Gary Gigot of Vennli

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Gary Gigot (co-founder and chairman) of Vennli, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Vennli – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

Vennli was born from the concept that while we know that customer choice drives a business’s financial success, we don’t really know what drives customer choice. Often times when a company fumbles, it’s usually because leaders have misinterpreted the market opportunity or customer preferences.

Vennli’s platform combines primary research, technology, and our proven customer strategy model to help brands make strategic decisions that win customer choice, enabling businesses to accelerate growth by differentiating themselves from their competitors. We believe continuous growth results when the customer’s voice drives decision-making.

Vennli works with organizations of all sizes but is particularly helpful for small and medium-sized businesses that are looking to develop and execute growth strategies.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

We’ve had to learn to adapt quickly and remain agile as our client’s needs evolve based on changes to their target customer, within their category overall, or beyond. For instance, we’ve recently seen a great deal of transformation across every industry due to the pandemic, the “Great Resignation”, inflation, and the war in Ukraine. Being able to pivot to serve our clients and anticipate their needs is instrumental in our ability to grow as a company. So if for some reason we miss the mark, we can quickly take that learning and respond accordingly. We’ve taken this ability to quickly adapt and incorporated it into our work with clients to help them understand their own customers’ changing needs, and grow their businesses. We live by the mantra, “Trust your customers, not your gut”.

What does the future hold for Vennli?

Vennli continues to develop new tools, such as the “Vennli Fame Index”, which measures, visually represents, and tracks brand “fame” with customers. We’ll soon offer interactive dashboards that will allow clients to access their customized data and visualizations quickly and easily, enabling better internal and external communication and usage. With these powerful visualizations, Vennli can support clients in building innovative brands, products, or marketing strategies to win against the competition, measure customer loyalty, identify profitable opportunities, communicate brand value, and ultimately ensure better customer attraction and retention. At Vennli, we believe that the best strategies aren’t top-down, they’re outside-in, starting with our clients’, and their customers’, needs and wants.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in South Bend?

The startup scene has come a long way in the last ten years due to a set of factors. The first is the incredible support South Bend has received from the state of Indiana. Because of that support, the communities within South Bend, Elkhart, and Notre Dame have been able to receive important funding from Elevate Ventures, which has enabled a new and growing ecosystem of startups in the area. Another is the development of the Notre Dame IDEA Center, which is turning out more and more companies with highly-educated employees, clear product-market fit, and strong alumni financial support.

The area has multiple funding sources at its disposal now, from Heartland Ventures to the IrishAngels to Vitalize Ventures, and there are exciting specialized funds like the Data Focus Fund headquartered here as well. The important blend of Notre Dame’s experienced alumni from the venture and startup world, matched with the specialized manufacturing, financial, and distribution expertise of the region, is really exciting for South Bend’s business development scene. Companies like Opstart, Aunalytics, and Simba Chain are also leading the way in a variety of verticals. The Midwest is on the rise and South Bend is right in the mix!

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Before you take the leap to a startup, it’s important to gain critical experience with one to two companies in the space that are most suitable for your interests and future ambitions. Use those opportunities to immerse yourself in learning all that is accessible to you, from business plan competitions to conferences to important industry shows. Track everything you can online and absorb as much information within the state, regional, and national scene as you can. Web 3 is a good example of this – its development is viewed as the next macro trend post-SaaS and many new companies will be created from that evolution.

As you start the formulation of a new business, it’s important to follow a few key rules: 1) precisely define product-market fit, 2) thoroughly understand the customers you wish to serve (Vennli can help!), 3) find a large target market (TAM), 4) build a lasting product platform that can deliver value to that market, and then when operational, 5) run the business on metrics and data. Finally and most important, 6) be sure to network with other winning start-ups in the space – the best in the biz are usually willing to help the next up-and-comer.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series