TPG Finds Out Everything You Need to Know About CLEAR on the Latest Talking Points Episode
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On this episode of Talking Points, host Brian Kelly, AKA The Points Guy, brings on the CEO of CLEAR, Caryn Seidman-Becker. Seidman-Becker shares CLEAR’s plans to expand to more stadiums and airports, talks about the importance of biometric technology and breaks down membership pricing.
Here Are 4 Key Takeaways:
Brian Kelly: Is CLEAR a travel company?
So number one, go back to how we started which was we bought this company and it had destroyed trust. So from the very beginning, from Day One, it was about rebuilding that turst,
Caryn Seidman-Becker: No, we consider CLEAR a secure identity platform which is using biometrics to make the world safer and easier to navigate, secure and frictionless. There are so many different words that we bat around here. We’re building this connected world and travel connects the world, so I think it’s an incredibly important vertical, it is the place where security and identity not converge but collide. And where customer experience matters so deeply, and where security matters so deeply.
Kelly: How does CLEAR pricing work?
Seidman-Becker: One of the important things that we’ve done — because technology seeing is believing, experiencing is believing. You look at Netflix, you look at Amazon, they offer free trials into Amazon Prime because they want people to experience their service. And so we offer free one month trials if you enroll at the airport, and then that goes into $179 a year. One month, you don’t get charged but I think it is a great way for people who are like, “I don’t know,” to experience it.
Kelly: And to sign up at the airport, you just need…?
Seidman-Becker: You just need a driver’s license or a passport or military ID, the forms of ID, government-issued ID are listed on our website. And so that is a great way to experience it. If you’re Delta Diamond, it’s free for you, so that seems like a no-brainer, and then Delta Platinum and Gold and Silver are either $79 or $99. I think it’s important to say that today, we’re in 27 airports and we’re gonna be opening 8 to 10 more this year in 2019.
Kelly: Let’s talk about data because, you know, we’re on the heels of the biggest Marriott breach and you must have an incredible amount of data on where people travel, what people are now buying. So, how do you protect that, and what do you say to people who say, “No way, CLEAR, that’s too much?”
Seidman-Becker: It’s really important that people know we will not sell or share their data. We sell experiences by securing your data and protecting your privacy. We’ve been banging the drum on that now since 2010. And so with everything that’s happened in the past 24, 36 months, magnified over the last 8 to 10 months with what’s going on in Facebook and other places, we just keep saying it louder and louder that we are about protecting your data, we do not sell or share data. It is so important to build that trust and it’s also important that that’s why we have ambassadors bringing technology to life. I believe in technology and automation but I think interesting to biometrics is humanity, whether it’d be your fingerprints, or your iris, or the humanity of our folks talking to people, our ambassadors, and sharing and answering questions because trust is everything.
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Brian: Welcome to this week’s episode of Talking Points. I’m your host, Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, and today, we’ve got an innovative CEO not just in the travel industry but in the tech industry. I’m excited to have the CEO and chairwoman of CLEAR, Caryn Seidman Becker. Caryn, thanks for joining us.
Caryn: Thanks for coming over to CLEAR’s offices today.
Brian: Yes. So, congratulations, you guys are in this beautiful new midtown office. You’ve been growing year-over-year and you can see it physically in the space. So, let’s just talk a little bit about the history of CLEAR. So I’m one of the … I don’t know what, original CLEAR members back in the day before you owned it. So, CLEAR was started by a company, a lot of people signed up, and then went bankrupt, right? What exactly happened there?
Caryn: Yeah, the bankruptcy word, never a good word. CLEAR was started as a response to 9/11 in partnership with the government by Steve Brill and a team of innovative folks who thought biometrics were a great solution to enhance security and delight travelers. And they were right, but they might have been early — the economic downturn, biometrics were probably ahead of their time, and so they were levered, they had debt due, the world fell apart in 2009, the technology and cost structure wasn’t where it should have been. And so they shut down very unceremoniously (on) June 22nd, 2009. We still have some of the signs.
Brian: And they were Denver-based or something?
Caryn: They were New York City-based.
Brian: I remember so vividly going through the JFK, the old Delta terminal, when I signed up, and there was all this debate because biometrics and giving so much of that data, back then was really controversial. And meanwhile, I was like, you know, everyone has my info anyway, I had actually been … right after 9/11, there was an Irish terrorist, Brian Kelly. So, me and my dad were on that terrorist list for a good two years in 2002 and, I mean, it was terrible. We couldn’t check in for flights and so I’ve always been scarred by that experience. I’m like, “I’m happy to give whatever information I have to not go through that again.”
