The Future Is Now: Christopher Kelly Of DroppTV On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I would say it’s important for people to maintain interests outside of work. People don’t realize how critical this is, and it’s something I wish I was able to do when I started my career at Goldman Sachs. Although it was an unbelievably great opportunity and experience, working there was tough — and it drove me to an all-consuming mindset that was not sustainable. When work is your whole world, you lose sight of what’s happening around you, making it difficult to maintain the very interests that might spark career growth down the line.

As a part of our series on cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Kelly.

Christopher Kelly is the President of DroppTV, Inc. — the Web 3 enabler and “shopatainment” solutions leader based out of New York, NY. A skilled corporate finance strategist and seasoned growth specialist, Chris has many years of experience in the international finance and investment banking arena, having helped secure and structure financing for a variety of companies, countries, and organizations across the globe. In his current role as President, Chris led DroppTV’s successful $15MM Series A and have overseen the launch of its $75MM Series B funding rounds, signaling the company’s proven potential to seamlessly onboard the next billion brands and businesses into the Web 3 era.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path.

My journey to the world of tech was quite circuitous. I started in finance with a background grounded in investment banking. During this time in my career, I specialized in the field of commodity derivatives and worked on projects for a variety of companies, countries, and organizations. Bizarrely, this allowed me to start working with people in the Middle East, which would later have a huge impact on my career trajectory.

As I worked in the Middle Eastern market, I learned how underserved it was, specifically when it came to venture capital opportunities for investing in technology. Startups often complain about not being able to raise enough money, but when I was working with entities like Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), they would complain about the opposite. For the most part, U.S.-based tech investment opportunities would always come to them last. I was able to do my part to bridge this gap by helping them find lucrative, early-stage startup opportunities that were usually only available to Silicon Valley investors.

This was a pivotal turning point for me. I went from a relatively vanilla career in finance to helping introduce American early-stage tech opportunities to Middle Eastern money, which ultimately led me to Dropp Group (“dropp”). Similar to how overseas investment markets were behind the curve with respect to U.S. tech opportunities, American consumers were also slow to embrace and adopt new tech. While social commerce was growing considerably in eastern countries like China, the West was not catching on quite yet.

When I met dropp’s co-founder, Gurps Rai, he shared his vision to lead the charge in “shopatainment” — which would merge retail shopping with entertainment here in the U.S. I knew that my experience in corporate finance strategy could help make it a reality. Since we’ve joined forces, we’ve successfully completed a $15M Series A round of financing, with our $75M Series B round on the way soon.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are so many moments that stand out, but there’s one particular memory that always makes me chuckle when I think about it. Last year, I had the privilege of speaking on the main stage of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. FII is essentially known as the “DAVOS of the Desert.” I was asked to speak on stage with a microphone in my hand and just as I was to go up, they took my microphone and switched it for a headset. As I walked onto the stage, I remember feeling like Madonna on the front cover of Vogue. For the entire presentation, I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was supposed to say because I just kept thinking, “Do I look like Madonna right now?”

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Our shopatainment technology remains at the cutting edge of content-driven ecommerce. Our object recognition and frame-by-frame analysis tool recognizes the products in moving content (whether it’s a video or social media content) and tags them accordingly in real-time. As a result, the technology enables people to select almost any item they see on movies, shows, or social media channels and allows them to purchase that item right then and there. It is truly revolutionary.

However, as a company, we are not only about revolution, but also evolution and continuous innovation. As such, we’ve been striving to enhance the consumer experience through content that is not only shoppable but also more community-driven and utility-based.

One example of this is our recently announced “Total Access NFT” project series — a music production experience done in partnership with famous musicians, where audiences that purchase the project’s NFT tickets can also become accredited executive producers of the final musical release (and even gain a percentage of the music’s royalties). It certainly takes the concept of the NFT to the next level. Until now, if you bought an NFT collectible from an artist, there was hardly anything else that you could do with it except resell it. We are changing the game by giving NFTs a more crucial role in making the consumer experience truly immersive and participatory. Our “Total Access NFT” projects signal the next step: allowing the creativity of content consumers to shape the very direction of that same content.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks of this technology that people should think more deeply about?

On the contrary, I would say that the transition from web2 to web3 actually signals an opportunity to put the control of data and technology back into the hands of the individual. A lot of what web3 is about is the disintermediation of the major platforms — that is, the ones that currently collect and control data flow. Sometimes, even our clients are held hostage by the distribution channels they work with when it comes to their ability to utilize first-party data in a timely manner. We are working toward a future where people are empowered by the value of their information and can ultimately get paid for it, while controlling and expanding the extent of their participation within any platform or technology.

I think many fear factors involving new technologies stem from what happened in the last technology cycle, where we essentially saw the abuse of the individual. Web3 returns that control back to the online user.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Dropp’s origin story is truly compelling because it highlights how our founding team finally solved a long-standing real-world problem in media and ecommerce. For a long time, industry leaders wondered if we could get to the point where someone could interact in an ecommerce fashion with digital content — that is, to see an item of interest floating on the screen and be able to buy it without ever leaving the video or platform they were watching it on. We found out that for at least 25 years, many companies tried to build this “see it, want it, buy it” experience without much success.

