If you’ve been on Twitter anytime over the past few weeks, you’ve most definitely heard of Clubhouse, the hottest new social app being talked about in Silicon Valley. From some people scrambling for invites to others flexing their membership, The “Fear of Missing Out” has helped create traction for the app as a serious wave of users have adopted their love of its platform based on audio chats. In-person encounters have been harder to maintain with social distancing in place, but social connections are seemingly needed more than ever now. Business owners are searching for creative ways to connect and engage with their audience in a more intimate way through audible stories.
For the few thousand who have early invites, spending hours on Clubhouse has become a source of bragging rights—due to the app’s exclusivity, but maybe also because everyone has been at home since the pandemic. Entering one of Clubhouse’s “rooms” feels like dropping into a house party, if you close your eyes. Or at least, Clubhouse fans say, it’s a much closer approximation to real-world socializing than Twitter or TikTok.
Clubhouse feels different than the other social apps on your phone, like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter. Moreover, it’s an audio-based social network where people can join open voice chat rooms together. You can see the chat rooms of all the people you follow and join any room, raising your hand to speak or just listening to the conversation. Users can spontaneously jump in and out of chat rooms, which disappear once they end.
Imagine being in this giant room and people are listening, but then you can go off and have a conversation in a corner—start your own room—and talk to someone one-on-one. Each room determines its own speaking privileges, which range from intimate conversations among friends to conference-like gatherings with a few “speakers” and a large “audience” listening in.
According to media reports, the operators of Clubhouse have received USD 10m from famed US VC firm Andreessen Horowitz—based on a USD 100m valuation—putting Clubhouse high in a very long list of new social audio apps. Clubhouse is currently in closed beta testing, only users participating in the test know just how Clubhouse works.
Clubhouse founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, who were previously at Google, Pinterest and VC firm Benchmark, are incredibly well connected in the US VC and tech scene and appear to have made use of these contacts to invite select individuals to join the app initially. The strategy began bearing fruit in April as word-of-mouth from one of the few, first and very-well connected Clubhouse users began generating awareness on Twitter. April was also the first time Clubhouse appeared on Techcrunch. But as Clubhouse is currently in closed beta testing, only users participating in the test know just how Clubhouse works.
Clubhouse founder Paul Davison Davison also stated that he did not foresee opening up Clubhouse for the public at large in the immediate future. He wrote that on the one hand it was important to grow communities slowly, rather than 10x-ing the user base overnight, and on the other hand he stressed that they were a small team and had not yet finished building the features that will allow them to handle more people. Now that Clubhouse has venture backing, it will have to aim for scale growth, even as the initial hype wears off. That might mean opening up to the masses, even if it means sacrificing its exclusive.
First, though, it has to launch.