From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
TypePrivately held company
IndustryMobile payments
FoundedPalo Alto, California,
United States (2012 (2012))
FounderLucas Duplan[1][2][3][4]
Key people
Jim Breyer
Richard Branson
Barry McCarthy
ProductsClinkle App
Clinkle Card
Treats SDK

Clinkle was a mobile payments company founded in 2012. In 2013 they raised $25 million[5] and the product launched to college students on September 24, 2014.[6]


Clinkle was founded in 2011 by Lucas Duplan, then a computer science student at Stanford University.[7][8] Duplan had decided to work on mobile payments during a study abroad program in London after his freshman year.[8] Upon returning to Stanford, Duplan received guidance from Mehran Sahami, a professor who taught the university's introductory programming methodology class.[9] Clinkle rented a house in Palo Alto, California using money from Duplan's parents and a summer program through Highland Capital Partners.[10][11] With approximately a dozen students building the app, it ran a beta test at Stanford in which testers could send payments to each other.[8]

Through VMware co-founder Diane Greene, Duplan met Accel partner Jim Breyer, who became interested in the company after discussing it with Stanford professors and graduate students.[7] Breyer became an investor following his first meeting and product demonstration with Duplan and participated in a round of funding for the company.[12] By June 2013, Clinkle had raised $25 million from a broad range of investors, including Greene, Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital, Intuit, Peter Thiel, Owen Van Natta, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.[13][14][15][16][17][18] The funding amounted to the largest seed round in Silicon Valley.[19] Shortly after, Duplan moved the 50-person company from Mountain View to San Francisco.[20] In 2016 a photo was leaked of CEO Duplan and Richard Branson burning wads of fake $100 bills.[21]

In October 2013, former Netflix chief financial officer Barry McCarthy became Clinkle's chief operating officer,[22] and two more former Netflix executives later joined as vice presidents.[23] McCarthy left Clinkle after less than 5 months at the company.[24] Near the end of the year, the company laid off a quarter of its employees.[25] In 2015, seven core employees quit and the remaining team was believed to be mostly consultants providing support and no more than 12, down from 70 several years ago.[26] Forbes reported in January 2016 that investors were losing patience with the lack of any market product and were requesting a return of funds.[21]


Clinkle released an app for download on Google Play and the iTunes Store. Clinkle first launched on college campuses and targeted merchants near college campuses.[7][27][28] Clinkle announced on September 26, 2013, that after two months of opening their college waitlists, over 100,000 students had signed up despite no clear product description.[29][30] Until September 2014, the app had very limited functionality and only allowed users to join a waitlist with a launch date of September 2014.[31]

Before launching, the company had released limited information about its product, despite significant press coverage.[citation needed] The product was intended to include a mobile app that served as an online wallet.[31] Wallets would be linked to existing credit cards and bank accounts.[7] A June 2013 report by TechCrunch stated that the app was going to use high-frequency sound to send payments between devices; however, the section was shortly retracted.[9] Clinkle confirmed that the product would not require near field communication, a wireless technology used by Google Wallet and Apple Pay.[7] Clinkle stated that the product would also provide merchants with information about their customers for the purpose of targeted sales promotions.[11]

Despite its initial launch as an alternative payments processing system, it lost its technological edge to new products like Venmo, a peer-to-peer payments app, and later Apple Pay, which achieved what the company had originally set out to do.[21] The company decided to pivot, and launched to the public on September 24, 2014, a new flagship downloadable application aimed at college students.[6]

The launch debuted a Clinkle Card that allowed users to earn rewards for paying at stores and online. After every seventh payment, Clinkle card users were awarded a "Treat" to send to a friend, which had a chance of earning the recipient a free purchase. [32]


