Alexi Venneri co-founded and is CEO of Digital Air Strike™, the award-winning social media intelligent messaging and digital engagement company that works with thousands of businesses in the United States and Canada, including seven of the top ten automotive manufacturers. Prior positions include President of Auto Media/Blue Flame 6 (part of The Van Tuyl Automotive Group), VP of Marketing, PR & Investor Relations at DealerTrack (TRAK), CMO at Who’s Calling, and Director of Marketing for the Major League Baseball team the Seattle Mariners. Alexi is an accomplished public speaker and author of the best-selling book Balls! Six Rules for Winning the Business Game.
She has a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Calgary and is an accredited trainer at the University of Washington as well as The Pacific Institute. She supports numerous charitable organizations and works closely with ARME and the Beagle Freedom Project, nonprofit organizations that rescue and rehabilitate animals.
Describe your job in technology today.
I’m Co-Founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike. I started the company during the recession when social media was just beginning to take off in a big way, but no one had really started using it for marketing to other businesses or consumers and there was no technology to help with this process. I instinctively knew that developing social media and consumer engagement technology could be leveraged to help businesses maximize their marketing and advertising budgets. To achieve this goal, my team and I looked for ways to develop our own technology to not only monitor online content but create it through the use of consumer surveys and apps. We even built the first B2B app to alert business owners about individual consumer feedback with a way to take action to contact them or even request they participate on social networks as online spokespeople for the business.
Today, Digital Air Strike employs more than 180 people throughout our four offices in Scottsdale, Silicon Valley, Detroit, and Santa Barbara. Our clients include some of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world. We also serve businesses in education, healthcare and retail. Our industry-specific mobile apps, software and managed service platforms monitor, improve and manage consumer engagement while generating measurable ROI for thousands of businesses in the U.S. and Canada. We recently launched an AI-powered intelligent messaging platform that has been approved for Facebook integration.
If there was a point in your childhood when you first became interested in technology, describe that event or experience.
I’ve always had a strong interest in business and entrepreneurship. I was the girl in charge and I turned everything into a business. I remember when I was a kid, I set up lemonade stands, built my own board games and convinced adults to pay for the play performances I “produced and directed” with my brothers as the actors. Even in those early school days I knew I wanted to build new things and be a leader. That drive led me to founding Digital Air Strike. My generation was really the first to get mainstream computers in school and even prior to that I recall loving “typing class” on the old electric computers. Taking typing in high school is actually one of the most relevant courses I have ever taken, in fact, it literally benefits me every day in the business and technology world. I feel fortunate to be able to bridge the gap between traditional marketing and mediums to the new way that consumers demand businesses and advertisers share information with them. I’ve always been passionate about how technology can make businesses more efficient and their interaction with customers better. When I couldn’t find a tool that did that for online consumer engagement, we developed on our own.
Today we are focused on streamlining the sales cycle and using artificial intelligence to interact with early-stage consumers. With the streamlined sales cycle, businesses can provide better responses and service in all stages of consumer engagement both pre and post-sale.
What do you love most about working in the tech world?
Technology provides limitless possibilities to maximize results for our clients. It’s evolving faster and faster, and with each advancement comes new opportunities to improve our clients’ overall social media and reputation management experience. The world of social media is the absolute most thrilling space to be in for numerous reasons. It has changed the way all of us interact and provides limitless ways to increase transparency and relationships with consumers for businesses of all kinds.
I’ve also found that working with my team to develop new and improved technologies requires a lot of creative thought and collaboration. At Digital Air Strike, we believe in building a great culture focused on teamwork, and it always amazes me when a diverse group of individuals can come together to create something great. The combination of innovation and collaboration in the tech world is what excites me to go to work each day.
What do you believe is the biggest hurdle women face in pursuing a career in technology?
I think women have a hard time finding mentors, especially other women, to guide them in the tech world. We need more female leaders as models in general so younger women can relate to and strive for careers outside of more traditional female-centric fields. I have volunteered to be a mentor through multiple organizations and groups. I am also a published author and I enjoy participating in sharing content such as this blog to make female tech leaders the norm so it isn’t even a topic that needs to be addressed in the future.
If you could give advice to other girls in tech, what would it be?
Three qualities that will help you in your career are confidence, forward-thinking and curiosity. Be confident in your choices, decisions, and most importantly, in yourself. Be forward-thinking as you help these evolving tech sectors innovate. Think about what will set you apart from the competition. Be curious. Ask questions. Have a plan for your career and your goals. Don’t depend on anyone else for your well-being, financial or otherwise. Ask yourself how you can improve yourself, your work, your company, be brave and fearless in your pursuit of improvement and your goals. Get the work done well and worry less about what anyone thinks about you. If you focus on results and always put in 100%, you will succeed.
Who in the tech field inspires you and why?
The tech leading ladies I admire most are Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Catz has held many senior positions and has consistently shown she is a game changer. She spearheaded Oracle’s aggressive acquisition strategy and has taken the company to new heights. Sandberg is inspiring, in particular, because of her wisdom and ability to help an entire generation embrace gender equality through her community and leadership initiatives. Her savvy entrepreneurial instincts transformed Facebook from a social network into a profitable company.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am an avid consumer of information. I am a devoted reader and I’ve learned a lot from reading about other entrepreneurs’ experiences. I am inspired by their creativity. I spend time reading forums, following links and compiling bookmarks. I actively participate in group conversations on social networks and watch educational YouTube videos. It’s important to seek out the right information and share it with others. I also enjoy attending conferences and each time I make a point of learning something new and sharing it with our team, as I ask them to do when we send them to events as well. I take notes on my phone so they are not lost in a paper notebook that you’ll never look at again. I avoid collecting paper and prefer to leverage my social network pages and my smartphone to track content. My advice is to surround yourself with interesting and diverse people. You’ll learn different perspectives, opinions and maybe get into a few fruitful debates. Always be hungry for more knowledge, growth and challenges.
What professional advice would you give to someone entering the technology industry today?
I would advise new professionals to stay on top of the latest trends. For MarTech professionals, even if you’ve studied marketing for years and have an inventory of skills, technology is changing constantly, and an antiquated approach will be ineffective at reaching consumers. For example, at Digital Air Strike we saw how artificial intelligence was really taking hold of the industry. Chatbots were growing in popularity and I saw them gaining traction and improving marketing. So we developed our Response Path AI sales acceleration platform. It’s integrated with Facebook Messenger, websites, and SMS to capture, qualify and route leads automatically for our clients. Marketers who can implement successful strategies with emerging technologies will get ahead of the competition. Finally, don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Most people in technology don’t know every platform, every abbreviation, every latest trend. Once you accept that and are less fearful of what is new that you may not understand, you will embrace each new technology and surround yourself with information and people that will help you find ways to leverage tech to drive positive results.
For more information on Alexi Venneri, connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @alexivenneri. Don’t forget to subscribe to our updates at phoenix.girlsintech.org.