From Structured Derivatives to Shopatainment: Christopher Kelly’s Unlikely Career Path to droppTV

During his decade-long tenure working in international investment banking, Christopher Kelly worked for some of the biggest names in the sector. From Goldman Sachs in London to Credit Suisse in Switzerland, Kelly traveled the globe for his work specializing in structured derivatives, making a name for himself amongst the well-established and institutional companies of the sector. It was a far cry to say the least from where his career has led him to today: co-founder and chief financial officer of the tech startup droppTV. As the world’s first shoppable streaming platform, dropp is capitalizing on the future of information technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning while paving the way to revolutionize retail, and below we explore how Christopher Kelly has made this unlikely transition. 

Originally from the United Kingdom, Kelly went on to advise on several commodities projects in West Africa in partnership with SNC-Lavalin. He also worked with Mid-Atlantic Energy Services to raise capital for a substantial international oil and gas construction project in the Caribbean, gaining him experience in helping private companies garner funds for growth. He went on to continue building his professional portfolio across various sectors, working with companies such as Ax Trading, Melody App, Trufflez Cannabis, Hub Culture, The Proof of Trust and More Ventures Bermuda. Kelly’s broad range of experience made him an ideal corporate finance advisor for droppTV co-founder Gurps Rai and he has been with the company since its conception in 2018, overseeing its corporate financial strategy. Thanks to Kelly, droppTV was able to raise over $15 million in its series A funding round and in November of 2021 it launched its $75 million series B round of funding with a $300 million pre money valuation.. 

droppTV is a shopatainment operating system and platform, using artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision algorithms to recognize products in video content and tag them in real time. Through its proprietary technology, consumers are able to purchase items within a video in a single click without pausing or disrupting their view, creating a truly immersive experience that encourages engagement while preventing the feeling of being “sold to” from arising. With all transactions happening within the filmic flow of the content itself rather than occurring in the form of overlays, ads and pre-roll or redirects, consumers can enjoy a frictionless marketplace and user journey, creators have a better model for monetization of their content, and brands can obtain granular attribution data. 

According to Kelly the power to purchase while being entertained is a game-changing one, and indeed this has given way to an entirely new concept called shopatainment. As shoppers increasingly look to retail as a form of entertainment, they inevitably will be most willing to support the brands that are able to provide them with the most unique experiences. As streaming capabilities have improved drastically over the past few years, video has begun to overtake still images as the preferred mode of consuming content as evidenced by the meteoric rise of TikTok, making it the ideal medium for shoppable entertainment. Ecommerce websites have traditionally been created with utility in mind, and as the internet has become more and more saturated brands can no longer expect to build a fan base simply by choosing the most pleasing color palette. In order to separate themselves from the plethora of other options they must provide their customers with an amazing experience that draws them back time and time again. Through dropp, consuming content and shopping can coexist without one detracting from the other.

Kelly has developed a reputation in his career for his ability to bring ideas to life. He has been known to use the Socratic method of “posit and defend” amongst his teams, welcoming any “crazy” idea so long as it stands up to scrutiny and can be properly defended. At droppTV, Kelly encourages the executive team to actively participate in every discussion, asking them to question the things they have been told as well as their beliefs and to look beyond the obvious when it comes to developing solutions. By remaining inquisitive, Kelly is able to ensure that any proposal made is free from contradictions while also exemplifying what he expects of those within the company. Although dropp has quadrupled its staff over the past year, Kelly has also deliberately made sure that the company has retained as small an overhead as possible. When it comes down to it, the choice has been to leverage technology over offices and staff, and while that has meant that those working for the startup must often take on multiple roles it has ultimately led to a stronger business as a result. By aiming a higher percentage of expenses directly toward the platform itself, Kelly has ensured that droppTV maintains a steady competitive edge over the competition in addition to improving the company’s bottom line and ensuring it remains attractive to investors. 

One of the reasons Kelly joined droppTV was because of his excitement for the growing trend of social commerce. He has said that he believes the convergence of ecommerce and social media represents the next great wave for commerce and advertising, such as the ability to tap a product and purchase it within a music video instead of being directed to a different website to complete the order. The native social media experience of dropp allows consumers to bypass the existing commerce pathways, contracting the steps between a spark of interest and a call to action. What has already become a multi-million dollar industry in eastern countries such as China is still a somewhat novel concept in more western parts of the world such as the United States, but for Kelly this just means that droppTV, with its home base in New York City, can be on the forefront of the emerging trend. 

Throughout Kelly’s career, he has made a habit of searching for the silver lining in every situation. Whether it be a project for a multinational corporation or managing the finances of a startup, he has said that anything can have a positive outcome so long as you figure out what you have learned from it. Failure is an inevitability in life, and according to Kelly accepting that and deciding to instead learn from it has made him much more productive. For him, the ability to keep getting back up after falling is the only repeatable action that one can control in life, and he credits that mentality to be what has separated those who have success and those who don’t. 

Although his career has spanned many different sectors and fields, shifting from the institutional world of investment finance to the tenuous one of a tech startup, the common thread through each position Christopher Kelly has taken has been calculated risk. By approaching each role with an open mind and level head, Kelly has made a name for himself as both a forward thinker and trusted advisor, measuring what matters while remaining flexible to how results are achieved. As droppTV looks to enter a new year with its series B funding round well underway, thanks to Kelly it stands well-positioned for even more explosive growth in the future. 

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