Meet Jason Vego, an entrepreneur and startup expert focused on building strong teams, fixing the toughest problems he can find, and growing early-stage companies. He specializes in startup operations and finance, growth marketing, team management, and culture building. He’s spent time in big tech, nonprofits, and startups…but he especially loves startups.
Jason strongly believes that people are the most important assets in an organization. He is intensely focused on bringing diverse and talented people – with grit and hustle – together to solve problems and reach big goals. He’s a team player who loves collaboration. But Jason is also a productivity freak, and focuses on spending his time at work and at home efficiently and strategically. His teams thrive the most when they challenge each other to be better, and they are never hindered by hierarchies or titles.
Jason is passionate about helping small businesses and aggregating disaggregated markets. That’s why he co-founded Bevz, a company that is transforming the snack and drink industry by providing the 150k+ convenience stores across the nation with the technology, data, and support they need to manage and grow their business. As the CEO & Co-Founder of Bevz, he’s focused on setting and executing the company strategy and vision, building a strong culture, maintaining consistent and scalable company growth, and recruiting, retaining, and coaching a superstar team. He also owns all fundraising efforts and investor relations, and is constantly talking with and pitching current and potential investors.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jason Vego: Hi, I’m Jason Vego, the CEO & Co-Founder of Bevz, the first-ever software platform for liquor and convenience stores. We’re transforming the snack and drink industry by helping the more than 150,000 convenience stores across the nation manage and grow their business, specifically focused on helping them automate and integrate their inventory ordering with in-store sales and e-commerce. We have 200 convenience stores on our platform – primarily in California – but we’re starting to scale nationally. We have robust integrations and contracts with companies like DoorDash, Uber and Grubhub. And we have strong partnerships with some of the biggest brands in the world, like Anheuser-Busch and Lotte.
Prior to Bevz, I’ve worked at multiple startups and was formerly the Head of Global Employee Communications & Engagement at Citrix, where I helped 10,000 employees across 44 countries manage their teams, set and execute goals aligned with the company strategy, and retain top talent. I’ve also managed global operations and marketing teams. I’m a three-time founder and have experienced a lot of failure and success.
I went to UC Santa Barbara for undergrad, where I majored in Communication and double minored in Business & Applied Psychology. I’m completing my MBA from UCLA Anderson this year with a specialization in Entrepreneurship.
Personally, my wife and I (and our two very cool dogs) live in Los Angeles, CA. Outside of work, you’ll find us eating and drinking locally at the coolest restaurants and pop-ups we can find.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Jason Vego: Two things come to mind for me.
First, technology is infiltrating every business in every sector. Whether you’re a small mom and pop retail business or a fast-growing software company, you’re going to have to use technology to stay relevant and reach your customers. Every company is becoming a technology company. To thrive in 2022, businesses needed to pay attention to trends and adopt the technology that will help them reach new customers, retain current customers, and run their business more efficiently.
Secondly, life and business is more unpredictable than ever. Every business needs to be ready for something as life-changing and destructive as a global pandemic, and be prepared to set their business up to survive. Save more money than you think, increase your profit margins, and build relationships with investors. When things go south, businesses need to ensure they don’t run out of money. And simultaneously, businesses need to be able to connect with and sell to customers both online and in-person.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Jason Vego: In 2022, in addition to embracing technology to better reach and sell to consumers, businesses should start thinking about taking that a step further. I think the future is going to amplify consumer trends in customization, choice, and speed. Businesses should think about how they can build custom products and experiences for their customers, while making purchasing and delivery processes faster and more seamless. Consumers will flock to the businesses that can quickly and most effectively fulfill their needs.
For example, clothing brands are now offering items not just in multiple sizes, but in multiple styles and sub-sizes. I just shopped at a great company called Rhone that offers the same pair of pants in four colors, five styles (i.e., slim vs. regular), 10 waist sizes, and 8 inseams (length) that can be mixed and matched, which is over 1,000 different combinations. And even with that level of customization, I got my product delivered in a week. That’s the standard that business are going to have to compete with.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Jason Vego: The way we manage Bevz didn’t change that much during the pandemic, especially because we launched in January 2020. As an early-stage software company, we were already remote and had tech-savvy employees that were able to continue doing their jobs without interruption. We did experience challenges building a our company culture and onboarding new hires during the pandemic, but we learned how to do this more effectively over time, and now, our core team meets weekly in person.
As for the industry we sell our product into, the pandemic changed everything, because the snack and drink industry is severely outdated. Prior to the pandemic, convenience stores across the U.S. were used to selling almost all of their products in-person. They hadn’t changed this behavior for decades, and for the first time in history, selling in-person was not going to keep their business alive. Convenience stores needed to learn how to sell their products online to their customers.
Secondly, the pandemic forced snack and drink brands that sell to convenience stores to operate without in-person interactions. Prior to the pandemic, snack and drink brands sold their products to convenience stores via in-person interactions for the most part. These snack and drink brands started pushing convenience stores to order inventory online. The problem was that the infrastructure wasn’t there for convenience stores to do this effectively.
