The hype keeps building around Clinkle, a still-secretive Palo Alto mobile payments startup founded by 22-year-old Lucas Duplan. It’s already raised $25 million in seed funding from an impressive list of Silicon Valley backers, and that list just got even more impressive. Clinkle announced Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has made a personal investment of an undisclosed amount in the company.
The company, which still claims to be in stealth mode, has received an inordinate amount of attention from respected investors and tech luminaries including Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Intel, Intuit, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Qualcomm co-founder Andrew Viterbi, VMWare co-founders Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum, Venrock Associates founding partner Peter Crisp, and Salesforce founder and CEO Mark Benioff.
Despite the big spotlight, Clinkle hasn’t let on exactly what it plans to do. We know this: Clinkle is creating a mobile wallet that requires no special hardware on the phone (i.e. no NFC chip) nor at the point-of-sale – just software. Clinkle also plans on overcoming the problem of scale every mobile payments service faces by focusing on college and universities campuses, which tend to be insular environments.
That hardly sounds revolutionary, but Clinkle founder and CEO Duplan has hinted at some other technical element that is making people like Branson and Thiel go gaga at demos. TechCrunch and ValleyWag may have caught a whiff of that mystery technology from their sources. Both reported that Clinkle uses high-frequency sound to exchange information between phones and standard payment terminals, though TechCrunch later excised its post of the relevant graphs. It’s hard to say if these are anything more than rumors at this point.
In any case, investors aren’t the only ones getting excited about the wallet Clinkle plans to offer. Clinkle also announced today that it has a waiting list of 100,000 students at college campuses around the country signed up to download its mysterious app.