This week’s episode of Exit Stories features James Avery, a Triangle tech veteran who, as founder and CEO since 2010, has grown Durham’s once-tiny Adzerk into 70-person-strong Kevel. Kevel (the name it rebranded to late last year) provides such giants as Ticketmaster, Strava and Yelp with infrastructure APIs in the ad space. Still a software developer at heart, Avery was previously an executive in other entrepreneurial adventures in the digital space, including a long stint at Infozerk and Zerk Media.
This week also features a unique twist, as guest co-host Paolo DiVincenzo—himself a recent Exit Stories guest—joins regular host Kevin Mosley in interviewing Avery. Mosley and DiVincenzo are dubbing this week’s conversation “Base Hits,” because it focuses on the smaller exits that can help entrepreneurs build up their skills, confidence and bankroll to lead to even greater successes down the line. As you’ll discover, Avery is a perfect Exhibit A of the importance of notching some early “base hits.”
Here are three main takeaways from this episode:
- As the co-founder of Groovemob and sole founder of Adzerk, Avery has a nuanced opinion on having a co-founder: “There’s really good and really bad things.” The good things about having a co-founder, he said, include doubled productivity and having a support system. But the biggest “bad”—conflict—can be incredibly challenging to overcome. Through all of the good and the bad, he had one main takeaway: “With co-founders,” Avery said, “you just got to be cool with each other.” (13:20)
- Avery’s tip for dealing with the small stuff, like converting an LLC to a C Corp? Don’t worry about it until you have to. Focus on building a solid product first, do your due diligence, and then cross specific administrative “bridges” when you get to them. “The hardest thing is to get something built, and then it’s like, all the rest is gonna just evolve,” Avery said. “All the rest of it can be cleaned up later.” (23:45)
- Earlier in the episode, Avery spoke on the challenges and benefits of having a co-founder, but he later explores the flip side: the challenges and benefits of being a solo founder. The sole responsibility over all company functions in early stages can be a massively exhausting task, but in learning how every branch of the company works, you know how to better staff, train and lead in later stages. Avery compares being a sole founder leading a team to a manager of an MLB squad who knows how to lead because he has previously played every position on the field. “That guy or gal is gonna know more than somebody who didn’t,” Avery said. “I think it just gives you that round experience across the whole company”
Thanks again to Vaco for sponsoring this season of Exit Stories. You can listen (and subscribe!) below: