The 30 Best Entrepreneurs to Look For in 2018

Alexi Venneri: Social Media Savvy Entrepreneur with a Passion for Innovation

Alexi Venneri

Today, Digital Air Strike is the leading and most awarded social media, reputation management technology company in the United States and Canada. What began at Co-founder and CEO Alexi Venneri’s kitchen table, during the recession no less, has since transformed into a thriving enterprise that now employs more than 180 people. Venneri and her team work diligently to provide thousands of businesses across North America, including seven of the largest automobile manufacturers, cutting edge technology to help them connect with more prospects and customers online. Venneri is honored to be named one of the 30 Best Entrepreneurs to Look for in 2018 and is thrilled to pair this award with one that Digital Air Strike recently received from Entrepreneur magazine, ranking in the top 360 entrepreneurial companies.

In 2010, Venneri was told that starting a business in the midst of a global recession could turn into a disaster, but she recognized the potential social media could have for businesses especially when marketing dollars might be tight. Social media was growing exponentially, and it was critical to become an early adopter of these technologies. Venneri leveraged social media’s ability to engage with consumers directly as well as Facebook’s hyper-targeted ads to help car dealers reach more buyers for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. The company has since expanded this model across 30 social networks and several other industries, including retail, education, and healthcare.

Venneri has learned that growing a technology company doesn’t come with a linear path to success, and that every business will have its ups and downs. To combat potential setbacks within Digital Air Strike, Venneri focuses heavily on prudent financial stewardship while encouraging her entire team to think like owners.  She created an inside sales team instead of a costly field team, and based it in Scottsdale, Arizona which provided a growing base of talent at a lower cost than many other markets.  She continually focused on improving core products, building customer loyalty and establishing a top-notch company culture. Because of this, Digital Air Strike maintains its unparalleled commitment to its customers, stakeholders and employees.

The most critical aspect of Digital Air Strike’s success was developed at its beginning. Venneri saw a clear need for social media and reputation management services and was among the first to leverage its capabilities. She started with a small investment from herself and three other co-founders. She proved out the model before merging with another larger company and has continued to grow without taking on any additional investment. With that, she advises all new entrepreneurs to test their ideas to ensure profitability before investing thousands of dollars into them. Make sure the product or service is solid, ensure it delivers ROI to your client base, develop a flexible plan, find the best people you can and don’t look back.

In addition to a solid product or service offering, it’s equally important to anticipate the direction a field is going. One factor, in particular, that helped enable Digital Air Strike’s growth is Venneri’s understanding of innovation. Venneri’s lifelong experience in marketing has taught her the critical importance of understanding and evaluating marketplace operations and trends, allowing her to stay ahead of the curve.

In Digital Air Strike’s case, the company knows that social media is heading toward increased use of chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI), so Venneri and her team have been hard at work perfecting their own AI integrations and use of chatbots to meet the needs of the constantly evolving business landscape, including Facebook Messenger and the consumer demand for text message communication. The company recently acquired an intelligent messaging company that also helped it expand into the healthcare vertical.  By going deep into select verticals and proving out the model, Venneri and her team have demonstrated that developing vertical-specific solutions and expertise helps you predict whether an industry will continue to evolve, whether it will change directions or whether it’s headed toward dying out completely. When anticipating the direction an industry is heading, Venneri also suggests that entrepreneurs identify ways to make these shifts easier for clients even if the industry is in peril. One of the primary ways she succeeds at overcoming difficulties is by being an option thinker and always looking for ways around a problem or out of a dead end.

For example, with the education of business owners about the importance of their online reputations came the demand for being able to “see for themselves” how consumers rate them, so Digital Air Strike created its own tools to meet their clients’ needs. Among these tools is their patent-pending consumer surveys and their highly-successful Mission Control Consumer Intelligence and Engagement platform: a first-of-its-kind solution that aggregates all survey and online review site data into a single, user-friendly dashboard. If there’s a way to make a customer’s experience with a business more seamless, it’s worth the investment to develop an innovative solution.

Lastly, Venneri encourages all new and aspiring entrepreneurs to inspire their teams to put their passion into action and do “whatever it takes” or “wit”. From day one she has conducted monthly “WIT Awards” with the full company where teammates nominate and recognize their peers for going above and beyond.  The stories of the individuals thinking like owners and helping their clients be successful are numerous. Capitalize Holding in-person celebratory sessions regularly is just one of the ways Venneri has created an incredible culture. When this ownership mentality is adopted, the company has been able to foster a sense of empowerment and creativity at all levels.  This culture of innovation benefits their clients but it also has helped the company be more open to change and their own potential pitfalls so they can be nimble and adjust course as needed. This mentality, along with having a passion for developing innovative solutions and an incredible work ethic have been just a few keys to Venneri’s entrepreneurial success.  She would say the company’s success is 100% due to their people but without the continued nurturing of innovation and the dedication to keep moving forward, as Venneri has demonstrated, the best people won’t last as long.  Very few companies have been able to not only last but thrive the way Digital Air Strike has, all while remaining profitable and growing at an exciting pace.