(4 minutes reading time)
Basically we only know a few things about Clinkle. Firstly it is a payments start-up based in San-Francisco promising “something that’s fundamentally different from everything else out there” (duh.. we have heard that one before…). Secondly they have been able to raise $25 million in a seeding round which is some serious money. (Lucas Duplan raises $25 million seed round for Clinkle – Business Insider.) Thirdly, mid December 25% of their employees were sacked. And fourthly TechCrunch published some leaked details from the upcoming service. Combining these “data points” at least we can get intrigued by what they will come up with. Will they be able to launch the ultimate electronic wallet?

Lucas Duplan (22) founder and CEO of Clinkle Corporation writes on the clinkle.com blog: (emphasis RPD)

It’s amazing how technology has changed so many things in the past 20 years. We no longer look things up in an encyclopedia. When was the last time you sent a letter as opposed to a Facebook message or an email? There are close to one million apps in the Apple App Store. Yet, none let you comfortably go a week or even a couple of days without paper bills or plastic cards.

The exchange of value is one of humanity’s most important inventions. But somehow, the way in which we transact hasn’t significantly changed in decades. Instead, it’s stood idle during the invention of the PC, the Internet, and the smartphone. In fact, most people around the world still rely on the same technology humans used centuries ago: paper and coins.

I could not agree more with Lucas, totally and utterly. Money/payments is one of the main collaboration mechanisms I have been studying for my inquiry into “Collaborability: a theory on human collaboration.” (see synopsis). At the outset I wanted to uncover the impact of all kind of trends, but most notably technology, will have on the way we collaborate.To be able to do so requires a proper view on what collaboration is.

I have worded my take on human collaboration in a post almost a year ago where I describe the unbelievable amount of collaboration needed between humans who are spread geographically and in time to create a traffic jam. It is just an example, once you pick up this perspective of collaborability you just will see it everywhere around you and wonder why you ever could have missed it.

But I digress, lets get back to Clinkle and let our imagination run wild a little. What would be the contours of a truly innovative payment innovation? A payment method that would empower both ends of a value transaction.

Hints from Clickle:

  • “full replacement of physical wallet” (for cash, cards, checks) => Payment app, Smartphone based.
  • “The exchange of value” => We are not talking money only, or we are technically not talking money.
  • Graphical hint => Tired services: Standard services (e.g. US or own country) and abroad.
  • “Various references to Bills” => Merchant is able to present bill/receipt.
  • “ATM function” => e-purse, pre paid? storing digital coins (P2P)? (see post on MintChip)
  • Should be able to work everywhere => multiple currencies / exchange available
  • “Small sandwich shop” => Use both on-line and in regular shops
  • “Modernising Commerce” + “Reaching out even more” => All can reach all, low barrier to start using it both as payer and as payee
  • Authentication based on various items like drivers license to positively identify wallet owner=> looking for strong authentication but not anonymous. Creating a “bank account” like wallet account.
  • Payment combinations: Peer to peer, group payments, shop POS, on-line

And all of the above should be:

  • “Fundamentally different” => breaking with conventional (financial) value chains) paying from any card or bank

At first glance this sounds to me as a kind of “unified” bank account in the form of a electronic wallet. An overlay on top of various payment services, much like what Mint has been for paying bills.

Lets assume for a moment that this convergence can be efficiently and elegantly solved for the wallet, still it needs wide adoption at merchants to be able to set up transactions between payer and payee. What if they, like Mint, set up back end links with various payment providers (e.g. card scheme’s) to acquire payments for them. And now also assume they can hook up bank and card accounts much like PayPal to get the necessary tie in to the financial system and the route to connect to the wallet owners bank account. Then the wallet could become a kind of universal app being able to connect to various payment schemes. This would certainly solve a customer need.

The problem is that even though convergence is very welcome in a time of endless payment fragmentation this does not sound very different or out of the way of the legacy payments landscape…. If everybody would have a universal payments app that would be revolutionary but I do not immediately see how you can get to the critical mass needed to get to that point. But it is intriguing to think about truly disruptive payments methods powered by the connected society.

Let’s take up the mantel and describe what I think the contours of the ultimate payment method should be. In my next post – Clinkle and the contours of the “Utopia Wallet”– I will describe the contours for what I hope an innovative payments app like Clinkle is to be.

See Part II: Clinkle and the contours of the “Utopia Wallet, The “Ultimate Wallet” at today’s standards and recent posts on Apple Wallet, and Amazon Wallet.