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A Q&A with Kevel CEO James Avery

December 14, 2020
A Q&A with Kevel CEO James Avery
Written by
Taylor Ellis

“What’s Kevel’s proudest accomplishment? That customers trusted us when we were small because we brought freedom, action, and humanity to their problems.” – James Avery

Fulcrum has recently invested in Kevel, the custom advertising platform based in Raleigh, NC. Learn more about their ad solutions directly from Founder and CEO James Avery with our exclusive Q&A.

What is Kevel’s mission?

Our vision is that most publishers want to build custom, in-house ad products, like Amazon and Facebook have done. To date, doing that is difficult, as third-party tools are inadequate, and it could take years to do in-house. That is why Kevel exists: to provide tools that make it easy to build custom ad platforms for sponsored listings, native ads, internal promotions, and more, thereby driving new revenue and taking back the Internet from the big ad tech giants.

What sets your platform apart from your competitors?

While everyone in Ad Tech spent the 2010s focused on programmatic advertising, Kevel dedicated its resources to building API tools that help brands launch full-featured, custom ad platforms.

This meant that our product naturally evolved into more of an infrastructure platform than an out-of-the-box ad-serving solution. To date, no other ad-serving platform has pursued the same server-side, API-first mentality and are stuck in a world with slow, obtrusive, and inflexible programmatic ads.

What’s the biggest challenge your team is working on?

We have a massive opportunity in a huge market, which is a great place to be, but also means we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our product is being used to power many fascinating use cases — including sponsored listings, podcast ads, digital billboards, even promotions in cars. The creativity and ambitions of our current and future customers know no bounds, and one of the reasons we raised was to keep up with the features they need to achieve their visions.

What is your team’s proudest accomplishment?

Building an enterprise platform with a very small team. Even with just fifteen employees in 2019 (we are 50 now), Kevel was trusted by the likes of Ticketmaster, Imgur, and Strava to power their bespoke ad and internal promotion platforms.

This spoke to the talent and dedication of the team of course, but also to our market-fit; brands were eager to monetize their sites and apps with new revenue streams, but they didn’t trust Google and didn’t have the resources to build an ad platform in-house. They trusted us, even though we were small, because we brought freedom, action, and humanity to their problem.

What were you looking for in a funding partner?

Our goal was to find a partner who understood our business and vision, and didn’t try to lump us in with traditional Ad Tech companies. Historically, Ad Tech investors push their companies into becoming ad networks and taking large revenue shares — at the cost of long-term defensibility and value.

We have existed profitably for nearly a decade, so funding was not a necessity, but something we would pursue only with the right partner. We also are committed to our vision of making the Internet a better place and helping publishers take it back from the ad tech giants. We were not looking for a partner who wanted us to compromise that vision for easy growth. That was anathema to our purpose.

Finally, we wanted a partner who understood why we were different and that even though our tech is used for advertising, we’re not actually ‘Ad Tech’.

Why did you choose Fulcrum?

In getting to know Fulcrum, it was clear that they understood who we are and what we are trying to accomplish. They recognized the massive opportunity ahead of us and were excited to be a part of it.

Beyond that, Fulcrum was a great partner through the funding process, providing helpful introductions, constructive feedback, and clear interest in our product and vision. It was obvious they were just as excited about this opportunity as we are.

What’s next for Kevel?

The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of shopping and consumerism. As food delivery apps, e-commerce brands, and online marketplaces see their user bases grow, they are recognizing the importance of monetizing this increased traffic.

Kevel’s next stage will lean heavily into giving these companies the tools they need to build user-first platforms for serving optimized carousel banners, sponsored listings, internal promotions, and more.

Fulcrum is excited to announce our investment into Kevel and to work with their innovative team. To learn more about Kevel, click here.