Our first Q&A is with Cooper Harris, CEO of Klickly. Cooper was one of the first women to win the Los Angeles AT&T Hackathon, and her award-winning startup is attracting a variety of clients, from celebrities and politicians to influencer agencies and entertainment entities. Learn more about Cooper’s non-traditional entrance into the tech world, her unique software platform, and the company’s highly qualified staff, who make it all possible.
You weren’t always in the advertising business. Can you tell us a bit about your other careers?
Cooper Harris, Klickly: My dad was a serial entrepreneur and my brother is a tech developer. So, I’ve grown up with technology, but I was just enthralled with the idea of being an actor, since I was very young. I considered myself very lucky when, upon graduating from a prestigious performing arts conservatory, I got the best agent in New York and was on a TV show! So, it was journey that was really exciting and really fulfilling…until it wasn’t.
So, what was next for you?
Cooper Harris, Klickly: During my first couple of years as a full-time professional actor, I started my first company because I was bored. I was not fulfilled, I was not stimulated. So I started a digital media tech company.
I was really busy at the time, but I got bored again, so I started taking weekends off to do hackathons. I realize that it may seem like strange choice, but because of my dad and my brother, it felt very normal to me….and I was hooked. I taught myself basic coding, and it was enough to win the hackathons and attract some really great talent to work with me. And that really was my entrée into tech. I continued starting companies for other people, but soon realized I should probably do one of my own. So I started building my own tech company.
I may be the only person who’s gone from acting to tech, but it’s really been everything I’ve wanted and more.
How did you come up with such a unique idea? Did you have an “ah-ha” moment?
Cooper Harris, Klickly: Coming from the “hackathon mindset,” I was thinking about how to solve problems, and how to solve them quickly…plus I understand systems architecture, so, to me, every problem became a problem that can be solved with technology.
At one point, I was on my phone I saw this ad for a pair of shoes. So I said, “I should click on this,” and, of course, I was redirected to a landing page and I said, “Where’d my shoes go?” Mobile optimization is still an issue for some companies, so I’m on my phone trying to figure out where this item was, and it was so difficult. And finally I found it, but had to navigate through all these pages to fill out my email address, my name, my credit card info, and all that while on my phone. And I think I was driving!
Basically, the one off chance that I ran across an ad for a product I actually did want to buy, it was too difficult. And in the end, I never did end up buying those shoes. Being a really technical person, I was thinking, “This is super redundant,” we have all this info somewhere in the digital ecosystem. From there, we had the idea to put a buy button in an ad. And then we took a look at the digital ecosystem and added email and social into the equation.
So to put it simply, I turn on my computer, and I see an ad served by Smart AdServer. Klickly client is the advertiser, and Klickly has made it possible for me, the customer, to click on the ad, and immediately buy the product. And all that without me having to fill out too much personal information.
Cooper Harris, Klickly: Exactly, and without ever leaving the page, which is particularly helpful for mobile. So, you can be on your phone, you can click on the ad and buy the product in the mobile window (or in that ad), as opposed to having to navigate somewhere else. You keep reading the content you want to read and buy what you want to buy.
Tell us about the recent recognition you received as a top startup at Tech.co’s Innovate! Celebrate. What kinds of companies were in the running, and why do you think you were chosen as a finalist?
Cooper Harris, Klickly: We were one of the fifty companies nominated, so we went to San Francisco for the event. After presenting, five companies ended up being finalists. We were one of them! And we ended up winning the “Consumer Technology Association (CTA)” 2016 Startup Award. I don’t know who nominated us, but I can tell you that all the finalists were really pushing the envelope, we were all disruptive companies.
The ad tech ecosystem is a complicated one. We have publishers, agencies, advertisers, measurement tech, trading desks, ad exchanges, ad networks, ad servers, SSPs, DSPs, DMPs, and the list goes on…Where would you place Klickly’s software solution in the landscape?
Cooper Harris, Klickly: We think of ourselves as almost a commerce solution that works everywhere. There is an element that’s ad tech, because it’s tech and an ad. But the unique thing about Klickly is that you don’t actually have to integrate any custom code anywhere. So, it’s the first tech of its kind where you don’t have to go to tons and tons of publishers and ask them to custom-code Klickly into their websites; our functionality is handled in a totally integration-free way.
That allows us to work with really cool companies like Smart, so that the commerce-enabled ads can be served through your platform. And we work programmatically or directly with the advertising ecosystem. So, we don’t consider ourselves an ad tech platform, but we definitely work in the ad tech ecosystem.
What Smart AdServer products are you using and why did you choose us?
Cooper Harris, Klickly: Well, we’re currently using your ad server and just started using your SSP, too. There are a couple of reasons we started using Smart. We met Corey and Romain in Cannes, and that’s actually how we found out about you. We were really amazed, and the fact that you have both an ad server and an SSP is great. We needed someone who could work with us on both. There are definitely some companies that are more accommodating to unique, new technology, I feel like you guys are one of them.
Klickly’s been around for about a year and a half, and it seems like you’re growing extremely fast. How many people are on your Team?
We’re a ten-person team. We’re engineering-heavy. We have an operations, ad ops and product team, too.
But how do you get it all done with just ten people?
Cooper Harris, Klickly: Well, I’ve been able to amass a pretty senior team of insane engineers, with PhDs and Masters degrees in their respective fields. They’re incredibly talented and well qualified.
As we approach 2017, there will be a lot of talk about the “2017 digital advertising trends.” What direction do you think the industry is moving in?
In terms of tech, everything AI is really hot…there’s also a huge surge in everything chat-related, chatbots are all the rage. And it’s actually interesting and fun because we have an element — a quickly redirected buy — from a chat-enabled ad, which is really cool. So we’re definitely conscious of the trends and definitely trying to move with them. VR, of course, will continue to grow, but while it’s very much what we hear and see every day because we’re in the industry, is not going to be widely applicable for a little while yet. And, obviously, in the ad ecosystem, video is just growing so hugely. And since you guys have a new focus there on video, it jives nicely with our upcoming projects as well.