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Six Months Later, Clinkle Is What We Thought It Was

But what happened to transferring payment information from a shopper’s phone to a store’s checkout system using ultrasound technology?

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Back in March, Re/code took the wraps off of Clinkle, the secretive payments startup that raised more than $30 million and hired and lost almost its entire executive team — all before launching publicly.

The company hasn’t talked to us (or anyone) since our story, but in the past week or so, Clinkle redesigned its website, providing more information to potential users on what the service provides as it gears up for a rollout on some college campuses. It’s the first public sign of what they’re up to, and a lot of it confirms what we had previously reported. Here’s how the descriptions compare to what we’ve written.

From our March story: “The main reason someone would use Clinkle’s app in its current form is to electronically transfer money to another person.”

What Clinkle’s website says now: “Pay any Clinkle member instantly. No fees.”

From March: “Clinkle app users will also be eligible for a Clinkle-branded Visa prepaid debit card.”

What Clinkle’s website says now: “Swipe like your normal card to buy everyday stuff.”

What a source told us six month ago: “[I]t’s going to have a whole social aspect around sharing and earning rewards.”

What Clinkle’s website says now: “The more you swipe, the more you create what we call ‘Treats.’ Send a Treat to a friend. When your friend swipes their card, they can open the Treat. Some Treats refund your friend’s whole purchase. Alakazam.”

In an email in August, Clinkle CEO Lucas Duplan told me that Clinkle will pay for friends to give these “Treats” to other friends by using some of the money — known as interchange fees — that merchants are charged each time someone uses a Clinkle card at their shop.

So that’s Clinkle.

The big remaining question — same as it was in March — is what happened to the feature that was supposed to allow payment information to be transferred from a shopper’s phone to a store’s checkout system using ultrasound technology? The feature that wouldn’t require stores to replace their checkout equipment to accept a new mobile payments option. The feature that got some of the company’s big-name investors most excited about investing in Clinkle.

Duplan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

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