Vennli’s Software Brings Consumer Decisions Into View

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dynamic, collecting and displaying responses in real time. As responses come in, software users can tweak the survey to sharpen the focus of a query.

There’s no shortage of companies bringing automation and analytics into the business world. Gigot says that what Vennli does isn’t marketing automation, the software that analyzes a customer’s online behavior to drive targeted e-mail messages intended to encourage a purchase. Vennli works alongside this software, and Gigot says that his company relies on Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the Indianapolis subsidiary of Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) formerly known as ExactTarget, for its marketing automation needs.

Furthermore, while Vennli’s approach employs analytics, Gigot distinguishes his startup from the analytics software offered by companies such as SAS, the big data giant based in Cary, NC. “They’re statistical analysis from existing data,” Gigot says. “We’re generating new choice data.”

Gigot was Vennli’s first investor, seeding the company with $1 million in 2013. Recent additional financial commitments from other investors have brought the company’s Series A round to $5 million—a round that he says could top $8 million by mid-summer. Gigot says Vennli will use the capital it raises to fine-tune its business model.

Vennli’s direct competition might be the traditional customer survey. Market researchers and consultancies routinely conduct these surveys, but they don’t develop survey software. Instead of becoming competitors, Gigot says these firms turned out to be Vennli’s first customers after the software launched in 2014. The company now has 120 customers including BMW, Dunkin Donuts, and Nucor. Vennli is still learning ways businesses can use the software, Gigot says. One of its newer applications is human resources, an idea that came from a Vennli customer interested in seeing if the software could help the company understand how people decide whether to stay or seek employment elsewhere.

Customers access Vennli’s cloud-based software for a fee. Gigot won’t get into pricing specifics, though he says there are different ways to license and use the software based on how a business plans to use it. Some companies may want to do only three surveys a year. Others may prefer more frequent surveys, which yield more data and enable companies to track progress over time.

Though Vennli helps businesses understand customer choices, the company also represents a personal business choice. Gigot, whose tenure at Microsoft dates to the early 1990s, says that he’s at the tail end of his career and he won’t be CEO of the company years from now. But, he adds, he started Vennli to build a Midwestern software company, and South Bend offers cost advantages compared to the East and West coasts. Notre Dame’s networks have helped with business development, while the university itself provides a pipeline of job candidates.

“There’s a reason we’re headquartered here, not Seattle,” Gigot says.

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Frank Vinluan is an Xconomy editor based in Research Triangle Park. You can reach him at fvinluan@xconomy.com. Follow @frankvinluan

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