Jason Russell is the CEO and Co-Founder of Stable Kernel, an Atlanta-based software company that builds scalable software solutions for cutting-edge enterprises including some of the most innovative Fortune 500 companies in the world.
Possessing proven entrepreneurial skills, Russell is an experienced leader with a successful track record in software solutions, executive leadership, and accelerating business value. As CEO of Stable Kernel, he oversees the day-to-day operations and draws from his success as a mobile technology visionary to build client relationships and drive business development and growth.
Jason champions Stable Kernel’s commitment as a strategic, innovative partner to provide clients with high quality software that maintains relevance despite changing technology.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Stable Kernel – offering to the marketplace
- A “snapshot” of Stable Kernel’s typical client—size, industry, needs
- Evolving/advancing technology
- Company’s plans for continued growth/presence in operations in Atlanta
- Stable Kernel’s operating strategy during the pandemic
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:03] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on pay. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is going to be a good one. Today on the show, we have Jason Russell with Stable Kernel. Welcome, Jason.
Jason Russell: [00:00:41] Hey, thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:43] Well, I’m excited to get caught up with you for the listeners who aren’t aware. Tell us a little bit about Stable Kernel, how you serve in folks.
Jason Russell: [00:00:51] Sure. Well, we are product companies, a software product company. We build products for large companies mainly. So we work with typically Fortune 1000 and build enterprise software. We have teams on board that we we supply teams to our clients. So you’re talking about business analyst and project managers, software engineers, architects, market research folks across the board. So we we inject into their teams and we build products for our clients.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:22] So take me through kind of one of the scenarios that a client of yours was having. Is it something that, hey, they’re working on something internally and it’s not maybe their main website for the organization, but it’s this kind of project or marketing program or maybe an internal something that they’re working on. And they they don’t have the right team internally. So they turn to you to kind of solve this problem.
Jason Russell: [00:01:48] Yeah, that’s right. So many clients we work with, software isn’t their number one priority, right? I mean, obviously, software is a big component of the business, but for instance, they maybe they make hamburgers or brew beer. So for instance, we created a piece of software for a brewery, a pretty large brewery, where it connects and visualizes data for them so they can actually ensure quality across the board. So if you pick up a beverage, it has the same taste across the board and they’re able to look at various pieces of data to analyze that. So again, they would hire us to be a custom development shop. So what we do typically is we come in and we build custom software for different companies, and at times we would inject people like for instance, we might inject developers, software engineers onto teams to work inside of other teams at these big companies. But at other times we would actually be the product team for these companies. So we would drop in and build like, say, a greenfield product.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:50] So they might come to you with a, Hey, we have this problem, this we don’t know the first thing on how to solve this. Is it even possible to solve it with a software solution to kind of figure out a way to tie all this data and all this information together to help us execute on something so they they may not even have it fully fleshed out. And you can help kind of mold it into something that’s doable.
Jason Russell: [00:03:13] That’s right. That’s right. We have different product journeys, so it may be a company that actually has a unique problem and they haven’t built anything. Right. So we may start out with market research and maybe a company where we drop in somewhere in the middle where they’ve got a product, perhaps they’re having some challenges, perhaps they’re trying to grow the product, they’re trying to reach more people so they would hire us to come in and enhance that, perhaps pick up more velocity, more quality. I’d also say we’re a lower custom shop. We’re also premium shop too. So we’re not a some companies I think drop people in and they call them resources. We’re not that we’re not a recruiter. We actually, like I said, have have full time employees who are on board who actually work directly with our clients.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:00] So you’re more of a partner than just a vendor?
Jason Russell: [00:04:03] Absolutely nailed it. We are we are a partner. And certainly, I think on our side and the services business, lots and lots of people say your partner, we always want to be a partner, but that’s what we’re working, we’re striving for. So when a client calls us a partner, we know he’s succeeded.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:20] So now once you start working with them, is this one of those things where they’re like, Wow, this worked great over here. Maybe they can help us over there. And all of a sudden now you’re doing multiple projects within the same company.
Jason Russell: [00:04:32] Totally. And that’s. You nailed it. So most of our engagements right at our side were 75 or so full time people. So we’re not a massive company. So we would typically drop in a few people depending on the services needed. And then we grow those teams and then we go sideways. So like you said, they have other products, other needs and that’s certainly the best way. Right? From a referral perspective, there’s nothing better than that inside of a company. So for instance, we’ve got several clients we’re working with now or building multiple products for them.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:07] So how has this kind of job climate impacted you or has it made you that much more attractive for talent because you’re able to kind of give, I would imagine, your workers a variety of things to work on.
Jason Russell: [00:05:23] Yeah. I mean, so like, for instance, the pandemic specifically has has changed things dramatically. But I would say overall, I mean, costs have gone up. I mean, especially in software development, software engineering, I’m sure you notice that I haven’t seen, you know, salaries go up like this in any industry. And I’ve been in business for nearly 30 years. I’ve never seen it like this. So the demand is super high. And what we’re able to offer companies is, again, a unique culture we’ve got. We’ve built a great culture and we’ve got incredible retention. So our retention enables us to have that product knowledge that these companies need. So we do we act like a partner. We act basically as full time employees inside of these companies.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:10] So what do you need more of right now? Are you looking for more talent or are you looking for more clients?
