business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Washington Post reports that Clear - the biometric identification company that already has a presence at some 27 US airports and a select group of sports venues - just got a multimillion dollar investment from a group of technology investors that believes the process has far greater applicability.

According to the story, “Revolution Growth, a technology venture capital firm backed by AOL co-founder Steve Case and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, announced Wednesday that it is investing an undisclosed amount of money in Clear, a New York-based start-up focused on biometric identification systems. The investment management firm T. Rowe Price also joined the investment round … Although airports are still at the core of Clear’s business, the company has been aggressively branching out to other markets. Some 13 stadiums across the country have made Clear available to season ticket-holders and others. The company recently announced a partnership with Hertz rental car company, and executives say they are engaged in discussions with health-care organizations and companies in the hospitality industry.

“Case said he thinks Clear could become an ‘iconic’ company as it finds new ways to replace more cumbersome sign-ins. It could be used to quickly check customers into hotels, he said, or seamlessly verify people’s age when they buy alcohol.”

There’s no question that the biometrics business has not been as successful as some thought it would be just a few years ago; Clear itself went into bankruptcy a few years ago, but since then has shown slow but steady growth.

For my part, I’ve been a Clear customer pretty much from its beginnings, and think that in the airports it serves, the company offers a differentiated and highly desirable experience … it is a lot better than TSA-Pre-Check, which I also love. Every time I go through Clear, I wonder why the technology hasn’t been applied to more businesses. The speed and convenience always is an Eye-Opener.

A lot of it is cost.

But, as Leonsis says in its first iteration, Clear “was a little too soon. But like with anything in technology, it gets smarter, better, cheaper, more perfected as time goes on.”
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