Triangle native Cooper Harris was buying shoes on her phone when she got the inspiration for her startup, Klickly. Frustrated by the hassle of other ecommerce sites, which she said take too much time in “an age of instant gratification,” Harris founded the SaaS platform in 2018.
While Klickly is based in Santa Monica, California, it has opened a new office right outside Durham to serve as its East Coast headquarters.
Klickly uses AI to show people products that would interest them. The startup uses data to predict who will buy a product and when, and allows in-ad purchases so people can buy products directly without needing to be shuttled to a brand’s website.
“Klickly is a B2B platform,” Harris said. “We serve the most trailblazing, innovative brands in the U.S.”
Klickly represents about 2,000 American brands that are trying to build an ecommerce presence, including snack-maker Utz. The newish company also has a growing presence in Europe.
Harris grew up in Hillsborough and trained to be an actress at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She had several roles on television shows, including Young and the Restless and As the World Turns. She eventually realized there was a “shelf life” for women in entertainment and became determined to change career paths.
That path is now winding back to her North Carolina roots. Although Harris was originally thinking of opening the new East Coast HQ in New York or Florida, she said North Carolina was the perfect place to acquire new talent—and conveniently located in the middle of the two states.
She described the Triangle as the “next Austin” because of the many business and tech opportunities in the area.
Harris learned how to code during hackathons—coding competitions taking place over the span of one to two days.
“While I was on the Young and the Restless I basically started sneaking off to hackathons,” she said.
Harris said she helped found a hackathon taking place at Sundance, which featured celebs like actor Adrian Grenier of Entourage fame.
“We brought some celebrities to Sundance and combined their vision with teams of very talented engineers,” she said.
Klickly is an invite-only platform; the application only takes a few minutes. Once a business is accepted they can choose which products are promoted online, and Klickly’s approximately 25 million online widgets (games/apps/sites/etc.) advertise the brand’s merchandise to certain consumers.
Sometimes fake bots can click on a website, giving brands a false sense of success.
“The thing about bots is they don’t have credit cards,” Harris said, “and they don’t actually make purchases.”
Klickly’s business model is purely commission-based, so the startup only makes money if it helps drive a sale. This prevents brands from paying Klickly for bot clicks, which protects the businesses using Klickly and is a big reason why it is so “brand-friendly,” says Harris.
Harris said that “ecommerce behemoths” like Amazon sometimes copy and rip off products from a smaller brand. She created Klickly to help young “challenger brands” create more revenue for themselves.
Klickly is VC-backed and has raised three rounds of funding. (Harris declined to say how much the startup has raised in total.) She said that many key figures in the data and ecommerce space have invested in her company as individuals, such as the head of innovation and partnerships for Google, the CTO of Stripe, the former general manager of Amazon Pay, the founding team of Warby Parker, among many others.
The startup is beta-testing a new version of its app. Like many tech companies these days, AI is a driving force behind its innovations. Harris said that she loves chatting with others about the future of AI.
“Everything our platform does is only made possible because of AI,” Harris said.
Klickly already has nearly 20 employees working in its Triangle office, and is hoping to ramp up those numbers soon.