How the pandemic forced businesses to find new revenue streams

James Avery Kevel

James Avery of Kevel tells us about enabling every business to build billion-dollar ad platforms.

First of all, how are you and your family doing?

James Avery: My family and I just got back from our first international trip since COVID, and it was really great to get back out and explore the world again together. We have also started meetings in person again, and it’s been great to meet prospects and customers face to face again.

Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Kevel.

James Avery: I was always interested in starting and running my own company from an early age – whether that was a paper delivery service or lawn care business. When I reached high school, I started a web design company that helped local businesses build websites. I continued that in college until I started working for a handful of different companies before launching an independent consultancy.

I founded Adzerk in 2010, which rebranded to Kevel in 2020. As a software engineer, I wanted better tech for managing my network’s ads. While initially being a JavaScript-based standard ad server, Kevel quickly focused on server-side API ads as the future of the Internet. Soon, we began offering not just an API ad server but infrastructure tools for companies to build their own ad products. Now, Kevel’s products are a suite of APIs aimed at helping drive revenue and take back the Internet from the ad tech giants.

How does Kevel market its product/services online?

James Avery: Our first customers were people that were introduced to Kevel through word of mouth or I met with directly. We wanted to help educate businesses out there about the potential revenue they could be earning with an ad platform, so we also started writing thought leadership content online either through our blog or additional publications, which gives us more visibility. The articles we write point out how brands can benefit from building custom ad programs.

Beyond inbound, we do paid spend advertising across the major self-serve networks (Google, LinkedIn, etc.). In 2021 we also built out an outbound team and pursued account-based marketing strategies, which has helped with brand awareness and leads.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?

James Avery: When the pandemic hit, many businesses were faced with the challenge of how to continue making money when everything shut down. Retail shops had to turn to e-commerce, and other businesses in the airline and restaurant industries were forced to find new revenue streams entirely. Many of our customers were affected, so we worked closely with them to find solutions and get them through this crisis. The pandemic drove a lot of areas of growth and really opened up businesses’ eyes to the importance of an ad platform.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?

James Avery: We use Hubspot for most of our sales/marketing efforts. It’s our CRM, our ticketing system, and our sales/marketing automation tool. We also use Clearbit for website de-anonymization, alongside miscellaneous SaaS tools like Unbounce, Vidyard, and Ahrefs. Most of our online marketing analysis is done through manual reports, Google Analytics, and Hubspot’s analytics tools.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

James Avery: Our biggest competitor is actually the customer themselves as it begs the build versus buy question. Our competitors are those who decide to build their ad platform in-house from scratch rather than use our tools. However, not everyone has the resources or time to do this, so Kevel will always be relevant.

Otherwise, we compete with standard ad servers and retail media networks as well, such as Google Ad Manager, Criteo, CitrusAd, and a few others. Standard ad servers offer only tag-based banner ads rather than building a custom ad product that is native to the user experience.

Your final thoughts?

James Avery: Here at Kevel, we are committed to the vision that every online retailer and publisher should be able to add privacy-focused ad revenue streams and take back the Internet from Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other digital monopolies. We are working towards building the advertising infrastructure for the Internet that will enable a free and independent Open Web. I hope Kevel enables even the smallest of businesses to earn ad revenue that will help grow their core business.

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