An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Brian McVey (co-founder and CRO) of Fluency, which was honored in our:
- 2023 Best Tech Startups in Burlington (Vermont)
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Burlington (Vermont)
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Vermont
Tell us the origin story of Fluency – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Prior to starting Fluency, I ran ad operations for one of the largest digital marketing companies in automotive, and more specifically, local car dealerships. Our agency portfolio was unique – we had enterprise-level ad spend, but rather than having a handful of large spending accounts, the ecosystem was made up of thousands of smaller spending accounts. That seemingly slight uniqueness has massive impacts when it comes to day-to-day ad operations. I started Fluency in November of 2017 along with three former colleagues (and more importantly, friends) who saw the opportunity as clearly as I did – the future of marketing will be driven by localized business data and there was no ad platform designed to unlock this reality. Initially, we started Fluency as the first enterprise ad platform wholly focused on solving the unique challenges faced by the multi-location marketer. Our thesis was that by giving these marketers the right toolset, we could revolutionize the margin inside of ad operations and help sales teams capture larger opportunities.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
As the CRO, my core areas of focus are on generating and retaining revenue, as well as providing the best possible service experience for our users. When you start a company, you wear many hats and for many years, I personally served as our only salesperson. Being in sales can feel like riding an emotional roller coaster as opportunities come and go, and being a business owner makes the ups and downs even more dramatic. The biggest hurdle in our journey was signing a few giant deals early on that, for various reasons mostly outside of our control, did not convert to revenue post-signature. As with all hurdles, these also served as great learning experiences on mitigating any future risk of the sort.
What does the future hold for Fluency?
It’s a very exciting time for Fluency. We have always done a great job of balancing a nimble startup-like environment with designing mature business processes for companies two or three times our size. As such, our pipeline is full of Fortune 1000 companies and the largest agencies in the world who are all looking for help doing more with less while improving their advertising performance. Our world-class implementation and client services teams continue to hold our partner’s hands and consult them through their evolution to an RPA-enabled operating model. From a product and engineering perspective, we continue to lead in the AI-enablement space and look forward to bolstering our Programmatic and Collaborative Marketing Platform offering.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Burlington?
The Fluency office is located inside Hula, a technology-driven co-working space in Burlington, so it is with all of the confidence in the world that I say that the startup scene in Burlington is energized and catching fire. From visible national successes like Beta Technologies to imminent leaders in their respective industries like Widewail, OhMD, and Biocogniv (to name a few), the Burlington startup scene is ripe with future promise. Culturally, the local startup scene is extremely supportive of one another. Companies here, root for, invest in, and utilize each other’s products, which is a distinctly Vermont-y phenomenon and a lovely byproduct of starting a company in the state.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Select your founding team wisely. The ideal team aligns itself around morals and values as much as business goals and outcomes. That first part will prove valuable as the second part becomes more real. The ideal founding team also holds a diverse skillset. Having a set of vested leaders upholding key pillars of your business is a secret weapon – in Fluency’s case, business savvy, operations, sales, client services, product, and engineering.