Wagner, Customer Experience Manager
More from Widen Family
“70 years is surreal, I am very happy to be a part of something that has been a part of my family for so long and I can’t wait to be a part of it for 70 more.” – Jesse Widen, 4th generation employee.
“The first 70 were good, the second 70 will be great.” – Reed Widen, 3rd generation owner
By the time Matthew Gonnering joined Widen in 2000, the print era was waning. Just months earlier, Gonnering had worked for a printing company that had to close its doors. From that experience, Gonnering learned the importance of adapting, whatever the risks may be. When he was appointed CEO of Widen in 2009, software only accounted for 19 percent of revenue the year prior. Widen either had to reinvigorate the pre-press business or double down on software.
It Was Either DAM or Die
“The Widen family had an appetite for risk and experimentation. They had thrived by reinventing their business multiple times,” said Gonnering. “Our team inherited that culture and recognized that Widen had to reinvent yet again. It was DAM or die.”
Widen regrouped during the recession then went on offense. Web and smartphone technologies were making digital content the center of all communications and knowledge. Widen had an edge because it created, converted, retouched, and distributed massive visual files for catalogs and packaging. The team understood the makeup of files and the need for a centralized content hub. Now, more than 350,000 people use Widen to organize, review, approve, distribute, monitor, and archive content assets. For over 600 renowned brands, Widen’s software is a pillar in marketing technology stacks that create compelling, meaningful, and measurable experiences.
Widen Is Now a Strong Tech-Focused Company
Within a decade, Widen’s business has changed radically. 75 percent of Widen’s revenue now comes from technology, and its team of software employees grew from 15 in 2009 to more than 100 in 2017. Since 2013, Widen has welcomed more than 90 new customers per year and achieved 30 percent average annual revenue growth. Widen counts 20 of Interbrand’s 100 Best Global Brands and dozens of the Forbes Global 2000 among its customers.
Every day, Widen delivers more than 20 million pieces of content to the public and facilitates over 33,000 digital asset uploads, 100,000 downloads, and 1.1 million API calls between marketing systems.
In the past year, Widen has received recognition from the EContent 100, G2 Crowd, Capterra, the SIIA CODiE Awards, The Codified DAM Consultant™, Comparably, WorldBlu, and Madison Magazine. After 70 years in business, the team knows better than to rest on its laurels. “We’re just getting started,” said Gonnering.
Currently, Widen builds high-performing software that empowers organizations to create compelling, meaningful, and measurable digital experiences. Focused on service and fueled by a global community of users, Widen has the highest customer loyalty in the digital asset management (DAM) industry. Its platform spans across brand management, content lifecycle management, and creative operations, serving 350,000+ people at the most influential brands in the world.
Customers include LG, Trek, Cornell University, the Atlanta Falcons, Red Gold Tomatoes, Energizer, Carnival Cruise Line, and Yankee Candle.
“For 70 years, we’ve helped our customers cultivate the power of expression. 70 years from now, I’m willing to bet that Widen will still help people unlock their creative potential,” said Gonnering.
CEO Matt concluded, ” think ‘mature’ companies struggle when they try to adapt to new technology. We’ve been adapting new technology to our essential purpose and values for decades.”