A 21-year-old Stanford University graduate has raised $25 million for Clinkle, a mobile payment app that isn’t even completed yet.
Lucas Duplan has spent two years working on Clinkle, receiving funds for the app from a number of Silicon Valley investors including former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta, Intel, Intuit, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and several others. His 50-person team raised the $25 million — the largest seed round in Silicon Valley history, according to Business Insider — on a working prototype and a beta test at Stanford.
Duplan has also secured a number of patents for his Clinkle technology. But he isn’t saying what exactly makes his app different from the dozens of others, such as Square Wallet and LevelUp, that allow people to make payments using their cellphones.
“Our goal is to completely modernize how payments work. 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,” Duplan said. “We’ve developed a way for consumers to download an app, no hardware needed, and achieve scale from a software point of view.”
What makes Duplan’s feat even more impressive, besides the fact that he and his team raised $25 million for an unfinished app, is the fact that this is his first business venture. Many other app developers have at least some name recognition before they raise they kind of money Duplan has received for Clinkle.
But what seems to work for Clinkle is its simplicity, according to Margit Wennmachers, a partner at A16Z (Andreessen Horowitz), a tech venture capital firm. A16Z was impressed that, instead of going after merchants, Duplan is instead launching Clinkle on college campuses and targeting students as early adopters. It’s the same approach that took Facebook from a limited social network for Harvard students to a $5.1 billion company with over one billion users.
Duplan has set a lofty goal for Clinkle, one that early users and investors believe the app will achieve.
“This is not a small social app,” Duplan said. “What we’re trying to do here is fundamentally change how people trade. Every human being, every day, has to do this.”