Kevin Hill Is Leading The Charge Toward A Post-Click Intelligence World In Digital Advertising, On Mogul Watch

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
digital advertising
Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive who founded digital advertising company VuPulse. Photo courtesy of VuPulse

Artificial intelligence and data analytics are increasingly used to segment campaigns for personalized and behavior-based marketing. Brands are relying more than ever on technology to get the highest return on investment for their marketing budgets.

Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive, believes he and his team have created marketing software with a “post-click intelligence” solution to dramatically increase the effectiveness of ads. Hill’s company, VuPulse, is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

A Yale graduate with more than 20 years of corporate experience, Hill bet on himself. “I knew I wanted to bet on myself and see if I can build something big and meaningful for my family,” he told Moguldom.

We call our technology “post-click intelligence”. Right now, everyone is doing pre-click intelligence which means they segment the consumer, and then they run one ad to them.

Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive, founder and CEO of digital advertising company VuPulse in Boca Raton, Florida.

After launching VuPulse in 2014, Hill heard the word “no” more than 100 times before he eventually found his first investors. Now, with the most recent $1 million dollars of capital investment in his company, New World Angels and Florida Funders are also betting on him.

“As every company goes through the digital transformation, the need to drive revenue from it is growing leaps and bounds,” said Kevin Adamek, partner at Florida Funders and a VuPulse board member, in a press release. “The VuPulse team deeply understands these challenges and has the expertise and drive to address them. Our team has been following the company for a couple of years now and we are so impressed with their customer focus, innovative technology, and growth.”

Kevin Hill spoke with Moguldom about building a team (not a work family), and advice he wishes he’d had four years ago when he was launching VuPulse.

The first thing I look for when I’m hiring a person is that they are much, much smarter than me in the field that I’m hiring them. Because of the size of the company, the people we hire have to basically be able to do everyone else’s jobs.

Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive, founder and CEO of digital advertising company VuPulse in Boca Raton, Florida.
digital advertising
Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive who founded digital advertising company VuPulse. Photo courtesy of VuPulse

Moguldom: Why did you start VuPulse?

Kevin Hill: I wanted to create a company that had the culture and values I believed in. I’ve worked in a lot of different places, and that just really became important to me. I realized if you want to have a company that’s the style that you like, in the end, you probably really need to just build it yourself.

Moguldom: What is VuPulse?

Kevin Hill: VuPulse is a combination of two words: impulse view. We’ve built a marketing software that makes any digital ad intelligent. We do that by providing the marketer a single URL as the destination of their ad. Once a consumer clicks the ad, our technology actually analyzes each customer in real time and then determines where’s the most likely place to send each customer for them to either watch, buy, or consume that product or content. For example, the moment someone clicks an ad, it looks at them and says, “This person should go to Comcast to watch ‘The Voice’, or this person should go to DirecTV to watch ‘The Voice.'” By doing this we can dramatically increase the effectiveness of the ads, and the ratings for our network partners. We call our technology “post-click intelligence”. Right now, everyone is doing pre-click intelligence which means they segment the consumer, and then they run one ad to them. And then that one ad takes people to one location. Our initial focus is on TV and movies because they have a dramatic need on this fragmentation on where people want to watch or buy their movie or TV show. But our post-click intelligence will actually work for any category. You could use it for where people are buying shoes, and route some people to Walmart, and other people to Macy’s.

I may take a little bit of an unorthodox approach because of my sports background. I believe building a great work team is more like building a sports team than thinking of it as a family.

Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive, founder and CEO of digital advertising company VuPulse in Boca Raton, Florida.

Moguldom: While your office is here in Florida, you have some team members working remotely in other states. What do you look for when you’re hiring someone?

Kevin Hill: The remote part is actually not as big of a deal anymore, but who and how you hire, and how you want to build your team is really the most important part. The first thing I look for when I’m hiring a person is that they are much, much smarter than me in the field that I’m hiring them. Because of the size of the company we have, the people we hire have to basically be able to do everyone else’s jobs. That’s really hard to find a person that can be an expert in their field, and then feel comfortable about doing other disciplines as well, as a part of their job. I may take a little bit of an unorthodox approach, because of my sports background. I believe building a great work team is more like building a sports team, than thinking of it as a family. That may sound a little off because I thought everyone was supposed to be a family, but when you think about a family, your uncle could be a bum. Right? He never does anything, but you still love him because that’s your uncle. That’s not really how I’m trying to build a company. When I think about it, it’s more like a sports team where everyone is judged by performance. You love them. You care about them. But they have to perform. And if they don’t perform, they’re gone. You don’t really ever kick your uncle out of the family, but you will kick poor performers out of your company.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 12: Keenan Beasley

Jamarlin talks to Keenan Beasley, co-founder and managing partner of New York digital analytics company BLKBOX. The Westpoint grad and former P&G brand manager talks about his early mistakes, how NY and Silicon Valley investors differ, and the advantages of getting experience in an industry before trying to disrupt it.

