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The Dark Horse: Marco Benvenuti
This story is part of a series highlighting 50 intriguing alumni as part of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Even next to the most eccentric entrepreneurs, Marco Benvenuti is an outlier. He’s the guy in the red poncho in a sea of suits, darting nimbly between disparate topics of basketball, musical theater, and writing code. He’s the bull in the china shop—only this bull is driving an Alfa Romeo.
But don’t let his showmanship fool you.
“To do what I’ve done, you have to be obsessively committed to not failing,” Benvenuti says, reflecting on his consulting firm turned tech company, Duetto, which he launched in 2010. “People make the mistake of thinking that I don’t take things seriously.”
Proving people wrong has been one of the engines that has powered Benvenuti’s success. He began defying odds soon after arriving at UNLV in 1999 from his home in Tuscany, Italy. “I actually started out on academic probation at UNLV, because my international credits didn’t translate to letter grades,” Benvenuti recalls.
With the help of a supportive circle of professors, the ambitious Italian found pathways to overcome challenges and achieve his academic goals. “UNLV was my launch pad,” says Benvenuti, who graduated from the UNLV's Hospitality and Honors colleges (summa cum laude) in just two years.
UNLV was also the place where Benvenuti’s discovered his love for revenue management. “I was lucky that one of my instructors worked in revenue management and allowed me to come to his office to see how it worked,” he says. “When I told my Hotel College advisor that I wanted [revenue management] to be the topic of my Honors College thesis, he suggested I interview revenue managers on the Strip. Once I did that, I knew this area was going to change the future.”
Since graduating from UNLV, Benvenuti has gone on to earn a master’s degree from Cornell and work for several major hospitality brands. Still, he never quite gelled with corporate America. He is co-founder of Duetto, a revenue strategy company.
“They tell you to tone it down, but I came in like a bulldozer and broke rules,” Benvenuti says. “I would never allow myself to be a slave to a job, so I never overextended myself. The decisions you make allow you to be daring.”
Today, as Benvenuti sits in his fashionable Summerlin office surrounded by Star Wars memorabilia and stuffed animals, he’s making his own rules—the mark of a true Rebel, he says. “There is strength in being different. That’s where the genius happens … that’s where the innovation happens.”
And he’s not toning it down for anyone.
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