“Ideas are a dime a dozen; it’s all about the execution” — as a young founder, I was very precious about my ideas, worrying someone would steal them. After some wise words from a few investors and seasoned CEOs, I learned that ideas are easy to come by. The real test comes in the execution, and that’s way way way harder to get right.
As part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cooper Harris.
Cooper Harris is a technologist and the founder and CEO of Klickly, an A.I. impulse-payments platform. Emerging as a pivotal figure in the women’s tech scene, Cooper is the recent winner of Information Age’s “Innovator of the Year,” has been nominated for Google’s “Young Innovator” award and L’Oreal’s “Digital Woman of the Year” award. She was also amongst the youngest named by Adobe as a “Top Data-driven Thought-Leader” at Cannes Lions, alongside execs at JP Morgan and Burger King.
Cooper is a favorite speaker at international summits including CES, Cannes Lions, Shoptalk, SXSW, Sundance, Los Angeles TechWeek, London Tech Conference, and more, speaking on advances in eComm / Retail Tech / FinTech, fostering women in STEM, and disrupting the status quo using technology/innovation.https://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/media.html?src=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fembed%2Fz4DBteQhvIE%3Ffeature%3Doembed&display_name=YouTube&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dz4DBteQhvIE&image=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2Fz4DBteQhvIE%2Fhqdefault.jpg&key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&type=text%2Fhtml&schema=youtube
Thank you so much for doing this with us Cooper! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
People often ask, “How does a working TV actor become a tech CEO?” Admittedly, my background is somewhat atypical. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to necessarily be an entrepreneur. My original goal was to become an actor. I went to one of the top two boarding schools in the nation for acting — then to one of the top programs in college. After graduating, I was lucky to get a top agent in New York and land on a TV show.
After some time as a successfully working actor in New York and Los Angeles, acting began to lose some of its appeal. My dad, a serial entrepreneur, and my brother, a computer engineer, had inspired a love of technology early on. And seeing my dad successfully start companies made me excited to do the same. The gap between building and owning your own “thing” versus speaking lines on camera was growing wider and wider.
While filming a movie for Paramount Pictures, I began sneaking off to — and competing in — a number of Hackathons. Eventually, I got obsessed with tech and even started learning to code. I eventually left a TV show in favor of pursuing technology.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Though we recently won Information Age’s Innovator of the Year award, I didn’t start Klickly with the sole purpose of being disruptive … I just wanted to increase efficiency in online purchasing.
After one of the hackathons, I was hanging out with my engineers reading an article on my phone. As I was reading, I came across an ad with a cute pair of shoes that I happened to want to purchase. But when I tried to buy the shoes, the friction to actually complete the purchase was so annoying and — like many other people — I abandoned the cart.
Turns out, I wasn’t alone — that dropoff resulted in nearly $5 trillion left in shopping carts last year.
So we started Klickly to streamline the current customer journey by creating “distributed commerce.”
Currently, thousands of fast-growing DTC brands use Klickly to promote and sell products online. When they do so, Klickly uses what we call “commerce-enabled” marketing messages. These Commerce Modules™ act like millions of miniature “digital kiosks” on millions of sites — consumers can then explore product details, colors, sizes, etc., and purchase directly in the ad, content, game, app, browser, etc. This effectively shortens the sales funnel and increases conversion rates for our brands.
And where we get really disruptive is allowing brands to only pay when we enable sales. And what’s more, we give them the ability to select their own commission (locking in their ROAS).
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I come from a family of dedicated innovators: my grandmother was among the first female computer programmers in the US.
She was recruited at age 17 during WWII to join the Signal Intelligence Corps. She was selected from the 20 women then attending NC State University where she was studying radio engineering. Once in DC, my grandmother was put on a top-secret mission to help break the German code. She was taught to manipulate electrical cables which made up the multi-room-large crude computer the government then used.