Moguldom: How have you been able to draw upon your athletic and engineering background, and really make it work within marketing technology?

Kevin Hill: It started with athletics. Everything about athletics is about discipline and doing what’s right for the team, not what’s right for you. That mentality carried over into engineering, which is all about discipline and strategic thinking. I started out as an engineer, but when I was in Proctor & Gamble, they started hiring a lot of engineers into marketing. Once I moved into marketing, I always kind of took this view that I’m really more of a general manager. I’m more of a strategic thinker. I made my transition from engineering to marketing to management roles with Cox and Comcast, and then into this role with starting my own company.

There’s never a moment that someone on my team doesn’t exactly know what I’m thinking about.

Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive, founder and CEO of digital advertising company VuPulse in Boca Raton, Florida.

Moguldom: What do you think your team members will say about your leadership style?

Kevin Hill: The first thing is there’s never a moment that someone on my team doesn’t exactly know what I’m thinking about. I am a transparent person. The second thing is that I work as hard as I play. I like to work really hard. We work incredibly long trying to do this. We’re older than the normal folks who’ve started. We work until we pass out, and then we also play until we pass out. We have a really good time, and so I’m a really good mix of that. But I think what’s even more important is I’ve learned over the last four years of being an entrepreneur to become a really, really good listener. And even though I will start down a path, in the end, because I’m an engineer, I want the best solution no matter who brings that solution. I will listen, and we will make a change, and we will go with whatever is best for the team.

Moguldom: Did you go through any accelerator programs since you launched?

Kevin Hill:  Life — no formal accelerator or incubators. I went all in. My family and I have gone all in on this, right? All of our assets are put into VuPulse before I ever took an outside dollar. That makes you realize you have to make this a success. It’s a matter of never giving up, and always, always, always moving forward to make sure you get to the next day.

I’ve had over 100 no’s — no’s from names you know. When investors knew I had a vision, traction and a business plan, and those three things could sing, that is the first time I was able to raise money.

Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive, founder and CEO of digital advertising company VuPulse in Boca Raton, Florida.

Moguldom: If you haven’t gone through any accelerators, how have you managed to raise funds?

Kevin Hill: I have been blessed with a ton of mentors. I always believed in being a mentor and a mentee. Mentors help to shepherd you through the process. In the end, it’s really a lot of trial and error, and kind of learning the process and the game of fundraising. I’ve had over 100 no’s, from Miami to San Francisco to New York to Boston to Atlanta. No’s from names you know. When investors knew I had a vision, traction and a business plan, and those three things could sing, that is the first time I was able to raise money.

Moguldom: Between this round and the previous round, how much has your company raised?

Kevin Hill: I’ve raised just a little bit over $1.7 million from six-or-so individuals, friends and two incredible venture organizations here in Florida — Florida Funders (a hybrid of venture capital and crowdfunding focusing on Florida tech startups) and New World Angels (private investors providing equity capital to early-stage entrepreneurial companies.)

Moguldom: What does VuPulse look like in five years?

Kevin Hill: Not only did I build this to have a culture and a company that I wanted, but my goal is obviously to deliver total shareholder return for my investors and my team. In the next five years, we have to be able to monetize our asset in some form or fashion to deliver that return. From a business standpoint, we’re about transforming how marketers acquire customers to get to their product, and how customers find and consume content. I have this vision in the future of content, especially digital content, being much easier to consume, find, and share with folks in a legal fashion, and then marketers being able to not only identify their customers but get them to the right place in a very quick fashion so they’re not distracted by all this fragmentation and noise that’s going around. I want to transform the way marketers communicate with consumers, and how consumers really come back and consume the content.

Moguldom: Are there any lessons learned you can share with other entrepreneurs?

Kevin Hill: I always like to think about what advice I wish I had four years ago when I started. The first is, you’re going to get a lot of no’s. Listen to the no’s, learn from them and continue to figure out how to build your product. The second most important thing you can have is just this complete intellectual curiosity around “How do I get better every single day?” Whether it’s your business, your management style, your team — you have to continually be getting better. And then the third is, you have to have this unbelievable amount of grit and stick-to-it-ness. Because there are some days where you feel like you’ve just won the Super Bowl, and there’re other days where you feel like you have to quit and go back to corporate America or work at a fast-food restaurant because it’s just so hard. You have to stick through it. If you have curiosity and you stick through it, it’ll work out. It just always seems to, because you just find a way. Because in the end, it’ll work out.

We’re about transforming how marketers acquire customers to get to their product, and how customers find and consume content. I have this vision in the future of content, especially digital content, being much easier to consume, find, and share.

Kevin Hill, an engineer-turned-marketing executive, founder and CEO of digital advertising company VuPulse in Boca Raton, Florida.