Lucas Duplan, who based Clinkle and made it into an object lesson in Silicon Valley overhype, is plotting a return. He has raised cash from his household and outdoors traders for a enterprise fund targeted on backing enterprise-software startups, WIRED has realized. The fund will function out of New York and has backed at the least two firms during which Duplan is concerned.
A type of firms is a cryptocurrency mission targeted on worker rewards referred to as Common Recognition Token (URT). Individuals aware of the matter say Duplan has referred to himself because the mission’s founder, CEO and CIO at varied instances in its improvement. In a press release, Duplan denied having based the corporate. He stated he’s been concerned with URT however shouldn’t be employed by the corporate, and isn’t concerned in day-to-day operations.
The mission, which counts Scribd CEO Journey Adler and seasoned HR execs Vivian Vitale and Stan Dunlop as advisers, lately started promoting tokens to accredited traders in a “pre-sale,” with plans to promote the tokens extra broadly within the third quarter. Self-described “crypto enthusiast” and “serial entrepreneur” Brendan Ward has been URT’s CEO since November 2017.
Duplan has stored his involvement with the crypto mission below wraps. But when anyplace in tech would welcome an operator with a rocky monitor file, it’s the fledgling, typically lawless world of digital currencies. It was that, after a profession meltdown, executives and public figures needed to undergo picture rehab to get a brand new job. However lately a less complicated resolution has emerged: They’ll go crypto.
The digital forex world’s lack of gatekeepers and regulators makes it a gorgeous place for failed, disgraced, or in any other case shunned executives to begin over. Halsey Minor, the founding father of CNET who later grew to become embroiled in quite a few lawsuits and filed for private chapter in 2013, lately raised $35 million for a crypto mission referred to as VideoCoin. Jason Goldberg, co-founder of Fab.com, a once-hyped e-commerce flop which burned $336 million in enterprise funding in three years, raised $21 million for a blockchain software program firm referred to as OST. Even Steve Bannon, the fired Trump adviser who was additionally fired from far-right web site Breitbart, has thought-about making a “deplorables coin.”
Duplan, a Stanford graduate, gained notoriety in 2013 when he raised $25 million from Silicon Valley A-list traders for Clinkle, a mysterious startup that had not but launched a product. Duplan mismanaged the digital-payments firm, in keeping with reviews, and Clinkle’s dysfunction was broadly mocked within the tech press by way of the corporate’s ugly implosion. Clinkle is now a cautionary story and a punchline on HBO’s Silicon Valley.
Submit-Clinkle, Duplan created a product referred to as Treats, which aimed to assist companies reward their workers with random, variable items. Variable rewards are a well-liked psychological trick utilized by Silicon Valley product architects who goal to make their apps as addictive as potential.
Duplan has operated below the radar since. In October, tech government Bryan Adams tweeted a few irritating alternate during which Duplan emailed from with a imprecise request for startup recommendation. On their scheduled name, Duplan was not current; as an alternative, an affiliate performed a recording of an funding pitch for a startup over the cellphone. “Do not hack the be-generous-to-startups reflex and do dumb shit like tricking people into listening to your RECORDED pitch,” Adams tweeted.
That pitch was for Shock HR, the Raleigh, North Carolina-based human-resources software program startup that sells the Treats product. Shock HR boasts 50 shoppers, together with two Fortune 500 firms. The corporate doesn’t listing Duplan on its web site, although opinions on Glassdoor point out Duplan and Clinkle’s involvement. Duplan says he’s not at the moment employed by or concerned with Shock HR. Albert Eloyan, CEO of Shock HR, confirmed that Duplan is an investor within the firm however not has a task in its operations. Relating to the recorded pitch, Eloyan says the gross sales crew was utilizing Duplan’s title in electronic mail campaigns, however the apply was discontinued final fall.
Eloyan additionally had a hand within the drafting of Common Recognition Token’s white paper and is listed on URT’s web site as a member of the crew. “I helped Brendan and his team refine some of their ideas on what they’re building, hence the whitepaper,” Eloyan says, noting that Ward had beforehand performed consulting work for Shock HR.
There may be loads of overlap between Shock HR and URT, which share a typical objective of fixing how firms reward their workers. Shock HR gives a system to present workers variable rewards, whereas URT plans to supply a market for workers to public sale off these rewards. Naturally, URT will use blockchain know-how to take action. The mission guarantees to eradicate unappreciated worker rewards with a distributed ledger that tracks what number of workers truly use the rewards and which of them are probably the most fascinating. A weblog put up from URT declares that blockchain know-how will “profoundly disrupt human sources and HR-tech.”
In Might, Shock HR and URT introduced a partnership, positioning the deal as a win for URT and never mentioning their frequent investor, Duplan. “With Surprise HR, the URT engineering team will now have a real-life use case to develop our partner components for, like the “Auction it” button and exterior APIs,” the announcement declared.