Originally from the United Kingdom, Christopher Kelly has spent over a decade in the international investment banking sector, working with Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse in London and Switzerland specialising in structured derivatives. After leaving investment banking, Kelly advised on several commodities projects in West Africa in partnership with SNC-Lavalin, as well as working with Mid-Atlantic Energy Services to raise capital for a substantial international oil and gas construction project in the Caribbean. Currently chief financial officer of droppTV based in New York, Kelly oversees the corporate finance strategy for the company including the successful closure of the company’s Series A round in 2020 and the launch of the 2021 Series B financing round.
Where did the idea for droppTV come from?
As much as I wish I could say I came up with the idea for droppTV, it’s our chief executive officer Gurps Rai who is the eternal creative. He’s a big fan of fashion and the streetwear scene, and it was his idea to bring together culture and commerce by creating the world’s first shoppable streaming platform. He spent hours one day searching for a jacket he saw in a music video, and was frustrated that it was so difficult to identify, and that was what originally sparked the idea to create a streaming service that allowed you to purchase items by clicking on them within a video. The rest you could say is history, he put together a team and I was brought in to help finance the project.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a thirteen month old boy, so the day begins early. In between feeding and clothing him I try to read the Financial Times and catch up on any overnight news via social media, then reply to any urgent emails or messages. After dropping my son off at daycare I would ordinarily make my way to either the office or the production facility in Brooklyn, but during this coronavirus pandemic it’s back to the home office where I will jump on one of the various team calls to listen in and take a temperature check of that team. Then at around 10:30AM we hold our corporate finance team call where we work through any relevant tasks from balance sheet updates to modeling tweaks. We tend to keep an eye on both public and private markets, as well as any comparable companies or industry-relevant data that may affect droppTV. The rest of my day is usually dedicated to the takeaways from various calls, supporting any new business initiatives as well as the more mundane work of payments and legal work. I try to keep things efficient by making sure calls last no longer than 30 to 45 minutes and avoid having more than six people on a call at one time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We typically employ a loosely-based Socratic “posit and defend” method amongst the executive team, meaning that any idea will be considered if it stands up to scrutiny. The Socratic method was derived from the Greek philosopher, Socrates. In order to delve into his students’ view, he would ask them questions until any contradictions were exposed. Socrates also used this method of questioning to encourage people to question the things they were told and to look beyond the obvious. I encourage active participation from everybody on the team, and welcome any “crazy idea” that may be brought forward as a solution so long as it can be properly defended. In this way, we are able to not only get the most innovative ideas from the team, but also the strongest.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The idea of social commerce – I think it represents the next great wave for commerce and advertising. Social commerce is the ability to make a product purchase from a third-party company within the native social media experience, such as when you tap a product and purchase in a music video on droppTV instead of being taken to a different website to complete the order. Once social commerce begins to take hold in the Western world, it will render the existing commerce pathways obsolete by contracting the steps between a spark of interest and a call to action. Although already gaining traction in the East, I believe that we at droppTV are on the forefront of this in the Western hemisphere with our frictionless, one-tap in-content purchasing method of ecommerce.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
To put it simply I search for the silver lining. I’ve learned over many negative experiences to always seek to take away the positives from any situation. There is always at least one, and it’s important to find that in order to repurpose it toward a positive outcome. Shifting your perspective to look at obstacles and challenges as opportunities allows you to develop new qualities and improve your character, and in business this can mean the difference between failure and success. Failure is an inevitable part of life, it’s what you take from it that sets you apart from the rest.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Honestly, I would just say to enjoy yourself – it’s later than you think it is! I know “living in the moment” is such a cliche, but it’s something I’ve been working on practicing and wish I would have started earlier. When I was younger, I think I was often so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that I forgot to experience – let alone enjoy – what was happening in the moment. Since having my son and watching him grow, I’ve really been working on staying present and savoring every moment I have.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Okay, so this isn’t business related, but it’s something I’m unshakable on: Wham! is the greatest pop band in history!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
It may be a cliché, but one’s ability to keep getting back up after the inevitable fall is really the only repeatable action that one can control in life. I could say something like waking up early every morning or practicing active listening, but within my career and in life I have found that the thing that separates those who have success and those who don’t is the ability to get back on the horse every single time.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We have always deliberately retained as small an overhead as possible, as we’ve always believed in leveraging technology as opposed to offices and staff. That may have meant that at some points we have all had to wear many hats, but your goal as a business owner should be to keep your overhead costs as low as possible. A small overhead means that a high percentage of your free capital can go directly toward your product, giving you a competitive edge over your competitors while also improving your bottom line which makes you more attractive to potential investors.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Impatience. In fact, I’m still impatient…can we hurry this up?
All jokes aside, impatience is definitely a trait in myself that I am still working on to this day. It also ties back to the lessons I previously talked about on living in the moment and searching for a silver lining. Impatience can bring about a negative attitude, but a positive attitude can make it much easier to simply enjoy your day-to-day life. The stress and anxiety that arise when you’re impatient can make you feel exhausted, and also often leads to rash decisions. I know that impatience has been the root cause of many of my struggles, and I am actively working to develop more patience in my life.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would love to be an ideas man, but the fact of the matter is while I have an admittedly something of a mind for business, I’ve never had a moment where I’ve sought to come up with my own ideas. Instead, I like helping to make others’ vision a reality, like for Gurps Rai who seems to be full of nothing but ideas!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
On a Covid-19 test. We’ve all got to do our part, and I’m happy to spend money on ensuring I’m not spreading the virus, for obvious reasons.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The app PDF Expert is a godsend. I use my iPad frequently on the road, and the ability to mark up, annotate, and edit documents in and out of PDF is a real help when traveling. I’m a big note taker, and being able to quickly read and take notes directly on a PDF rather than having to print it out or write on a separate sheet of paper is not only a huge time saver, but also a great way to keep my thoughts organized.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Okay, I have two books, one for business and one for pleasure. For business, I recommend Measure What Matters by John Doerr. It’s the bible for organized ramping and scaling of a workforce. For pleasure, I recommend Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s totally enthralling, it’s one of the few books I’ve found that reads like an action movie and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
What is your favorite quote?
“Defeat is never fatal. Victory is never final. It’s courage that counts.” – Winston Churchill
I hate to be the Englishman that answers this question with a Churchill quote, but I have to say in the early stages of a business or company it’s almost always true!
To get the best ideas and solutions from your team, challenge them and continually ask questions.
Live in the moment, search for the silver lining, and work on developing your patience.
Those who succeed in business are the ones who never give up.