Brian: So, the company went under.
Caryn: The company went under.
Brian: And so before CLEAR, you were in the hedge fund business, you’re…
Caryn: Sure, just like every good operator. Jeff Bezos, for the record, worked at a hedge fund, just saying, but…
Brian: Do you feel like that has a bad connotation?
Caryn: I think it does, and yet I think it should have an excellent connotation because we were value-oriented investors, long-term investors, looking across different businesses. And I had the fortunate position to have a front-row seat to companies like Priceline post-2002 that almost died and had a brilliant management team that turned it around. To see Jeff Bezos, who people thought was going to die in the dot-com blowup, turn Amazon into what it is. To see Steve Jobs return and turn Apple, which started with the candy-colored computers upon his return, and build a platform. And what you see across those companies is management teams with not so much historical experience in their industries. I mean, Steve, yes, but not at the beginning … and focus on the customer, build solutions for the customers, build the customers’ trust and then build this platform where I can delight you on the Priceline brand, I can use this travel platform for bookings, and active and all these different things.
If I can delight you on my hardware desktop platform, we can take that to laptops, we can take that to iPods and the iPod ultimately becomes a phone and so you keep going. Amazon, if I can delight you with books, I can sell you anything. And then continue to optimize it, and it’s never good enough, and so I was fortunate to watch all that. They defied all the critics, we’re sitting in the indefatigable room at CLEAR, that is our core mantra, right? — persistent and tireless — and to watch incredible people do incredible things. And as I like to say, I didn’t wanna die and have people say, “I picked good stocks.” The opportunity to build a company that was member-centric — and when I say member-centric, it’s team members and customer member-centric that made our world safer and that delighted customers … That was an awesome opportunity.
Brian: So, you saw even though it had this, you know, the slow kind of “watch a quick car crash” sort of end in there, you saw the opportunity in that, and what was it? Did you know the original founders?
Caryn: So, here’s a bizarre…no I did not, and I wasn’t a member. I looked at it once at the Grand Hyatt, going up to a conference, but did not join. But I was invested in one of the biometric solutions that helped build CLEAR and that was L1, and so what I saw was … ready for my McDonald’s analogy? Long time ago, in 2002, we invested in McDonald’s and McDonald’s had blown up the stock for a variety of different reasons. And everyone said, “Oh McDonald’s, obesity lawsuits, it’s the end,” and what you saw was a giant line of cars out the drive-through and a company that investors no longer cared about. And so I call that the dislocation between Main Street and Wall Street. At CLEAR, what we saw was the opportunity to build a biometric platform, a secure identity platform. So, that’s from a research perspective, but when I sat next to people at a dinner party or talked to people and said, “Hey, we’re looking at CLEAR,” they would literally whip out the card from their wallet. It was shut down. They, you know, hadn’t gotten their money back, they didn’t know where their data was, they were frustrated, they were mad, but they kept the card and they said, “We love CLEAR, we miss CLEAR.”
The power of that brand, the power of that service and that experience — that was it. And so to know that we had a vision of a secure identity platform, that biometrics were gonna change the world. They were doing it outside the US, not yet inside the US, and to see the passion that customers who had not been treated very well — actually they were treated terribly at the end –the power of the brand…
Brian: That they still loved it after all that, that’s pretty awesome.
Caryn: … that was the best focus group you could have had.
Brian: And so, like, we were just talking about when I tried to do my small thing, people said, “You’re crazy, you’re crazy.” I always like to think whenever people say you’re doing something crazy, you’re probably onto something, so I’m sure you had no shortage of people in your life that were like, “Stay away.”
Caryn: I mean, I love my mom dearly, but the thought of her daughter leaving Wall Street to buy a bankrupt company was not good cocktail party conversation. Sorry, mom.
Brian: So, talk us through that. So, then you were circling CLEAR, it had officially sort of died and then you … did you bring together a group of investors? Did you … how did you approach it?
Caryn: So, I approached it with the same business partner that I’ve now had for 18 years, who was … I was partnered with in asset management. And we went about it with our own money saying, “We wanna buy this company and we wanna build this company.” And so we used our own money and some outside investors who … I believe in the power of partnership and we had been leading Arience Capital for eight years and we had been at other businesses and always done right by investors and built those relationships and that trust. And so when they heard what we were doing, many of them came along and they … so it was us and some outside investors.
