Lucas Duplan, age 22, just banked $25 million for an app no one really knows much about. Well, a few do: his investors, and a tipster who leaked us some very interesting details about the clandestine wallet app. Does the world need a new way for Yale kids to buy things?
Our source says he, like Duplan, is a young Stanford grad who remembers Dunlap for a notorious class presentation in which he channeled Steve Jobs to a T—even capping off with a one more thing reveal. But the Stanford tipster says he's got Clinkle revelations of his own after downloading a pre-release copy of the app when it was temporarily available online—a download he says shows how Clinkle works and where it might be headed.
So what the hell does it do, besides something vaguely PayPally?
Based on what’s in the app, the following features seem to be a lock for Clinkle
"Wallet" feature - this looks approximately like a paypal balance (will let you pay your friends, etc)
"Credit Card" feature - scan a credit card with your phone (it uses card.io to do this)
A Scott Forstall-esque, completely useless bound leather wallet look to polish it off
Ability to pay stores (who they are partnering with)
Like I said last time, this sounds, at best, like a composite of Other Apps That Already Exist and Do Just Fine.
But what about that secret method of transferring money with high-frequency sound? The one TechCrunch willingly redacted from its post because Clinkle didn't want people to read about it? Maybe that's the $25 million feature?
Our tipster thinks he knows:
Clinkle lets you do phone to phone payments via ultrasound exchanged on the phone. This is branded as "Aerolink"
My additional suspicions:
Clinkle may be partnering with Verifone to get the terminals to emit / receive the same audio signals that they're using for payment information. Looking up specs on Verifone terminals , it seems to indicate that they support audio output. Clinkle may be using this to localize the phone to the point of sale terminal. Then, they would send money to Verifone ... I'm basing this on Lucas's past discussions of working with Verifone on SMS based payments (this is before Clinkle was doing the whole ultrasound thing, they initially were a sms based payments system for dumb phones).
Translation: Clinkle would make your phone beep like a dog whistle that only special cash registers could hear—encoded in this whistle signal would be MONEY, so you could buy a bag of chips or textbook without ever touching a debit card. Partnering with VeriFone would make sense, as they're already in the business of outfitting stores with wireless purchase gear. Aerolink! At the very least that's a fun word to say. So is "Yale": more buried code in the app leak show a Facebook-esque plan to launch at top tier schools, and maybe expand to the proles from there:
Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Based on our understanding of their tech, they would probably outfit campus retailers with Clinkle and then drive student adoption through incentives...It seems pretty clear Clinkle is going to try to target itself as a pay-ahead-skip-the-line type operation.
Kids love digital exclusion. So an app premised on the appeal of Ivy League kids cutting the line to buy things ahead of everyone else—that might just be a $25 million hit.