Why Longtime Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy Just Agreed to Work for Clinkle’s 22-Year-Old CEO
Clinkle, a stealth startup building a new way for shoppers to pay in stores using just their phone, has gained some early credibility thanks to an impressive roster of investors, which includes Peter Thiel, Andreessen Horowitz and Richard Branson.
The company has also gotten a lot of attention for the size of its seed investment round, which was pegged by the company to be $25 million in June, and which has ballooned to $30.5 million, according to recent documents filed with the SEC.
At the same time, Clinkle and its 22-year-old CEO, Lucas Duplan, have taken some lumps in the press for refusing to disclose how exactly its payments technology will work, while at the same time releasing a bizarre online commercial that attempts to display the role Clinkle will eventually play in uniting people from all walks of life.
Today, the company is making some more noise with its first significant C-level hire. Longtime Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy joined Clinkle full-time on Monday as its first chief operating officer. I spoke with McCarthy about, among other things, the risk that hype creates, and whether Duplan has what it takes to run a giant payments company. Here’s a lightly edited version of our discussion:
Jason Del Rey: I’ve talked to several people who’ve said that lots of people have unsuccessfully tried to lure you into a full-time job since you left Netflix. What changed?
Barry McCarthy: Nothing, actually. From when I left Netflix in 2010, I said I wanted to run something. … My goal was to find something that I wanted to work with that wanted to work with me. So this is that thing.
What makes you confident this is the right opportunity?
The thing that makes me hopeful … is there’s a really big market opportunity like Netflix; it’s consumer-facing like Netflix; like Netflix, there’s intense competition; like Netflix, we’ve got phenomenal software; and, like Netflix, I think it has a super-talented founder who is much younger and not as battled-tested. But my bet is that he’s enormously talented, like Reed [Hastings].
There will be a lot of challenges, of course, along the way. To succeed, we’ll need great execution and great talent and great funding, and the funding piece we have.
Speaking of funding, you’ve probably noticed that there has been a lot of hype around Clinkle, and it hasn’t even launched publicly yet. Does that make you nervous?
Yeah, a little bit. The whole glam funding thing? Give me a break. From my perspective, I think of it as a distraction. So it would make me nervous if we got distracted by it.
Consumers don’t care about it. The company will only be successful if it executes brilliantly. And I’ve gotten no sense that there’s any ambiguity or confusion about what will drive success here. So the hype has raised the profile of the company, and it’s helped enormously with recruiting and hiring. Those are the good things. It serves a useful purpose as long as it doesn’t distract us from what’s required to be successful.
What does your role entail?
Well, Lucas is the CEO. I work for him. I want to be unambiguously clear about that. He’ll continue to focus on product and engineering. My primary focus will be everything else.
Do you believe Lucas can be the long-term CEO of a giant payments company?
Absolutely. And if he’s not, then I will feel like I have not served him as well as I could have.
You’re on a bunch of boards, including Chegg, Wealthfront and NatureBox. Will you be giving those roles up?
My first priority will be the success of Clinkle, and if I find with my time I’m able to manage those additional commitments, I hope to do that. … If I don’t find that, then I’ll scale back in order to make sure this is successful for me and the company.