Brian: So, when you first got the keys to the castle, when you looked around, was the state better or worse than you thought you were gonna get there?
Caryn: It was shut down, there was nothing and it was worse. There was no castle. It was Ken and I in a room and we left and — you know, nothing says “I love you” like a bankruptcy auction, which is the most bizarre experience. And we left that night and they were like, “You’re the winner,” and like, “Bringing home a new baby from the hospital is so great, now what?” We have this vision and we literally have five page to-do list from those first weeks, each of us, separately, and it’s just — you’re in it and almost, ignorance is bliss. We had done due diligence but you don’t know what you don’t know.
Brian: And how many members were there when it shut down originally?
Caryn: They were 190,000 members when it shut down originally after about five years. There were 18 airports, but the majority of customers came from six airports: Denver, Orlando, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta. The stuff was in storage, the hardware we … Ken and I were visiting warehouses to find kiosks and cartons of information and storage facilities. There were no employees and we were … like, you know, the customer service, the telephone operator, the email writer, the marketing department, the operations team — and we went about building a team.
Brian: Who were your first couple of hires?
Caryn: A treasurer, someone in accounting; a COO who came from the airport … airline industry at the time; so, some folks in operations and then we had a lot of folks on the technology and innovation side, some of whom had experience with old CLEAR or the defense industry or biometrics; and then a customer service person.
Brian: So, we … look, it’s 2019 now and you’ve got 3 million members active, so congratulations on that pretty impressive growth.
Caryn: Thank you.
Brian: I guess my first question is, do you consider CLEAR a travel company?
Caryn: No. So we consider CLEAR a secure identity platform which is using biometrics to make the world safer and easier to navigate, secure and frictionless — there are so many different words that we bat around here. We’re building this connected world and travel connects the world, so I think it’s an incredibly important vertical, it is the place where security and identity not converge, but collide. And where customer experience matters so deeply, and where security matters so deeply and it’s also where CLEAR died and where was the most obvious-use case to bring it back. I will say that I’ve been in … I’m from DC, my parents worked for the government, my grandparents were immigrants. I cared deeply about the state of our country, about security here, I’m also a paranoid neurotic New Yorker. And, you know, 9/11 was …
Brian: Were you in the city on 9/11?
Caryn: I was not, I actually took a plane on 9/10, I flew to LA on a 10pm flight on September 10, and then the next morning … I fell asleep with CNBC on at the hotel, going to a Merrill Lynch media and telecommunications conference, and woke up to the voice of Mark Haines on CNBC a few hours after I landed. And there were people I knew in those towers. There were people that people at the conference knew, it was a surreal experience. We were stuck there, got back many days later, my parents worked in DC trying to find them, my husband was here in New York and it changes the way you look at the world. For me, it changed the way I felt my moral obligation to make this world a better place, which is how I send my kids off to school every morning, right? With that sort of mantra. And CLEAR was the platform that absolutely fulfilled that need for me to leave the world better than I found it.
Brian: I mean, because that is such an interesting challenge, like, everyone sort of hates airport security, but everyone knows that it’s … you know, 9/11 is not distant … in the distant past, and we all wanna make sure flying is safer. But it’s always so hard because, and, you know, let’s … we’ve agreed today, we’re not gonna to put down the TSA. I mean, the TSA serves an important role. That’s for another podcast episode, but, I mean, it is as travelers, we don’t wanna be inconvenienced yet we wanna be safe and there’s like this big … and so how can … and I do think CLEAR is important because we should. It is kind of silly to think of a human checking two faces on an old ID and someone with the new haircut, it’s unrealistic to think that we’re gonna get … we should be using technology not only to speed it up but for accuracy, and that’s really what CLEAR does, right? So, for people who don’t know CLEAR, explain the ecosystem in an airport, you know, like what is … what information does CLEAR have and why does CLEAR make us safer?
Caryn: So, before we even get there, I think to your point on TSA and it’s worth putting forth — TSA in 2001 put forth the concept of a registered traveler program and started, right? And so I wanna say — and I think people don’t recognize it enough — the power of public-private partnership and CLEAR is here. I would argue TSA at the beginning incubated CLEAR, right? CLEAR is here because TSA thought that working with the private sector on innovation to make things safer and easier was a good idea. And so I think … I’d like to think that we proved their concept right, and are taking it further faster in partnership with them. And I was saying that I traveled yesterday as I went through, to look at those TSA officers and say, “Thank you for what you’re doing and I’m sorry, I think it’s incredibly important,” because what you’ve also seen is the importance of what they do when there’s a 90-minute line as the most viral thing, you know, in Atlanta. And so CLEAR is about, to your point: How do you make things more secure? How do you make them more frictionless?