Jason Russell: [00:06:17] Well, I am. I also said on the new business side, I’d always say we need more clients. Our head of engineering might say We don’t need more clients right now, but we always want more clients. I think it’s double edged, right? I mean, obviously, if you bring on new clients, you need more people. We always have the hiring sign on. We are constantly hiring. I think we’ve hired nearly 30 people this year, so we’re always looking for new software engineers, for business analysts, QA folks, market research folks. So we’re really looking across the board and from a client perspective, as I mentioned earlier, I mean, we we typically swim in deeper waters for our size. I think a lot of these large companies now, a lot of these Fortune 500 have been burned by a lot of bigger consultancies. And as a small, smaller shop. Right. And some people say boutique. I’d say we’re just a smaller services company. I think, again, we’re more nimble. We’re able to move around more effectively. We don’t come in and drop in and say, you need 50 people on this team. So I believe we offer something a bit different than, say, some of the bigger consultancies do.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:25] Now, is your work primarily in Atlanta or now kind of the world’s your oyster?
Jason Russell: [00:07:31] Yeah. I mean, most of our work, many companies we work with do have offices in Atlanta. It might not be based solely in Atlanta, but they’ve got offices in Atlanta. But but as you said, I mean, things have changed so much that it really doesn’t matter. We have I think we have people in 12 or 13 different states at COL. We also, of course, have well over 40 people that are local, that are full time employees here, too. So while it has changed dramatically in terms of the landscape, we can work with anyone, anywhere. We’ve got clients who are clients out west and north. We also have nearshore partners you work with, too. So none of that seems to matter anymore, of course, having had thousands of virtual calls in the last few years.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:14] Now, any advice for the companies out there? Maybe the ones that are like you, maybe under 100 employees that have a combination of in the office folks as well as some remote people around the country. How do you kind of maintain that culture and attract the right person, especially when they’re not kind of living close by the the main office?
Jason Russell: [00:08:36] Yeah. I mean, listen, I again, I’ve been around business for a long time. I just believe culture wins out over everything. And I think if you have a strong culture, strong values, and we live there and breathe those every day, I believe that’s the way you retain employees. We are very transparent. Our core values are out in front of everyone all the time. So I think operating from a very transparent perspective where the company is going, laying those goals out for folks. And again, for us, I mean, whether you live in Michigan or Tennessee or Georgia, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to get the benefit of all those things. So, for instance, we have learning allowances we give their employees so that they can go to various conferences for higher education. We do lots of things internally, whether we call them Fundamental Fridays or we’ve got strategic meetings we set up to be able to share information internally. We do all of those things, and that’s something I would suggest to anyone or any company that’s trying to grow. Focus on your people when your people stay. It creates that consistency that you want on these accounts. And again, our company is thriving, but also our clients are thriving as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:50] Now, any advice for those kind of enterprise level companies out there in terms of how should they be keeping up with the advancing technology that’s constantly evolving, that’s changing? It always seems like there’s a new, better thing out there that if you’re not on it, you’re missing out.
Jason Russell: [00:10:13] Yeah. I mean, you know, I think from our perspective, I think omnichannel is more important than ever if companies are relying on technology to give their clients the same experience regardless of where where they’re traveling to. I mean, this for me, this means like remote and online avenues have to be stronger, easier. I think there’s also more demand for data science and machine learning. We’re seeing that elastic approach from all cloud. The hybrid cloud is again trending back to all cloud. Yeah, I think those are some some things that I would encourage some of the larger enterprises to focus on. And also, again, attracting talent is hard. So keeping that in mind, right. I mean, salaries for the industry in general is just rising for the foreseeable future. If you look at the trends and the data out there, these things aren’t staying put. They’re just continuing to go up. So I think you have to be really diligent about the people you hire, ensuring their skills are real and reliable. For instance, we’ve got an amazing hiring process here. It’s very difficult to get a job stable, Colonel, and I think that’s very, very important.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:20] Now, do you think it’s one of those things where the salaries are going to go so high? It’s going to force organizations to lean more in AI and automation and kind of machine learning and automate their way out of this hiring situation.
Jason Russell: [00:11:37] Hmm. Yeah. I mean, I think that that’s certainly possible. I don’t see that in the near future. I think there are plenty of jobs to be had that require hands on keyboards to actually do that work. And certainly where where jobs go away or new opportunities that are always created. But absolutely, I mean, machine learning, as I mentioned earlier, data science, I you know, as you’ve probably seen, the advances are amazing. I mean, what we were doing ten years ago versus today is just is jaw dropping. So certainly there are going to be more and more opportunities there, I think. But I don’t see that affecting the job market in terms of salaries. Yeah, I think they’re I don’t think they’re spinning out of control. But I do believe that at some point they probably have to calibrate a bit. But, you know, probably the market was due for a correction on the salary side as well. And we’re seeing that. And to be honest, most of our clients are quite happy to pay for that talent.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:38] But it seems like every industry that felt like, oh, you know, automation is going to affect us at some point, all that automation affects them.
