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If Clinkle is so bad, how does it keep hiring such good people?

February 3, 2014: 6:00 AM ET

There is a disconnect between Clinkle's reputation and its recruiting. 

clinkle

FORTUNE -- Last summer, stealth payment startup Clinkle raised $25 million in what it referred to as the largest seed round in Silicon Valley history. Since then, it has slowly become something of a punchline in Silicon Valley, with many going to far as to compare it to Color -- the photo-sharing company that shut down just one year after raising $41 million from such venture capital firms as Sequoia Capital. 

Clinkle's problems have been legion, including disgruntled ex-employees and last week's news that its testing app had been hacked. It also hasn't helped that the company still has not released a product -- something always sure to be mentioned when Clinkle is relentlessly mocked by Valleywag.

Through it all, however, Clinkle keeps hiring well-respected executives. The first was former Netflix (NFLX) CFO Barry McCarthy, who joined in October as chief operating officer. Then in December the company added fellow Netflix vets Allison Hopkins and Andy Rendich as VP of talent and VP of operations, respectively (Hopkins most recently was leading HR for Palo Alto Networks, while Rendich was a senior VP with Wal-Mart). Just last week, Clinkle announced recruited Mike Liberatore away from PayPal to serve as CFO.

It seems to me that there is some major disconnect going on here. If Clinkle is such a joke, how does it keep hiring well-respected talent?

From a procedural level, here are some answers:

  • McCarthy was recruited to Clinkle by Paul Daversa, who is considered one of Silicon Valley's top headhunters for C-level technology jobs.
  • Hopkins and Rendich were recruited directly by McCarthy, based on the shared Netflix history.
  • Liberatore was recruited by executive recruiter Pat Redington, who McCarthy also used to fill finance positions at Netflix.

In general, Clinkle and its recruiters seem to have successfully argued that the negative noise is being propagated by early employees who either have been replaced, or who see the writing on the wall. If a company tells you that it wants an "adult" to replace the inexperienced kid, you may not worry too much about what that kid is saying about the job. Moreover, these sorts of execs have strong enough track records that, were Clinkle to fail, they could survive both financially and professionally. On the other hand, I am hearing that the San Francisco-based company has experienced some heightened challenges of late when it comes to filling junior positions.

To be sure, I still have no idea if Clinkle is a pipe dream or a gold mine. Pretty hard to judge until its college-focused product arrives on its first campus later this quarter.

But what I do know is that the company's recent recruiting success belies the knee-jerk laughter that the company's name seems to prompt among many in Silicon Valley. So I believe the best course is to keep an open mind until we have more than idle gossip to go on.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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