And I would say travelers beyond airports, you think about trains, you think about cruises, you got to put that whole travel ecosystem together. And it’s ensuring that you are who you say you are, you are you and we know something about you, whether it’d be that you have a boarding pass or, you know, from a PreCheck perspective, which is a TSA program, but there’s also other opportunities to say you’re a known traveler, and that can change your experience. And so CLEAR is about a customer-centric enrollment process. Enrollment in these programs is difficult and often not consumer-friendly. And so CLEAR was about making it a less than five-minute enrollment process where we are digitally authenticating your identity document. Like, every time, you’re taking out your driver’s license, why? We’re gonna say it’s real once, it’s absolutely real on a digital basis, not on a manual basis. And then you’re gonna get a trusted identity quiz to ensure you’re the person on that document, right?
So the document’s real, you’re the person on the document. Fingerprints, iris, image, and face become those documents, your credit card because you’re paying and your driver’s license. And so it’s almost like you’re merging with your wallet when you enroll. And so every time you’re putting your fingerprints down or your iris or your face, you are those documents and you are the information on those documents, right? So, that’s about the enrollment process, that’s the enrollment and then the verification process. Every time your fingerprints or iris, which is what we’re using today at the airport, reflect what you’re constantly pulling out of your wallet in, you know, sub one second. And then on top of that, from that ecosystem perspective, we’ve then built through APIs into different things, so we’ve just launched in 20 different markets with Delta Biometric Boarding Pass. If you go to LaGuardia today, your fingerprints are both your driver’s license and your boarding pass, taking nothing out of your wallet.
You go into the lounge, you use your biometrics to check in at 50 different lounges today, again, taking not your boarding pass or your, you know, driver’s license…
Brian: I hate it when you’ve got your phone, your license.
Caryn: But why? Why are you doing all these things? And then think about the power of facial as we continue to roll that out, it’s another nonstop… So, biometric bag drop which we have rolled out in two markets, biometric identity, and biometric boarding pass, biometric lounge access, the biometric boarding. We’ve also done, outside of airports, biometric payment and age validation for alcohol, because you are your driver’s license and you are your credit card. Why are you…?
Brian: There’s no fake IDs. … I’m glad I already went through college.
Caryn: I know, I’m ruining that for everyone. We don’t have ubiquity, but when we do…and so the fact of the matter is that you’re whipping … you know, just like you’re taking out your driver’s license and your boarding pass, it will be your driver’s license and your credit card, you are you. So, you could literally in that curb to gate experience — from the time you enter the airport to the time you board the plane — take nothing out of your wallet, have a better customer experience, and it’s not just the lines. What kills me is when people thought, “Well, here’s a line skipping company.” It’s no more a line skipping company than going to an ATM versus a bank teller. You don’t think, “Oh, you’re in line for the bank teller and I’m at the ATM machine.” So you’re just saying you’re using technology for an automated process in that automation scale. So you could put eight bank teller… eight ATM machines, and so we continue to grow CLEAR pods in the verification lanes and the enrollment so that you can verify eight people every one, one and a half seconds. And you think about adding e-gates to that, you think about … I mean, we have so many ideas. Our view is to be the innovation partner to airports, to airlines, to the government.
Brian: I’m thinking, you know, just on that, like, you being a partner with TGI Friday’s, where you’ve got a machine at every bar so that you just put your two fingers, and then that’s much better than being in a dark bar, trying to, you know, have a bartender waste time on, is this a fake ID or?
Caryn: Correct. Or when you think about vending machines … or when you think about…
Brian: Just stop at breathalyzers, that’s going too far, Caryn.