Jason Russell: [00:12:48] Sure. Sure. And we we’re in a driver seat in our business, right. As a software company. And I think that certainly at some level, automation creates efficiencies that that are fantastic. But I don’t see them obviously pushing out the workers in our industry. And when they do, I think some of those efficiencies are needed and we’re able to work on actually larger, harder problems.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:14] Now let’s talk a minute about the the Atlanta tech scene. You’ve been here for a minute. How have you seen it evolve? And what are you kind of what trends are you looking at in the future for Atlanta?
Jason Russell: [00:13:27] Yeah, I mean, it’s evolved tremendously. I mean, the startup scene here is amazing with data done at ETV. And I remember when that started and we’ve been working with them for gosh, over ten years, even at my previous company. I think, like I said, the startup scene has been amazing here. All the meetup groups have been phenomenal. I will say in the last couple of years, obviously some of those things have stalled a bit just from an event perspective, right? I mean, we’ve had to go virtual from those things. I think from a networking social standpoint, that’s been a lot harder. I’m personally really excited that we’re able to get out a bit more now, and it seems like a lot of things are happening. We’ve got a rooftop at our building and we posted some events here and I think that would be certainly be helpful. But yeah, the Atlanta scene is amazing. I’d say from a tech perspective, it’s definitely top five in the country. Again, having Georgia Tech here helps as well. But I would say not only do you have that, but you’ve got a lot of investors locally, you’ve got a lot of the angel stuff going on as well. So yeah, it’s an amazing scene and we’re just happy to be part of it.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:32] Now maybe when you started the tech scene, there was a lot of the investment investors were kind of coming from a real estate background or development background. Are you seeing more and more people who are having successful exits kind of hang around Atlanta and reinvest in? You mentioned David Cummings as an example of somebody who did just that. But are you seeing more and more people do that as well?
Jason Russell: [00:14:59] Yeah, for sure. And I’ve had friends have gone through exits and they’re all dipping their toes in and maybe even more maybe jumping in the deep end. In terms of investment, I think there’s a huge amount of opportunity. What we’re seeing a lot of folks are investing in multiple efforts now. And honestly, I’d say that it’s a lot easier to get involved now. I think ten years ago it was it was more difficult for for people like me perhaps to get invested or invest in some of these companies. And now it’s it’s a small environment. I mean, while it is a big city from a software perspective, running the same people often. So as far as getting funded and things like that, you know, from my perspective, I think it’s it’s a lot easier. And again, I think that’s a good thing.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:46] Now, what do you think this ecosystem needs more of?
Jason Russell: [00:15:55] Hmm. Why does it need more of. The Atlanta ecosystem specifically.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:03] Right. Because I mean, you mentioned top five. Obviously, there’s the bigger ones that maybe have been around longer than ours, but we’re growing and we have certain clusters and niches that are, you know, where maybe Atlanta is known for maybe fintech health care, maybe marketing, but it tends to be kind of B2B. There’s some B2C in there. But is there anything that you would like the Atlanta tech community to have more of or that you’ve seen elsewhere?
Jason Russell: [00:16:34] Yeah. I don’t know if I’d say there’s anything specifically that I’d say I’ve seen elsewhere. I mean, certainly from my perspective, as we focus a lot on B2B, I would love to see more on the B2B front. Certainly from my experience has been a bit more leftist and you see a lot of opportunities out there. But as far as the South goes, you’re definitely seeing more and more of it. We had a big paper company we work with recently. We don’t talk about a lot of our clients externally, but they had some really neat initiatives we worked on. So I think B2B would be certainly an area of growth opportunity, as you mentioned earlier. I mean, some of the new technologies and I say new, I mean things like that, certainly I think there’s a huge opportunity there. It’s still feels new to me because so many companies really haven’t been able to actually have something tangible yet.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:26] Well, if somebody wants to learn more about stable kernel, get on your calendar. Where should they go?
Jason Russell: [00:17:33] Sure. Stable kernel dot com. And yeah, I would love to talk to you. So if you have any needs on the software front, please hit us up. And it was a pleasure talking to you today, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:46] All right. Well, I appreciate you. You’re doing important work and we appreciate what you’re doing.
Jason Russell: [00:17:52] Thank you so much.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:53] All right. Does Lee Kantor wussy? Next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
Intro: [00:18:01] Today’s episode of Atlanta Business Radio is brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll in HR software anywhere. Get one month free at onpay.com.
About Our Sponsor
OnPay’s payroll services and HR software give you more time to focus on what’s most important. Rated “Excellent” by PC Magazine, we make it easy to pay employees fast, we automate all payroll taxes, and we even keep all your HR and benefits organized and compliant.
Our award-winning customer service includes an accuracy guarantee, deep integrations with popular accounting software, and we’ll even enter all your employee information for you — whether you have five employees or 500. Take a closer look to see all the ways we can save you time and money in the back office.