Alexi Venneri, 44
CEO, Digital Air Strike
What attracted you to the auto industry? The auto industry does a ton of marketing. It's very receptive to new solutions.
First automotive job: I was in high school in 1985 and we spent weekends at Orchard Ford in Kelowna, British Columbia, cutting cakes and serving free food. We'd write down the names of people who came in as leads.
Big break: I was recruited to Dealertrack Technologies by CEO Mark O'Neil to run their investor relations and all communications five months before the company went public.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? Starting Digital Air Strike at a kitchen table in October 2009. We didn't pay ourselves for months so the employees could be paid.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career? Most recently Steven Dietz (a venture capitalist who has served on the boards of Dealertrack and TrueCar) and Adam Simms (co-founder of Digital Air Strike and partner in the Price Simms Automotive Group). Vince Passione (former president of Dealertrack) and Mark O'Neil (current CEO) were both instrumental earlier in my career and supportive of my evolution from member of the leadership team to business partner and CEO.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? With the number of women car buyers, we ought to be encouraging more women to pursue careers at dealerships in sales and management. A lot of people in the general population don't realize the opportunities available in a dealership.
Tell us about your family. I've been married to my husband, Dave, who recently joined Digital Air Strike as chief revenue officer, for 13 years. We have a 4-year-old son, Griffin, and three rescued beagles.
What keeps you up at night? Actually, I sleep pretty well. But I always want to make sure we're providing value to clients. We have 150 employees that we feel responsible for.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know. I've written a best-selling business book, Balls! 6 Rules for Winning Today's Business Game. And I have been in some national commercials and movies. I was in the 1994 movie Little Women and played a doctor in the 2000-2001 television series "The Fugitive."