Caryn: …good fake IDs have become and in, you know, addition even if it’s a real ID, I look a lot like my sister. And so it’s the power of identity and the data around that identity, right? Because access and entitlements are rooted in identity: Can you come to this floor? Can you come into this building, do you … are you in the right terminal, should you be flying today? And it’s real time, and it’s networked and it’s powerful. And so that’s the concept but it’s … again, going back to that line, it’s not about the lines, it’s about the experience and the confidence. I know that when I was telling you I live about 20 minutes from LaGuardia, if I leave at 6am, if I leave at 7:15am, it’s a different time. If I leave at 5am, it’s 17 minutes, and so I know that, and I know how long it will take me to get through a CLEAR lane, right? Averaging less than five minutes, and then I know that I’m at gate whatever and that’s usually a five-minute walk or I’m at T4, you know, JFK, and it’s a 20-minute walk. I know with confidence exactly how much time, so I can have breakfast with my child, or stay at work longer, or do another meeting. I have control over my life — and I’m a control freak, so I want everyone to have that.
Brian: A lot of people who listen to this podcast are frequent travelers. And just so people are very clear, when you have CLEAR, you know, I show up at LaGuardia, I have PreCheck, but you go up to the CLEAR station, you don’t take anything out. You put your two fingers on it, they take you to the front of the TSA PreCheck lane where you show your boarding pass, and then you get basically … I mean, as much as CLEAR is not a line skipping company, it does help skip lines, especially … even though TSA PreCheck lanes move quickly, it does save time. I mean, that’s…
Caryn: It’s an automated experience, which in and of itself expedites things, right? Because you are … and you can leverage, so we’re looking at verifications per minute, verifications per second. So, we know when we need to add more pods or we need to add more people to ensure a rapid experience. Whatever is going on there, there could be two people in line at the TSA line or there could be, you know, 200. It’s about an automated — and automation means greater security — automated, expedited experience. Seventy percent of our customers today are PreCheck eligible on any given flight. We love PreCheck, I have PreCheck.
Brian: If someone doesn’t have PreCheck but they get clear, they still will go to the front of the PreCheck lane?
Caryn: They would go to the standard screening lane. Say if PreCheck is physical screening, it’s the ability to keep your coat, shoes on and laptop in the bag — unless you’re like me and wear heels and every time the heels make it ding. So in that case, it doesn’t work. But in either case, it’s the physical screening experience, either standard or…
Brian: Have you talked to the TSA? Because, you know, if a CLEAR member, like, to get them expedited PreCheck because you have all the info, it seems like that would make sense…
Caryn: There are many opportunities to continue to grow our public-private partnership with TSA and we are never lacking…
Brian: You’ve said that before.
Caryn: We are never lacking ideas and willingness, and I do think it’s a moment, right? It is a moment, travel keeps growing. If you grow travel a few percent a year, that’s millions of people into airports.
Brian: We got to find ways to get them through quicker.
Caryn: Millions of people. I mean, they’re already building a new terminal for LaGuardia, like how much more space is there? There’s not that much more space and the threat environment keeps evolving. So, going back to the power of biometrics, (it) makes it more secure and can process more people in a more frictionless way. That is so powerful in airports and lots of the rest of the world are looking like airports — sports stadiums, buildings, they’re all looking like airports.
Brian: Yeah, I went to the Yankees game this past year and used CLEAR for the first time and even though I was in a suite, there was still a really long line and it’s very confusing, but I saw that CLEAR logo and, I mean, it got me through and, you know, especially, you know, people who value their time, it can easily pay for itself.
Brian: So let’s talk about data because, you know, we’re on the heels of the biggest Marriott breach and you must have an incredible amount of data on where people travel, what people are now buying. So, how do you protect that, and what do you say to people who say, “No way, CLEAR, that’s too much?”
It’s really important that people know we will not sell or share their data. We sell experiences by securing your data and protecting your privacy. We’ve been banging the drum on that now since 2010. And so with everything that’s happened in the past 24, 36 months, magnified over the last 8 to 10 months with what’s going on in Facebook and other places, we just keep saying it louder and louder: that we are about protecting your data, we do not sell or share data. It’s a complicated world and tt is so important to build that trust and it’s also important that that’s why we have ambassadors bringing technology to life. I believe in technology and automation but I think interesting to biometrics is humanity, whether it’d be your fingerprints, or your iris, or the humanity of our folks talking to people, our ambassadors, and sharing and answering questions, because trust is everything.
Brian: We were talking how disjointed the travel process is and how stressful it is, and this is just one way to kind of clear blockages in that whole process of, you know, leaving your house or going to an event.
So let’s talk the pricing model. How does CLEAR pricing work? How do you recommend people… You know, we have a link with The Points Guy but I know you guys have a relationship with Delta. So, what’s the annual membership — base membership — for CLEAR and what are some of the ways you’d recommend someone who’s interested in trying it out… ?
