Clinkle’s Big Hires Head for the Exit

Yesterday brought a new round of facepalms for Clinkle, the once-buzzy mobile-payments startup that’s been struggling to release its app. The company announced the resignation of Chief Operating Officer Barry McCarthy, the former Netflix chief financial officer who was hired about five months ago to get things on track. Along with him went Clinkle’s chief designer, Josh Brewer, a little more than a week after his hiring was announced. Those departures followed a slew of other exits, including the engineer in charge of the company’s Android app and a former Yahoo! executive brought in to run the startup’s engineering group, who left after a day on the job.

Clinkle says McCarthy will continue to advise the company and 22-year-old Chief Executive Officer Lucas Duplan, but his departure as COO is a big blow to the startup’s efforts to grow up. McCarthy has been mentoring Duplan and helped bring in seasoned executives from companies such as PayPal and Wal-Mart Stores. Brewer, previously Twitter’s principal designer, was to be “an incredible asset to Clinkle as we focus on building a product that delights our customers,” Duplan said in a statement on March 5.

Although all startups struggle, Clinkle’s troubles are spectacular. And the hype the company enjoyed last year, after raising $25 million from early Facebook backer Peter Thiel and a laundry list of other big-name Silicon Valley investors, means it doesn’t get the benefit of the typical startup’s certain level of anonymity.

Before he stepped down, McCarthy had estimated that Clinkle’s app would be ready sometime in the first six months of 2014. In an interview yesterday, Duplan said he’s now shooting for the end of the year, and he acknowledged that his company’s revolving door wouldn’t help with the criticism he’s been receiving online.

“When you’re doing something that’s big, you’re going to have great proponents and great critics and everything in between,” the CEO said. “It’s never easy to read the pieces that are critical. It’s not fun, but that’s part of playing the game. I get that.”

Duplan said he’ll be vindicated when Clinkle finally launches its app. “Any reporting on what we’re doing now is just noise,” he said. “The reality is, we haven’t put a product on the market. When we do, feel free to judge us.”

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