  1. ^ Shontell, Alyson. "A bunch of Clinkle employees just left and the startup apparently tried to sell itself to Apple". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
  2. ^ "Clinkle Implodes As Employees Quit In Protest Of CEO". TechCrunch. 16 May 2015. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
  3. ^ Shontell, Alyson. "A SILICON VALLEY DISASTER: A 21-Year-Old Stanford Kid Got $30 Million, Then Everything Blew Up". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
  4. ^ Mac, Ryan. "Clinkle Up In Smoke As Investors Want Their Money Back". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
  5. ^ "Mobile payments startup Clinkle nabs $25M in early investments". CNET. 2013-06-27. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  6. ^ a b "$30 Million And Three Years Later, Mysterious Payments App Clinkle Finally Launches". Business Insider. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wingfield, Nick (June 27, 2013). "Silicon Valley Luminaries Bet on Clinkle, a Payments Start-Up". The New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Gallagher, Billy (June 27, 2013). "Clinkle Raises Celebrity-Filled $25M Round As It Gears Up To Eliminate The Physical Wallet". TechCrunch. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Roose, Kevin (June 28, 2013). "How a 22-Year-Old Stanford Grad Won Silicon Valley's Money Chase". New York. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  10. ^ "Highland Capital Partners Announces Summer@Highland 2011 Teams". Highland Capital Partners. July 20, 2011. Archived from the original on April 11, 2014. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Efrati, Amir (April 3, 2013). "Startup's Deep Roots: Stanford". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  12. ^ Dembosky, April (June 27, 2013). "Facebook backers make big early bet on college start-up". Financial Times. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  13. ^ Tam, Donna (June 27, 2013). "Mobile payments startup Clinkle nabs $25M in early investments". CNET. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  14. ^ Nusca, Andrew (June 27, 2013). "With $25m in the bank, Clinkle takes on mobile payments". ZDNet. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  15. ^ Wasserman, Todd (June 27, 2013). "Startup Clinkle Gets $25 Million to Create Mobile Payment Standard". Mashable. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  16. ^ "Startup Clinkle Has A High Frequency Plan To Push Mobile Payments". ReadWrite. June 27, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  17. ^ Geron, Tomio (June 27, 2013). "Payments Startup Clinkle Raises $25 Million Seed Round". Forbes. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  18. ^ Mac, Ryan. "Clinkle Up In Smoke As Investors Want Their Money Back". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-03-04.
  19. ^ Drake, Sarah (December 4, 2013). "Payments startup Clinkle nabs more talent from Netflix as it rounds out its exec team". Silicon Valley Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  20. ^ Grant, Rebecca (June 27, 2013). "Clinkle raises massive $25M seed round to transform how we pay for things". VentureBeat. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  21. ^ a b c Mac, Ryan (September 23, 2013). "Clinkle Up In Smoke As Investors Want Their Money Back". Forbes. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  22. ^ Primack, Dan (October 22, 2013). "Ex-Netflix CFO joins stealth payments startup Clinkle". Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  23. ^ Lawler, Ryan (December 4, 2013). "Stealthy Payments Startup Clinkle Brings On Two Former Netflixers To Fill Out Its Exec Ranks". TechCrunch. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  24. ^ Rey, Jason Del (13 March 2014). "Clinkle's Still a Hot Mess as Its Big Shot COO Departs (Updated)". Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  25. ^ Primack, Dan (December 9, 2013). "Layoffs at stealth payment startup Clinkle". Archived from the original on January 28, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  26. ^ Constine, Josh (16 May 2015). "Clinkle Implodes As Employees Quit In Protest Of CEO". Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  27. ^ Del Rey, Jason (June 27, 2013). "Pressure Is on Stealth Payments Startup Clinkle as It Raises $25 Million From Big-Name Investors". All Things Digital. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  28. ^ Primack, Dan (June 27, 2013). "Clinkle raises $25 million to kill Square". Archived from the original on January 13, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  29. ^ Huspeni, Andrea (2013). "Richard Branson Invests in a Startup That No One Understands Yet". Entrepreneur. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  30. ^ Fitchard, Kevin (September 26, 2013). "Clinkle becomes a tech celebrity magnet, landing Richard Branson as an investor". GigaOM. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  31. ^ a b Fitchard, Kevin (June 27, 2013). "Stanford's $25M secret: Payments startup Clinkle wants to make your college cashless". GigaOM. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  32. ^ Constine, Josh (23 September 2014). "Mobile Wallet Laughingstock Clinkle Finally Launches To Let You Pay Friends And Earn "Treats"". Retrieved 16 October 2016.

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