Many American Twenty-one-year-olds are simply happy to be able to legally buy alcohol. That’s not enough for Lucas Duplan. The first-time entrepreneur and graduate of Stanford who completed his four year computer science degree in three years, has for the past two years been working on what is viewed by many as the payment app of the future. Silicon Valley elite investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel, Accel Partners’ Jim Breyer, Intel, Intuit, former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the founders of Qualcomm and VMware, and many others, have put up $25 million behind this project.
The app itself isn’t going to be released for a few more months, which raises speculation on what has driven the largest seed round in Silicon Valley history to be drummed up over a beta stage application. Duplan has not only impressed investors with his demonstrations, but also has secured patents based on the application and its innovative nature.
“Our goal is to completely modernize how payments work,” Duplan says. “What we’re trying to do is basically take your phone and have it for the first time be able to rival cash and credit cards. We’ve developed a way for consumers to download an app, no hardware needed, and achieve scale from a software point of view.”
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The payments market is already very crowded, which makes Duplan’s entrance and seed fund success very interesting. The product hasn’t launched yet, and also based on the preliminary descriptions the app isn’t very different from other mobile payment platforms.
“Money is the cornerstone of society,” Duplan agrees. “If we couldn’t trade it, we’d all be farmers. It’s a really, really important area and we’ve seen how tech has made so many things better. … But still we’re stuck with a piece of plastic and 16 digits and pieces of paper. The margin for error here is zero. That’s why you need so much money to do [this kind of startup]. There are fraud and security issues, and we’re obsessive about creating the best product possible.”
“Clinkle is very, very different from everything else out there,” Duplan continues. “I think we’ve seen all approaches to date be very niche. Peer-to-peer payments online [like Dwolla and Stripe]. Others let you accept credit card [payments] from phones [Square and Simple]. The really big deal here is just a consumer downloading an app and having that app replace current cash and cards. I don’t think there’s anything else that will let you do that.”