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Wix Partner Awards Series: AST & Partners

Updated: Jun 30

This article is part of our Wix Partner Awards series recognizing the exceptional work of Wix Partners. Each month, we recognize and shine a light on a different Partner who is blazing a trail within the digital space. We share the inspiration, insights, work goals and secrets that set the company apart. This month’s winner is AST & Partners, which is demonstrating excellence in the outstanding interactive design category.

If there’s one category of company that needs an online presence with impact, it’s startups. These fledgling businesses with big ambitions often seeking investment, talent and brand recognition require nothing less than an impressionable website.

Whether they’re looking for a straightforward landing page or a sophisticated build, this demographic represents a massive opportunity for web professionals and one that Andrei Stoica, director of web design studio AST & Partners, was quick to tap into.

That was no accident. Andrei was already a founder himself, having set up mental health startup Superpow!, an app that uses intelligent matchmaking to pair users with therapists. As an active member of the London startup community, he understood the key challenges facing founders and the opportunity they presented.

“With Superpow!, we spent £35,000 on a Minimum Viable Product, and it crashed not long after we built it,” says Andrei. “Then I went on to Wix and was able to build something on par with the original build in a couple of weeks for nothing. When I heard other founders going through the same struggles of having to raise capital to build an MVP, I was thinking, ‘Wix offers a great opportunity here.’”

At that point, Andrei and his wife, Ana Maria, had a few years of experience building websites on the side for friends and family. Having spotted the startup opportunity and with the security of their nine-to-five jobs in doubt due to the onset of the pandemic, the couple decided to put their skills to use and start AST & Partners.

Based in London, the studio offers clients everything from web design and development to branding, serving businesses of all sizes and industries, but with a strong focus on newly-funded startups. “They might have raised £250,000 or £100,000, and they can spend five figures on marketing,” says Andrei. “That's where we come in.”

A winning collaboration

AST & Partners has developed a strong portfolio of work for 70+ clients in its two years of operation. Andrei has used his networking skills to source new business both from within the startup ecosystem and the Wix Partner community. Through the latter, he met Stockholm-based Josef Elias, founder of web agency Wiklex. The two companies often collaborate on client projects, complementing their skills in design and development and supporting each other when demand is high and resources low.

The first of those collaborations was to develop a website for Swedish hardware design company Spaces Within. Built with Editor X, Andrei’s go-to platform for most client projects, the site juxtaposes expressive photography and refined text with ample white space to perfectly capture the essence of Scandi design. The result is a sleek, minimalist website that helped AST & Partners win this month’s Wix Partner Award for outstanding interactive design.

Andrei says he and Josef had a clear vision of how the final design would look and worked closely on achieving it, with Josef doing much of the wireframing groundwork and creating a wide range of custom pages with code. The design feature Andrei is most proud of is the scrolling effect in the central column of the product page, which runs parallel to ‘sticky’ content on each side. “It was a great project to work on and a real team effort,” he says. “Josef deserves a lot of credit.”

On the client side, Andrei says the sleek and modern look achieved in this project is in high demand. “What clients are asking for is a more simple, timeless type of design, minimum load, and very clean. So many are inspired by tech startups and how they built their websites. And not just startups, but even more established companies, like Apple. I think it's all doable. Editor X opens the door to a lot of possibilities.”

Other recently completed projects by AST & Partners that further illustrate its interactive design talents include a website for mobility solutions startup Adapt Ability, which utilizes transparent video to showcase the company’s core product. The team injected some nostalgia into its design for robotics company Giga Robotics using 1980s-style, early internet elements, while its website for recruitment company Founders Circle speaks modernism and includes an eye-catching 3D interactive feature Andrei created in Spline and integrated with Editor X.

While putting the AST & Partners stamp on these startups’ brands is a thrill for Andrei, seeing clients succeed motivates him most. And it doesn’t get much more satisfying than witnessing one secure funding on reality TV show Dragon’s Den, which is what Extend Robotics did. “I must say, having designed their website and then seeing them receive funding from Peter Jones was really cool,” says Andrei.

A community that inspires

That’s what motivates Andrei’s work, but what inspires it? He says he draws much inspiration from the Partner community and design influencers like Brandon Groce.

“Brandon, for example, within the community of Editor X leaders, has really good designs. I always look to him for inspiration. And, Josef and I work together really well. He’ll send me some cool designs that spark ideas. We're always open to being inspired as consumers, too. We don’t only learn as professionals.”

Andrei is keen to emulate the vibrant community that exists among Wix Partners online by bringing it to life in person. He currently runs a Whatsapp group for London-based Partners to encourage meetups, sharing ideas, and community growth.

“The objective is to build a stronger presence,” he says. “For example, it was difficult for some of us based here to attend the Wix DevCon event in New York. So, we want to build a presence in Europe as well and start by creating a community in London.”

A clear roadmap ahead

Aside from community matters, Andrei has a clear short- and long-term strategy for AST & Partners, including plans to hire additional team members and scale. The team is also excited about the upcoming launch of a new website it built for acclaimed photographer Jackie Nickerson.

“Our studio has seen a really good pick-up in terms of leads and confirmed business,” says Andrei. “Our objective over the next few months is to grow the team, to still be able to deliver the same level of personal work without outsourcing, and increase the value of our projects through the quality of our work.”

As for his startup Superpow!, Andrei is committed to running it parallel to his studio but says the latter remains his focus. “At the moment, the number one priority is growing this agency. But while we do that, we know that people reach out through the Superpow! platform, and they can find the right help, which is great.”

For other agencies or startups looking to grow and succeed, Andrei advises them to grab every opportunity as it comes and make sure they’re always moving forward. “I was listening to a podcast, and I felt really inspired by what I heard,” he says. “It said don't wait for all the traffic lights on the road to go green at the same time. Once one goes green, go through it and get started.”

Andrei dedicates the Partner Award to his team and people like Josef, who gave AST & Partners a chance in its early days. “We're obviously very lucky because we've received a lot of support,” he says. “For this project, for example, if it weren't for Josef to reach out to us to collaborate, a lot of things wouldn't have fallen into place. It's not our award. It’s thanks to everybody who’s been involved.”

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