Bevz built our entire business around helping convenience stores embrace technology and grow their business. By digitizing inventory ordering and online sales, we are not only transforming convenience stores, we’re moving the entire snack and drink industry forward.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Jason Vego: Make faster decisions. After making a decision, you can quickly test and iterate on those decisions. In the early days of Bevz, it felt like an incorrect decision would be detrimental to the business because we had limited time and resources, but looking back on the past year, I realize that slow decision-making and staying stagnant almost led to the demise of our company.
In 2022, I’m hyper-focused on making quick and strategic decision making, building systems to easily test new products and initiatives, and giving my team the confidence to make decisions without getting approval from me or other team members.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Jason Vego: I think that this trend is going to grow and decrease at the same time – I know that sounds stupid, but this is what I mean.
Based on quantitative and qualitative data, digital consumer engagement and sales are going to keep increasing. For example, in our business, alcohol e-commerce has been growing like crazy and is expected to maintain at least 66% annual growth, increasing from $6 billion in 2021 up to $42 billion by 2025.
But, after the pandemic, I believe that people will value more in-person experiences. Retailers who completely gave up on in-person experiences in replacement for e-commerce are going to experience a lot of challenges. I believe the future if hybrid – the best brands will provide incredible in-person and virtual experiences, and make it easy for consumers to buy products in-person, schedule pickups, and get deliveries to their home.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Jason Vego: Too many hours. Probably about 15 hours a day.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Jason Vego: Being a CEO, I have to be a great storyteller externally with customers and investors. Internally, I take a little bit different of an approach. To me, it’s more important to be authentic and honest, and build really strong rapport and trust with a team at an early-stage startup.
Once I create this level of connection with my team, I define a clear set of actionable next steps for the business and paint a picture of those steps in practice, in a way that makes future success sound really doable. And that’s my goal with internal storytelling – paint the picture of our future and make it feel really simple, yet critically important, for each team member to do their job, which will in turn lead to a very successful business.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Jason Vego: Our biggest challenges come from our requirements to integrate with a lot of key industry players. In order to offer the best possible solution for convenience stores, Bevz needs to integration with several e-commerce companies like DoorDash and Uber, and with dozens of snack and drink distributors like SGWS and RNDC. Convincing these companies to integrate their platforms and trust a new, innovative technology company comes with challenges, but both the continuation of current trends and our ability to execute will make this challenge easier over time.
Secondly, we are still early in the market. Though convenience stores are more receptive to technology and innovation post-pandemic, they are not as far along as many other small-to-medium businesses. To bring this innovation to life nationally, and eventually globally, Bevz will need to constantly educate these stores and build trust with them.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Jason Vego: One thing I’m really focused on learning about is referral programs. Our customer has an initial lack of trust in technology and people they’ve never met. We’ve learned to build trust with these customers, but in order to scale the company faster, we need to build trust with more customers faster and get our product into more convenience stores.
We’ve found that once we show our value to our customers, they become huge advocates for our company. My team is spending a significant amount of time learning about, testing, and iterating on a robust referral program that will turn several of our customers into our sales force.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Jason Vego: I think is exactly what most bosses think. I’ve actually spent years in prior jobs managing employee engagement and company culture, and working with managers across the business to better communicate with their teams. The best managers always strived to improve their management skills and spent a majority of their job recruiting top talent, coaching their team members, and facilitating team growth. These managers have nothing to worry about, but unfortunately, many managers get promoted into management because they are great at their job but either don’t have the management skills or don’t want to spend the time required to be a great manager.
I think managers need a lot more training, and companies need to create a culture where managers are rewarded not for their individual performance, but for their ability to grow and develop their teams.
I’m already seeing trends around executive and leadership coaching, but those trends need to happen faster. Companies at early stages need to prioritize executive and leadership coaching – I recommend after the Series A round – because if they wait too long, they will start to lose top talent due to poor management.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Jason Vego: If I could have one business superpower, it would be exuberant confidence and charismatic, inspirational speaking, at the Adam Neumann level.
I don’t believe in many of Adam Neumann’s business decisions, but I would love to have his ability to sell an idea and inspire confidence with employees, customers, and investors. I’ve figured out my own way of inspiring and motivating employees and investors, but I’m not a naturally charismatic and inspirational person.
I also wouldn’t mind having Adam Neumann’s hair =).
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Jason Vego: To me, reaching true success requires both the business and personal side to come together.
On the business side, I’ll feel successful if Bevz oversubscribes our next fundraising round (looking good so far), I retain my entire team (and add a couple new members), and we stay within 10% of our KPIs.
On the personal side, I’ll feel successful if I spend enough quality time with my wife and she feels fulfilled in her career, I share some great experiences with my parents who are getting a lot older, and I make time to help and support my closest friends with their most important personal and professional challenges.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jason Vego for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jason Vego or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.