Caryn: Of course, The Points Guy.
Brain: No, you don’t have to push us. We may come out with something special, but stay tuned for that.
Caryn: So, you know, one of the important things that we’ve done — because (with) technology seeing is believing, experiencing is believing. You look at Netflix, you look at Amazon, they offer free trials into Amazon Prime because they want people to experience their service. And so we offer free one-month trials if you enroll at the airport, and then that goes into $179 a year. One month, you don’t get charged, but I think it is a great way for people who are like, “I don’t know,” to experience it.
Brian: And to sign up at the airport, you just need…?
Caryn: You just need a driver’s license or a passport or military ID, the forms of ID, government issued ID are listed on our website. And so that is a great way to experience it. Delta members do … if you’re Delta Diamond, it’s free for you, so that seems like a no-brainer, and then Delta Platinum and Gold and Silver are either $79 or $99. And so that is great. And we’re in the majority of Delta’s network. I think it’s important to say that today, we’re in 27 airports and we’re gonna be opening … we opened four airports in the last few months and we’re gonna be opening 8 to 10 more this year in 2019.
Brian: What is the process? When you say … when your members say “We wanna be in X airport?” I’m sure you have a whole team that works with … there’s so many people that run airports, like how do…
Caryn: It’s so much longer and harder than I thought it could get. And so, every airport is different, they’re run by…
Brian: And it’s like JKF is really like eight airports.
Caryn: Oh lord, yes. And yet we’re so excited to be in Terminal 4, that was a long time coming at JFK and customers have been loving it. And so we go to the airports who are run by cities, who are run sometimes by separate … like in Orlando, it’s the Greater Orlando Aviation Group that runs it and we’re telling them that we can really do four things. Number one, make travel safer; number two, delight their travelers, get them through security faster and on the other side at their Starbucks and all the … I mean, there’s so many great concessions now in stores, local ones popping up in airports. It’s not good if you’re running through putting your belt back on and can’t experience it. We create jobs in cities and add … we’re a force multiplier, right? So, employees on the floor serving CLEAR members and non-members helping everyone get through the airport. And then also we share revenues back with cities, which is really important and powerful. And so it’s more like a four or five-year sales cycle, when you buy a bankrupt company, there’s a long, “I gotta show you that we’re gonna to do what we say we’re going to do.”
So, we doubled our network over the past 18 months and we expect to be in the top 40 airports, you know, in the next 18 months and then internationally as well.
Brian: And in stadiums, they started growing…
Caryn: Absolutely. It’s hugely growing. And so we did a deal with Major League Baseball where CLEAR is the official biometric and ticketing partner of Major League Baseball. And so that’s really exciting as we think about “Your face is your ticket” which we expect to launch this year and we did our first one with the Mets where your fingerprints are your tickets the same way as your biometric boarding pass. We start to see all these parallelisms and similarities in different industries, your boarding pass is the same as your baseball ticket. And customers are loving it and it’s the new customer expectation. So, yes, we’ll be launching in more sports stadiums with more leagues. And then we’re driving that experience same way curb-to-gate at an airport, what you see with the Seattle Seahawks is it’s the fast lane in, it’s your ability to buy your beer with your fingerprints, which are your driver’s license and your credit card, and then your face is gonna be your ticket. And so, same concept in sports stadiums.
Brian: So, you have purchases now linked to it.
Caryn: Correct. So far in Seattle, but more to come. So, you know, there’s clearly great pricing with Delta. If you enroll in a sports stadium, it’s actually free. And so … but you can only use it at the sports stadium, and then throughout the whole network, and then you could upgrade to the airport. So, there’s so many different ways to get involved with CLEAR. There’s the freemium model, there’s the airport model — because they just wanna try it out — or there’s the lower priced model which is I’m gonna pay full cash up front here but at a lower price. But it’s also been really important to us — I’m a mom of three, and so the family plan is super important. Kids under 18 go for free, do not have to be enrolled, they just have to be with you, and then you can add up to three family members for $50 each. So, we are about driving the price down to bring it to as many people as possible and have them experience it in a greater way. Because what we look at is cost per use and what you wanna do for … the more people use it, the greater value it is.
Brian: Because you don’t wanna have your ambassadors standing around doing nothing, you’d much rather have people using it.
Caryn: Of course, of course, and it’s the way of the future, like, it’s a no-brainer.
