James Avery is the founder and CEO of Kevel. He was the Co-Founder of TekPub, which helped developers learn from high-quality screencasts. He has been writing code and starting companies for the past 20 years. He also wrote books for O’Reilly, Wrox, and Microsoft Press. Additionally, he serves as an advisor to and angel investor in a number of local startups.
- What is in your pockets?
It’s normally just my iPhone, my wallet, and sometimes my keys.
- What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
It’s been a really exciting last nine months for us. We raised an A round in July-August of last year. We didn’t announce it until later in the year when we rebranded from Adzerk to Kevel.
We had done a seed round. We used that to build up, become profitable, get to a pretty good run rate, but then decided we really had a bigger opportunity and wanted to raise another round. The last 12 months have been just a ton of hiring, getting new people in, getting momentum like we’ve never had before.
We’ve been in Durham now for nine years. We are an API platform, similar to things like Twilio or Stripe, but our focus is on helping customers build their own ad platforms. So, when you look at modern-day advertising, a lot of it’s these unpleasant banners that you might see on CNN.com. The companies we help want to build native sponsored listings, high-quality advertising into their product. And using our APIs, they don’t have to build that entire ad platform from scratch.
- What is your favorite coffee spot?
I don’t drink coffee, but when it comes to my favorite coffee shop, Cocoa Cinnamon would probably still be the top of my list. Our old office was right down by the old ballpark (where the movie “Bull Durham” was filmed). Even though I don’t drink coffee, I would often end up meeting people at Cocoa Cinnamon because it’s just a great spot, nice benches out front, was easy to walk to, and I didn’t have to park anywhere on Main Street.
- What keeps you up at night?
I guess what keeps me up at night is when I get way too excited when I start working at night. After everybody else has gone to bed, I start working on briefs for changes we want to make to the product or new products we want to build, or I start chatting with some of our team over on the West Coast who are still awake. And I get really excited about what we’re doing. I find that excitement is what keeps me up at night. I think running a company, there’s always tons of things you can be afraid of. The only thing that I worry about is missing the opportunity that we have.
- What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
If we’re talking Durham, so thinking about work stuff, my favorite place is Luna. Luna is the best place for lunch. I’ll let a secret slip here. If you go to the bar, they actually just take your order and you can sit there and you don’t have to wait in line to order your food.
When it comes to happy hour my favorite is still probably Motorco. Love the outdoor seating.
Bull McCabe’s is a good, old favorite.
- What is next for you or your organization?
I think what’s next is we really now have the resources to build out our vision, which for us is making it easier and easier for companies to be able to build their own ad platforms. Today, so many companies are at the mercy of Google or Facebook. They’re getting a check every month from Google and that’s how they run their business.
Our goal is to take back the internet. Let these companies be self-sustaining and build those platforms. So, we’ve done the core work for that, but there’s a lot more to do to make that easier and easier. Like, how do we make it as easy as possible for these companies to really build their own platforms and own their own destiny? It’s a lot more execution and a lot more building.