Chen Avni of Venn: ” Real progress takes time”

We’re all experiencing one of the most difficult times in history, and a lot of people feel unsure about how to handle it. Venn is tackling one of the biggest emotional issues that the pandemic has emphasized: loneliness. We are making tools for people to participate in their communities and solve this really problematic disease […]

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We’re all experiencing one of the most difficult times in history, and a lot of people feel unsure about how to handle it. Venn is tackling one of the biggest emotional issues that the pandemic has emphasized: loneliness. We are making tools for people to participate in their communities and solve this really problematic disease of loneliness. By making local communities stronger, we’re also proving that we can make lasting change by supporting local economies.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chen Avni.

Chen Avni is Co-Founder and CXO of Venn, the world’s only platform and experience company focused entirely on neighborhoods. Avni was born in Kibbutz Gaash in Israel, a place and way of life that shaped his life and career. He served six years in the elite unit, Sayeret Matcal, in the Israel Defense Forces, where he led teams of soldiers in training missions.

Since his youth, Avni was involved in various political youth organizations and was later selected for the Rabin Leadership Program. As a part of this program, Avni established three informal educational programs in disadvantaged neighborhoods, which are still active today. After his service, Avni traveled abroad to Central America, where he established a retail company that is still thriving today. In 2016, he joined forces with close friends David Sherez and Or Bokobza, who shared the dream of living and raising their families together in the city. Together they founded Venn, the world’s only platform and experience company focused entirely on neighborhoods and connecting the people, businesses, and moments that make them thrive.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in a kibbutz on the beach in Israel. A kibbutz is a communal settlement, often a dairy farm or orchard, where residents collectively share ownership of the property and work and live together. It was an idyllic childhood. I remember walking around barefoot on the beach with my friends and sharing everything. As I grew up and started seeing more of the world, I realized that not everyone was as happy as the people in this community in which I had grown up. I started to play around with the idea of how to replicate that type of community in other places.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

One of the most interesting things that I’ve experienced as a founder of Venn has been the opportunity to see cities from another angle. I’ve traveled the world and I’ve always loved getting to experience other cultures. It’s important to me to push myself out of the familiar. When I’m traveling to a new place, I prefer the local rather than the same menu you’d eat in Brooklyn. Venn has given me the opportunity to travel the world as a researcher, not just as a tourist. It’s brought another dimension to travel.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we got started in Tel Aviv, we moved into an amazing warehouse that we used as our office and we painted the door black — not for any particular reason; we just thought it looked good. We didn’t think about how uninviting this black door might be, and we got some criticism from the community. In response, we decided to bring in an acclaimed local artist, who made a neighborhood map on the door. Again, we got criticism because people said, “it’s not your neighborhood, why are you doing this art?”

A week later, three young people came and threw balloons filled with colored paint on the door. Instead of feeling discouraged, we jumped on the idea and invited the whole neighborhood to throw paint-balloons at the door. It was absolutely crazy, but to this day, that door is the most beautiful thing. This story is a lot like our approach to building a business — make mistakes, laugh about them, share the experience, learn from the constructive criticism, and grow.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

We’re all experiencing one of the most difficult times in history, and a lot of people feel unsure about how to handle it. Venn is tackling one of the biggest emotional issues that the pandemic has emphasized: loneliness. We are making tools for people to participate in their communities and solve this really problematic disease of loneliness. By making local communities stronger, we’re also proving that we can make lasting change by supporting local economies.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

One story that comes to mind happened in New York. We hosted an event promoting a local business, and the business owner told us that his revenue for that month jumped 30%. It created a very stable ground for him during an uncertain time. We have so many stories like this, where the personal stories converge with the neighborhood stories. Venn’s mission isn’t to emphasize the individual — it’s really about bringing people together to create a shared sense of Belonging.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

First, invest in social impact.

Secondly, you can’t solve an issue by just giving it more money. I always think of that story, “If you give a man a fish he eats for a day. If you teach him to fish he eats for a lifetime.”

We are in a time in history when everything moves so fast, however, real progress takes time. It’s not about these quick and dirty solutions. So, the third thing is to take a deep breath and think 20, 30 years ahead.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

In Hebrew, we have a phrase, “with shaking eyes and steady hands.” It represents continuing to build even when you are fearful and confused. As leaders, it’s important to take action even when you have doubt.

There’s also a quote by Einstein that I love, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… it takes a genius to move in the opposite direction.” To be a leader, it’s not enough to just be the most powerful man or woman in the room. Be observant and sensitive. Make small tweaks to empower people and spread the impact.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

– Less is more. Focus is a key for success.

– Real progress takes time. Especially when you are dealing with a very human product like ours, which connects people. Slow down and enjoy the process.

– Company culture is the most important thing. Founders must invest in it and put energy into developing it.

– As a leader, don’t worry too much about being liked. Truthfully, this one is still work-in-progress for me.

– Ask for feedback from anyone on everything. Employees, products, processes… Feedback is the only way to improve anything you are doing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My grandpa once told me a quote from Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Both Mandela and my grandfather are two men who I admire, and the quote has really stuck with me. I’m trying to implement that advice every day. I hope to get beyond simple understanding in order to motivate and deeply connect with people.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Amanda Gorman — I’d be thrilled to have a conversation with her. I would love to bring her onboard to connect people through words. And, of course, my superhero Jacinda Ardern. I’m willing to give her a Venn platform for all of New Zealand. Whatever she wants — I’m there.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/chen-avni-050213151?originalSubdomain=il

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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