Brian: People always say… I know people get mad at me because I promoted Global Entry very heavily. They actually used to hang it up in the Global Entry sign-up offices because the post went viral. And it was funny when I went in for my interview. They were like, “Thank you so much for spreading the word.” People now yell at me because they’re like, “Too many people are using Global Entry,” and I knew (with) CLEAR our readers liked it because people would be like, “OK, I got it, now stop promoting it,” you know. But you want more and more people to be … and really, there’s no … I don’t think I’ve ever seen a line at a CLEAR checkpoint.
Caryn: Our job is to serve our members and to continue to scale. And when you think about there was one E-Zpass lane and six cash lanes and now you have six E-Zpass lanes and one cash lane.
Brian: So you want people to be…
Caryn: We obviously want people using it but our job is to serve them, and as subscriber-based business, it’s all about retention and the only … it keeps you very honest and on your toes. Because the only way to retain people is to treat them very well and we are obsessed with the customer experience.
Brian: So, you know, at The Points Guy, we’re obsessed with credit cards, and you get free Global Entry and PreCheck now, and I’ve been telling all of our credit card partners, you got to add CLEAR, you got to add CLEAR. And I know there have been discussions and I’m sure … what can you share with us? And can we expect CLEAR to be a benefit of any major credit card in 2019?
Caryn: That’s a good question. So, we are having lots of great partnership conversations, lots of different industries are starting loyalty programs, right? And so I think a lot of people are modeling after the credit cards, whether it’d be ride sharing, or hotels, or things of that nature, everyone and airlines. And so at some level, it’s the same interesting … it’s the same folks who would be joining. We’ve had lots of credit card conversations. Sometimes I think that the passion for CLEAR is so high it scares the credit card companies because they think the uptake will be too high. So, I don’t know, I do think that we’re having interesting conversations and that do you need a plastic credit card? Or could your face be your credit card? And what we’re really interested in doing is integrating, right?
You don’t just want a marketing deal, the question for CLEAR is how you integrate into the whole customer experience and those customers who are really using the C:EAR experience, which is biometrically enabled then have better deals across the board. Whether they’re paying, or they’re ticketing, or they’re getting through the airport or a sports stadium. I do know we’re highly aligned, right, from a customer-centric perspective and experience perspective. Lots of credit card companies are focused on giving their customers better and differentiated experiences and we do that well. Stay tuned.
Brian: I know we have to wrap up shortly but I wanna to talk about … so one of my close friends, Claudia Oshry, the Girl With No Job, on our previous episode, wanted me to relay a message to you. And that was on the busiest day of the year, (the) day after Christmas, she was so excited to use CLEAR as a medallion and there was some sort of shutdown. What exactly happened there, and what would you say to an admittedly loud mouth man that was upset?
Caryn: Yeah. So first of all, we look at NPS score and customer surveys, which I just said I sign myself, and look at daily, and wear it on our sleeves. So I did see what Claudia said, and I’ll get to the reason why in a second. But worse than the shutdown was the fact that she thought I didn’t care, those weren’t her exact words, I believe she used an expletive and that … as an owner-operator, that horrified me more than anything. And I was gonna email her before this but now I’ll do it after. Every single person here care so deeply — to say we’re obsessed with the member experience… we share at the beginning of every town hall “CLEAR saved me” stories, which are really words that our members use to share their experiences and you always hear them. And when CLEAR fails you, it’s horrifying, but it’s also an opportunity for us to learn and we focus more on our detractors and our challenges than we do on our successes because we’re always getting better.
And so there was an outage, a well-publicized CenturyLink ISP outage, that impacted things nationwide. Connectivity is crucial to our business and it went down, but we own it. Nobody wants to hear, “Sorry, CenturyLink’s ISP is down.” And so the question is, when you’re in the cloud, you know, which is great usually for serving people, and you have an outage, there’s no way to connect to the cloud. And so to put it bluntly, it sucked. And we…
Brian: How long does it take to reconnect because I remember her thing was, “Do I wait, or do I just wait?” Would you recommend? Is it normally like two minutes so you should wait, or… ?
Caryn: I mean, it rarely happens. Sometimes there’s a local outage, so let’s just say there’s an outage in, you know, Denver that could go for a minute or two and … but no place else. There is an outage where you wouldn’t even know when it goes from wireline and kicks over to wireless. So, typically, like 99-and-change percent of the time, no problem. This was a nationwide broadband outage and it was bad and it was several hours, and yeah, it impacted lots of different services. So, typically, you should wait because it’s seconds, but this was not — but let’s be very clear, it doesn’t matter … no pun intended.
