Curious Rat

The Crazy Story of Clinkle →

Alyson Shontell has a great piece over at Business Insider (yes, that Business Insider) about Clinkle, a mobile payment startup that managed to woo a major Yahoo executive to join its team…for a day:

Last June, Clinkle announced a $25 million round of seed financing from a dozen top venture capital firms and angel investors — the largest early investment raised in Silicon Valley history. A few months later, the company raised $5 million more from Stanford’s StartX fund as well as Virgin CEO Richard Branson. Duplan, a first-time founder who was barely of legal drinking age, seemed full of promise.

But nine months later — during which time several rounds of layoffs have been announced and rumors swirled of turmoil inside the company — the app still has yet to launch publicly. We spoke to a half-dozen former Clinkle employees and other insiders to find out what happened and what scared Chi-Chao Chang away. Most asked not to be named, either because they feared legal ramifications or they didn’t want to sever ties with the company.

A rapid rise with numerous investors dumping money into a Silicon Valley startup is nothing new. However, multiple rounds of layoffs in under a year gave me pause, as did this:

Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz personally visited Clinkle’s office and spent an hour with him. Duplan didn’t have a slide deck. Instead, he played a demo of what the app could be, and it blew Wennmachers away.


What no one seems to have bothered asking is whether the actual product the developers were building was accurately reflected by Duplan’s super-sleek demo.

No one who invested was shown a working demo of the app before checks were signed, only a rendering. Why not just throw money at the iOS concept designers on Dribbble? One thing I’ve learned in my journey as a budding novelist is agents and publishers won’t sign you based only on an idea. They need to know you can execute. I’d like to imagine this philosophy is the same across other industries, but the Valley is a confusing and backwards place to begin with.

Make sure to read the whole article. It’s a fascinating look into what’s wrong with today’s startup scene. Something tells me Mike Judge’s new HBO show isn’t exactly a parody…

Turner Classic Movies Turns 20 →

Noel Murray:

One big reason why I stay devoted to Turner Classic Movies is that while other cable channels have abandoned their original missions in the chase for fleetingly popular original programming, TCM has dug deeper into what it means to be a “classic movie channel.” The programmers haven’t coasted on nostalgia, catering exclusively to the kind of older viewers who smugly say, “Boy, they don’t make ’em like they used to.” Instead, TCM has reached out to cinephiles, with annual salutes to the Telluride Film Festival, and past programs devoted to the output of Studio Ghibli, and the world cinema classics featured in Mark Cousins’ cine-essay The Story Of Film: An Odyssey. Operating like one of the best-funded repertory houses in the world, TCM spends each month running series dedicated to certain actors or directors—or even to certain themes, such as the series TCM ran a few years back on the evolving representations of homosexuality in cinema.

TCM is one of the main reasons I still pay for cable. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, and some of the greatest movies ever made to keep me company on weekend afternoons. TCM may not be a huge moneymaker and it may not bring in the viewer numbers of a network like AMC, but it’s exposing audiences to cinematic history and amazing films they might not have ever seen before.

Turner Classic Movies truly is worth every penny.

New on Tech.pinions: 'Home Automation: At the Intersection of HD DVD and Blu Ray' →

My latest piece for Tech.pinions is up and it discusses the fascinating world of home automation. This industry is the first thing to get me interested in anything technology-related in a quite a while, so I’m excited to see how it progresses over the next few years.

Build Your Own LEGO Ghostbusters HQ →

If you’d rather not wait for an official LEGO version of the famous firehouse, the designer behind the LEGO CUUSOO campaign has made his instructions and parts list available for free. Donations accepted.

Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology →

A new book by Barrie Tullett that comes out in May. Reminds me of Keira Rathbone’s work.