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Largest Seed Round Ever: $25 million by Lucas Duplan raised for Clinkle


Stashed in: @a16z, Square, Salesforce, @ajs, Mobile!, Stanford, Peter Thiel, Mobile Apps

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Alyson Shontell has the skinny:

Twenty-one-year-old Lucas Duplan just raised more millions than his age.

The first-time entrepreneur and recent Stanford graduate (he finished a computer science degree in three years) has been working on a mobile payment app for the past two years. He's now been awarded $25 million from a long list of Silicon Valley investors which includes 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.

The kicker: The app hasn't launched yet and it isn't going to for a few more months. Duplan's 50-person team raised the entire $25 million – the largest seed round in Silicon Valley history – on a mere working prototype and a beta test at Stanford University.

Duplan says his pitch deck didn't move VCs to invest but as soon as he showed them the app they were compelled to back him. He's also secured a number of patents for his technology.

What is Clinkle, the wonder app that made investors open their wallets?

It's hard to say. Duplan declined to share many details prior to Clinkle's launch, which is expected to be released on iOS and Android later this year. All he revealed was this:

"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."

He also said the name Clinkle comes from the sound change makes and its ability to turn into a verb ("Clink this!"). Also, the domain was available.

There are many reasons Clinkle's $25 million seed round is shocking.

First, Duplan is entering a crowded space where there are already clear winners infused with lots of cash, such as Square and PayPal, not to mention credit card companies like American Express. From Duplan's description, it's hard to see why Clinkle is different or easier to use than Square Wallet, which already lets people pay for items in stores dongle-free. 

Second, the product hasn't launched yet. Normally investors give founders in stealth mode a few hundred thousand dollars to see if a startup has legs before writing a massive check.

Third, this is Duplan's first company. He doesn't have clout like Sean Parker had before he raised Airtime's $35 million round, or Bill Nguyen had before raising $41 million for Color Labs. Furthermore, both Color Labs and Airtime failed spectacularly. If serial entrepreneurs can't make startups work with tens of millions of dollars pre-launch, can a young founder who lacks experience do better?

A final worry: After raising so much money, does Duplan have a high enough percentage left in Clinkle to stay motivated and see it through?

I'm sorry, did she say it's a 50 person team that has not released a product?

The goto market strategy is college students using "Clink this" to pay for things.

The comments in the TechCrunch article have some unflattering things to say about Clinkle:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/27/clinkle-raises-celebrity-filled-25m-round-as-it-gears-up-to-eliminate-the-physical-wallet/

Apparently several former employees are suing the company.

I'm still flabbergasted by the thought that a product that has not been released has a 50 person team.

That seems... excessive.

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