If Klixel8 proves popular, expect to see more things popping up on your computer screen. The Portland-based company has a system to take images and turn them into portals to Web sales. Suppose L.L. Bean posts a camping photo on Pinterest. With Klixel8, hover your mouse over virtually every item in the photo, from the tent, to the sleeping bag and even the belt worn by one of the campers, and up will pop up information on the product, such as price, sizes and a link to a page where it can be bought. And click on it with your computer or touch a smartphone screen and you will jump immediately to the Bean website page where the item is sold – not just the home page for the retailer that most clicks bring. The company was founded nearly four years ago by Steve Jordan and David Hinson. The company is in its beta testing phase and has no revenue yet. Jordan, a native of Freeport with a background in electrical engineering, is the chief executive officer of the firm and recently spoke about the company.
Q. Why have you been working on this for nearly four years and are just now meeting with potential customers?
A. We remained under the radar because we had a good idea of what we had, and were afraid somebody else with big dollars would jump onboard and walk away with the prize. We secured our U.S. patents in 2012, and just now we are talking to customers for the first time.
Q: What’s the philosophy behind Klixel8?
A: The world of the visual Web has changed and our technology takes a whole new approach to making digital images interactive. You can take a photograph and make it interactive so that when you run a mouse over part of the image, something happens: Information can appear in a pop-up window and you can link that information to whatever you want. You can link to a pair of boots in a picture of a family camping by a lake and, if you click on them, it will take you straight to L.L. Bean and you can buy them. I can make one pixel on a computer screen interactive to a mouse hover or a click. It allows you to utilize that small smartphone screen on a very minute level. It’s all about minimizing the number of steps to satisfy what that customer wants and we’ve got that down to a click or two.
Q: How so?
A: A good example is Pinterest, which is now a company worth about $5 billion, with massive use, but currently they don’t make any money. Pinterest drives more traffic from its images to other Web pages than any other platform on the ‘net. But they have the lowest conversion (to sales) rate because clicking on an image will eventually take you to a company’s home page and after two clicks or maybe three there, people are going to quit looking around for something. With our technology, everything that’s in the image can be interactive. If you click, you’re taken directly to that product in the vendor’s site, with one step.
L.L. Bean has been a major user of Pinterest. They have thousands of pictures pinned. But if you clicked on a picture, it took you to L.L. Bean’s home page, and that was it. There could be five products in a picture of women’s clothes. If you click on that picture but L.L. Bean was pushing men’s quilted vests that week, the vests would come up. You just annoyed a lot of people.
Q: Is the approach confined to the Web?
A: Klixel8 can allow a company to use that image on their website, on Pinterest, in a mass email campaign, on Facebook, in a Twitter tweet. It’s completely flexible on where it’s used. And when you share it, it effectively creates an e-commerce site for that particular company.
And we can link to anything you want. We built a demo for a race car team, and they have all sorts of sponsors putting their names on the car. You can take a picture of the car and link directly to anything about those (sponsoring) companies. I’m going to be in New Hampshire this weekend (for a NASCAR race) demonstrating what we have.
Q: Does it take a long time to create pop-up information for dozens of items in an image?
A: Well, this does lend itself initially to the mid- and larger-sized companies. A company like L.L. Bean is doing everything in-house right now. With our program, (they provide us) with the links and descriptions they want, and it’s returned to them overnight. Creative people need to think about this in a whole new way of merchandising on the Internet.
Q: Who are your likely customers, besides advertising and marketing firms?
A: The lowest-hanging fruit where there’s the highest demand is fashion and fashion-related retail items. It addresses the problem of how you sell accessory items. To take it to a real extreme, you could walk into (a virtual) L.L. Bean (store) on the Internet, walk through the door and go down an aisle and click on what you like.
Q: How difficult has it been to keep developing this while waiting for patents?
A: We have been bootstrapping. I am really stubborn and we’re willing to eat hot dogs and ramen noodles to get this to market. I’ve built demos for Conde Nast magazines: The first 20 pages in their fashion magazines are nothing but brand ads, but their advertisers will pay more for those ads if they drive the customer right to their site for a particular item. And the customer loves it. Everybody wins.
Q: Do you plan to stay in Maine?
A: Our goal is to do that. We want to stay here. I’ve been doing this now for 31/2 years and met with a lot of fellow entrepreneurs and (investors) and were shut down because we don’t have an airport they could fly into immediately. They’d say, “Move it to Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas, and we’ll talk.” But we want to stay here. There’s a lifestyle here that we want to keep.