Growing up hearing that story, I couldn’t help but be inspired. Add to that, my father, who was a serial entrepreneur in renewables and recycling, and my brother who’s a computer genius — that’s where I get a lot of my entrepreneurial drive. It was instilled upon me from an early age.
Gradually, with my work in Hackathons, I eventually worked with some notable folks like Adrian Grenier, Fabian Cousteau and even the rapper, Wakka Flakka, to create a number of social impact apps. And that was also inspirational.
Klickly was just the natural emergence from there.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- “You can’t boil the ocean” — Find something that sticks and then once you’ve found it you can go all in because the truth is too many people are trying to boil the ocean all at the same time and that’s not going to work. So if you can focus on one thing that matters at a time, you’ll be much better at developing a product that is effective and that works.
- “Ideas are a dime a dozen; it’s all about the execution” — as a young founder, I was very precious about my ideas, worrying someone would steal them. After some wise words from a few investors and seasoned CEOs, I learned that ideas are easy to come by. The real test comes in the execution, and that’s way way way harder to get right.
- “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” Henry David Thoreau is one of my all-time favorite thinkers. He and his contemporaries have a lot to teach about our all-too-often “too-busy”, tech-driven society. If we don’t love what we’re doing in work, then what’s the point!
How are you going to shake things up next?
We’re launching a very cool new beta program shortly, within Klickly. It’s testing our ability to put user-acquisition on steroids!
It’s an invite-only beta program and we already have over 40+ brands signed on.
I don’t want to give away too much, but for any brand that wants to get aggressive and pour fuel on their customer-acquisition, I would definitely encourage them to apply to this program.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Last year, I spent a lot of time digging into poverty and its effects. According to Rutger Bregman’s TED talk, being poor decreases your IQ by 14 points. How crazy is that?! That’s essentially like taking you from a nice “superior intelligence” range to almost the bottom of the “normal” range. Or, taking you from “average” range down to what the Stanford-Binet scale calls “Borderline impaired or delayed.”
People are not poor because they’re less intelligent. Rather they’re less intelligent due to poverty.
This fascinating line of thinking led me to start reading up on nutrition. If being in “fight or flight” mode affected intelligence, surely what we feed ourselves would also have an impact, right? There is so much research out there about how certain foods create an overabundance of cortisol and adrenaline, the EXACT same hormones produced in the “fight or flight” scenarios mentioned above.
This awareness made me super interested in “food parity” and food justice. If intelligence and generally “good performance” were linked to certain food categories and to the avoidance of others, did it, therefore, follow that certain groups with (1) the knowledge of and (2) access to these food groups would have an innate advantage?
The answer is yes. Food justice is a hot topic now, thanks to growing scrutiny of the various forms of inequality in our country. And — with the increasing understanding of human microbiomes’ potential effect on numerous diseases from depression to the leaky gut to schizophrenia — it’s becoming an issue worth digging into.
If limiting overloads of cortisol and adrenaline mean a healthier population (and a potential population-wide increase of 14 IQ points) … what would it mean? More innovation, better decision-making, less crime, and less strain on our welfare and healthcare systems. It would save us a lot of money (it costs a lot to have an unhealthy population).
With all this new data, I had an idea for what I call “guaranteed basic nutrition”. People in this country tend to react very strongly for, or against, the idea that we should ensure a basic level of, well, almost anything. Basic healthcare, basic living wage, etc. are not always popular.
But after some research, it does stand out as a very interesting — and not altogether implausible — idea. That if every person had access to basic nutrition (the building blocks of a healthier body), it would even the playing field AND raise a literally healthier society … I really have no idea how you’d go about it, but the research and science backing it up is truly inspiring.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it” — I’ve always loved Goethe. And his quote has become a great truth in my life.
By some luck and much grace, I’ve already had the 2 dream careers I wanted! (And in a very short span of time.) I have to believe a good part is due to my simply taking bold steps forward. Without those steps, I would not have considered starting my own company.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me on
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!