The problem was that the technology (or technology stack) did not exist to support that kind of consumer journey, and the landscape did not allow for that kind of technology to flourish. We knew that some serious monetary investment and effort would be needed to bring it to life.

The tipping point came when we realized that there was no one else attempting to make this vision a reality anymore. We decided that we would be the first to solve this problem. After putting in millions of dollars into research and development, we not only turned this dream into a reality, but along the way, we discovered other innovations that are now implemented within our company’s offerings — from our digital twin augmented reality technology, our “NFT Total Access” series, or any of our other web3-powered solutions.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Widespread adoption happens cyclically once you get what we call “tentpole” clients and consumers to use the tech. For every technology or platform that takes off — whether it’s an Apple product or the next big thing in a social media cycle — you always have early adopters. The current on-ramping from web2 to web3 represents yet another huge shift in technology. As a trailblazer in this transition phase, it’s our mission to drive and help marquee names get onboard. In turn, these blue-chip companies can lead the way for smaller companies to make the transition.

Getting these companies and other major influencers to use our technology also means that their communities will follow, which is what we are aiming for. We genuinely believe in our value proposition: which is to give them control over their data. I think they’ll be able to organically see the real-world value of this offering. Imagine no longer experiencing the continuous roll of ads that results from companies trying to monetize your data without your consent. That is the future we are striving to create.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We are the only tech company in the world that has cracked the code of being able to create unlimited moments of interaction between users and content. We feel the best way to market our company and product suite is by allowing users to experience it all firsthand. We want to build consumer confidence and excitement in our products organically. So, we are excited to share a lot of the cool stuff we have been developing with them — and we are planning to soon roll out some experiential advertisements on social media platforms.

In the past, we have worked with movie studios to enable movie-goers to virtually walk through and immerse themselves in the setting of the movie scene they are currently watching (e.g., an ice cream shop). In a similar way, through interactive Reels, users will be able to explore how the content can be experienced in multiple directions. It will really depend on which screen elements they choose to interact with. We are happy to put our technology out there so they can explore and develop an interest for the rest of what we offer.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?’

Throughout our careers, Gurps and I have always strived to elevate those around us. As venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, we see this as the primary way to truly promote progress and innovation at both the individual and societal level. That’s why we’ve brought on tens, if not hundreds, of young, particularly underprivileged kids to join our teams. By providing that initial opportunity, we have seen them grow and become young executives at different companies throughout our system, ranging from investment banks to jewelry companies.

We’ve also embraced more traditional charity work. For example, we’ve hosted turkey drives in Brooklyn during Thanksgiving. We’ve built facilities in the Caribbean. Perhaps the most thrilling work we’ve done in this realm was when we helped build a boxing gym for the local underprivileged youth in the Cayman Islands. We even helped put together an exhibition fight to promote the project and help bring money to the island. We are proud to say that we’ve done a lot of good in this area, and we’re excited about how our work can help bring about more positive change in the future.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

One of the lessons I learned late in life was the importance of networking. Networking is a skill set that every executive needs to develop and hone over time. But unfortunately, networking as an activity did not come naturally to me. What’s more, my career started in an era where there was a level of protectionism around one’s network. I remember when LinkedIn first arrived, I did not understand why anyone would put their entire network on a public platform, allowing everybody to see who they knew. But, of course, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I eventually realized that LinkedIn doesn’t inhibit one’s ability to network, it enhances it. So, the lesson that your “network is net worth” is something I wish someone would have driven home for me earlier. I would have definitely paid more attention to it from the start.

Secondly, I would urge people to cultivate their critical thinking. We try to teach our son as early as possible about the importance of critical thinking, because it’s easy to go through school, even all the way to university level, and blindly regurgitate the things you’ve learned and been told. We are moving into an era where everyone must think for themselves and be able to form their own ideas. There’s a growing trend of homogeneity in the messages we are receiving from various sources daily. You must develop a strong ability to critically analyze the information you consume and not just take everything you hear or read at face value.

Finally, I would say it’s important for people to maintain interests outside of work. People don’t realize how critical this is, and it’s something I wish I was able to do when I started my career at Goldman Sachs. Although it was an unbelievably great opportunity and experience, working there was tough — and it drove me to an all-consuming mindset that was not sustainable. When work is your whole world, you lose sight of what’s happening around you, making it difficult to maintain the very interests that might spark career growth down the line.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think of the quote by Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Although it can be cheesy to include a Churchill quote, I find this notion truly applies to the venture capital space, and to entrepreneurship overall. My team and I live by that quote every day. The ability to keep going is probably the most valuable attribute of being an entrepreneur.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

The Future Is Now: Christopher Kelly Of DroppTV On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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