Brian: It’s so easy to pun with the…
Caryn: I don’t care whether it’s CenturyLink or anything else. We own it, we’re sorry and we care deeply and she should know that.
Brian: No more girl-on-girl crime, that’s right. Cool. Good. Glad we got that out of the way.
Brian: All right, we got to wrap this up. This has been really, really interesting. So, you travel the world. What is one destination where you go where it completely … I guess maybe … I hate saying favorite destination. What’s one destination you would want our listeners to think about if they haven’t before to visit?
Caryn: I’m very biased domestically to Miami, if you live on the East Coast, it has become the biggest no-brainer, it is Manhattan on the water. A flight leaves every 20 minutes, it is two and a half hours, you watch one movie, read a book.
Brian: And you can even fly lie-flats JFK to … I have an apartment in Miami and you can fly lie-flat 767s and 757s. But we just need CLEAR at American Airlines.
Caryn: Well, you’d have to talk to American Airlines about that, we’ve tried. So, you’d be surprised how many people at Miami Airport are begging for it and go through the E terminal to get through the D gates — which talks to the power of CLEAR — but I’d say, Miami. And then internationally, London is … again, it’s just so easy to get to and it’s a step back in time and yet so in the future.
Brian: What hotels do you like in London?
Caryn: That’s a good question. There’s so many good ones.
Brian: The London scene is so good.
Caryn: I’m really willing to try lots of different ones, because I think that there’s so many different kind of characters, if you will.
Brian: You don’t have any hotel partnerships yet. Do you?
Brian: That will be cool, though.
Caryn: I’m like thinking before I could say the answer.
Brian: So last thing, because I love to end on self-promotion because I’m a shameless self-promoter. So, where … (If) people want CLEAR at Miami, at stadiums, where should people request that CLEAR is added? What’s the most impactful…?
Caryn: It’s interesting, I’ve seen people tweeting and then, you know, @Clear and then @ someplace else. And so I always think that that’s very public, like, of course, email us, but, you know, then we have to just reiterate what you said. So I think…
Brian: But it’s like, would you tell a sports team or would you tell a stadium manager? Like who … or like an airport management company?
Caryn: Yeah, I mean, I think that the airports read their … you know, I have to say, San Francisco Airport is one of the most customer-centric airports, the Denver airport (is) so customer-centric, they’re so focused, and you see that in the airport experience there. And so I think that there … you tweet at the airport, tweet at the mayor. And from stadium owners, I think at the teams, but I have to say, I don’t even know that they need tweeting, you know. Maybe six years ago, they did. We’re now getting phone calls, we’re now getting people who were thinking about all sorts of interesting ways to integrate it. So…
Brian: You’re officially the cool kid on the block.
Caryn: I don’t know about that, but, you know, I’m the kid who got all A’s and my dad said, “What did you get the B in?” So, it’s like, you know, never good enough.
Brian: Final thought, what are you most excited about in 2019 for CLEAR?
Caryn: I’m most excited to add facial to our modality platform. I think that’s really important — fingerprints, iris, face. Excited. So, that’s most. And to roll out our mobile product as well. So that’s very exciting and I think that step function from an ease of enrollment, not for the airport checkpoint experience, but for so many other experiences. And continuing to build city and vertical ecosystems.
Brian: Well, Caryn, thank you for joining Talking Points and best of luck with CLEAR. As a happy paying member myself, you’ve built a really awesome platform.
Caryn: Thank you. Thanks for your membership.
Brian: Safe travels.
That’s it for this episode of Talking Points. Thanks again to our guest, Caryn Seidman Becker, you are an inspiration. Again, I’m your host, Brian Kelly, and this episode was produced by Caroline Schagrin and Jessica Rovniak, with editing by Ryan Gebis [SP]. Our music is by Brakemaster Cylinder and a special thanks to Adam Kotkin and Mike Bruno. If you liked this episode and want to hear more, make sure you leave a review on Apple podcast or wherever you downloaded this podcast. But more importantly, tell your friends, the more people we have listening, the more episodes we’ll make. And if you tag me on Instagram @briankelly or use #talkingpoints on social media, I might even give you a shout out. See you next week and until then, safe travels.
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