Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Steve Brill’s Clear Card Gets Grounded

line2Ever stand next to one of those empty “Clear” lanes at an airport and wonder just exactly what purpose they served? Wonder no more. Clear, which was supposed to speed “registered travelers” through airport security faster than the hoi polloi, is shutting down–and taking a very large pile of its investors’ cash with it.

Clear’s Web site says it will cease operations at 11 pm PDT tonight because parent company Verified Identity Pass is “unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations.” No word on what happens to the $128 that its 165,000 members each shelled out as a yearly membership fee.

I don’t normally write about shuttered travel companies, even those that raised $116 million since 2005. But readers of this column may find Clear’s failure worth noting because of a couple of the big media names associated with it.

Spark Capital, which led the $44.4 million round Clear announced less than a year ago, is a venture group that’s now best known as one of Twitter’s primary backers. This is the relatively young firm’s biggest dud, by a long shot. And Clear’s founder, Steve Brill, who stepped down as CEO in March, has been in media forever and used to be known as the guy behind Court TV and the American Lawyer. He’s now one of the three men pushing Journalism Online, which wants to run the payment infrastructure for a yet-to-be-created online content system.

By the way, the “family lanes” I’ve started seeing at some airports, designed for people who know they’re not going anywhere fast and are cool with that? Pretty good. Also: Free.

[Image credit: iowa spirit walker]


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald