Does Clinkle have a shot at competing in the mobile payments game?

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Date: Friday, June 6th, 2014, 08:37
Category: Business, Finance, Mobile, retail, Services

clinkle_iconSo, you may be asking, “What is Clinkle?”. It would be a good question too since there hasn’t been a lot said about it given Clinkle’s “cloak of secrecy” about its development. In fact, during its beta period (still ongoing), employees were allowed to offer the service to friends and family with the specification that none of them could be journalists. Clinkle purports to be the next big thing in mobile payments, but frankly there is not much known about it other than some of the drama surrounding it. More on that in a moment.

Clinkle’s stated focus is on students on college campuses with some sort of social aspect around sharing and earning rewards, but no details on that. In fact, Clinkle’s own blog provides little to no information on what it is doing or its projected future plans. An article on re/code probably has the most information. If you want an idea of how vague their marketing is, check out this abstract promo video they released last year.


[vimeo 68576734 w=500]

Part of this may simply be a lack of focus or proper management. According to ValleyWag, a number of former employees feel that Clinkle’s 22-year old CEO, Lucas Duplan, simply doesn’t know how to run a company.

“”Everyone who is in charge now is not qualified to be in charge,” laments one alum, saying that the weakness around him leaves Duplan free to constantly change his mind about what Clinkle should be or do. Instead of being a full-on Zuckerbergian boy-tyrant, the young CEO straddles an unproductive line between autocracy and absenteeism. He’s known to spend his time in the office “just chatting with people,” says one Clinkle alum, delegating responsibilities to an inner circle of Stanford classmates. When he’s not being combative, Duplan has “hid in a room” for much of his tenure, leaving old white male ringers poached from other companies to take the occasional stab.”

Some of those “old male ringers” seem to have figured this out as Clinkle has lost a number of high profile executives who had come onboard from the likes of Netflix and Twitter, supposedly due in part to delays in product development and claims that the job “wasn’t a good fit”.


It does look pretty, but Clinkle’s most compelling feature, Aerolink, is technology that would let the app transfer money from a shopper’s Clinkle account to a business without the business needing to replace its existing checkout equipment. Functionally, this isn’t much different to how Square wallet works, but currently Square requires businesses to use an iPad with their Square Register app. The word from some Clinkle insiders;

“Since no merchant is going to use the app until there are lots of Clinkle-using consumers in their place of business, it makes sense not to build the merchant app just now.”

Well, that seems like kind of a circular dilemma. With competitors like PayPal, Google Wallet, and Square, who already have a considerable lead, what else would Clinkle have to offer to compel retailers to use it? I live in San Francisco, home to Square, and as popular as it is I have only seen a handful of local retailers using Square services. A majority of Square’s business customers appear to be ones that need a mobile POS system. It seems most commonly used by the ubiquitous food trucks that travel around the city. With over $30 million dollars in resources and an impressive list of well known investors such as Richard Branson, you’d think Clinkle might have an impressive future, but with over a year’s worth of delays, possible mismanagement of funds and direction, and a wait list of approximately 143,127 (4:00 pm PST today), many think that Clinkle will ultimately be vaporware as far as the general public is concerned.

Does Clinkle seem compelling to you? Does the retail space need yet another mobile payments system? Do you use mobile versions of  PayPal, Google Wallet, or Square and find them lacking? Let us know in the comments or on the Facebook page.



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