To paraphrase what someone once said, never allow a crisis go to waste. Well, it seems some social startups like Clubhouse are taking heed of this admonition – without the ominous undertone of a bond villain, of course.
Clubhouse is an audio-based social network app that is pioneering a novel approach in how people chat and communicate, which is one of the reasons it has received the most buzz lately.
Clubhouse became the breakout app during the pandemic lockdown, as people sought new ways to connect with family and friends amidst the cleared schedules and shelter-in-place orders.
However, these enterprising startups like Clubhouse are striving to fundamentally alter the way we socialize way after the COVID-19 crisis is over. Unlike most other social networking apps, you need an invitation to get into this one, and this sense of exclusivity has added to its allure.
Clubhouse was created by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. Paul Davison is a serial entrepreneur and is also the creator of the meet-up app Highlight (which many of the articles about Clubhouse reference quite a lot) and Talkshow.
The most common denominator undergirding almost all reports on Clubhouse was its clout among the Venture Capitalist crowd. This isn’t to be taken lightly, because although the run-of-the-mill user might salivate over the newest shining object, winning the accolades of jaded venture capitalists who have seen it all isn’t to be taken lightly.
Below is a curation of some recent articles about Clubhouse, with a brief summary of each.
Clubhouse, the invite-only audio chat app being hailed as the next Snap or Twitter, just raised a big round of funding after a bidding war. Here’s what 9 VCs with access say it’s like.
In Silicon Valley, once a startup starts building up its cache among venture capitalists and they give it their stamp of approval, it is a good indicator it is likely to go places. This article highlights how Clubhouse was able to tap into a different zeitgeist and model than any other app had done, from the opinion of people who put their money where their mouth is.
As its title suggests, this article is basically a curation of the thoughts and opinions from nine venture capitalists regarding Clubhouse. We have reproduced a couple of them here.
According to Ben Parr, the cofounder of Octane AI, when asked how Clubhouse compares to other social apps, hade this to say:
“This app is like if Houseparty was audio, and it was about people’s interests instead of your friend groups. It makes [it] easy to go into a conversation … It doesn’t feel like the same kind of pressure as video chats. It’s made better for introverts than other apps I’ve seen.”
Note: Houseparty is a social networking app that enables group video chatting.
This was how Sriram Krishnan, an investor with Kearny, responded to how Clubhouse fits into daily his routine:
“I check into Clubhouse more than 15 to 20 times a day to see what’s going on. I don’t do this with Facebook. I think it’s up there right now as one of the apps I use the most frequently. I’m there to learn and listen, and it gives me a good enough reason to be on the product. Like, ‘Hey, I can learn something here today.”
When asked what effect the Coronavirus outbreak had Clubhouse’s popularity and hype, Masha Drokova, the Day One Ventures founder had this to say:
“It’s clearly happened so fast because of where we are now, because people crave places and opportunities to meet new people. But I don’t think it’ll go away when the crisis is over. People are going to make more cautious decisions about whether it’s worth to go meet people in person or not. People will go step by step. They’re not going to go from zero to 10 hours when hanging out with friends. This pattern of online habits won’t go away.”
The article starts by noting the cancellation of marquee events such as the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival due to the Coronavirus concerns. Events such as these used to be springboards to exposure and publicity for freshly minted social apps.
The article’s author, Kia Kokalitcheva, explains how despite these cancellations, some apps have still been able to cultivate and generate buzz and attention for themselves — one of which is Clubhouse.
Kokalitcheva reports that the invite-only approach is used to solicit early feedback to fine-tune Clubhouse before it becomes widely available, but the halo of exclusivity conferred has undoubtedly helped Clubhouse generate more buzz.
While Clubhouse was the centerpiece of the article, the driving force behind it, however, was how social apps were capitalizing on the collective need for digital socializing and entertainment during the season of sheltering-in-place lockdowns.
This piece by Josh Constine started from the perspective of the larger social network and messaging ecosystem, which it states is now being inhabited by a batch of “free-flowing, ad-hoc communication of parties and open office plans online.”
Constine cites Clubhouse as being preeminent among these buzzy startups. The article described Clubhouse as “an audio-based social network where people can spontaneously jump into voice chat rooms together.”
To provide readers who might not have heard about Clubhouse with some perspective, Constine contrasted these new emergent social platforms with “Live.” The reporter stated that while Live is more top-of-the-mind when it comes to performative streaming, the focus of these newcomers is on spreading the limelight on users and their discussions.
Underscoring the power of its reach, the week the article was published, Constine said Clubhouse had blown up the “VC Twitter,” with even some of the movers and shakers of the industry scrambling to get invites.
Those who were able to get in made fun of other people’s FOMO, while humble-bragging about their membership.
The article portrayed how Clubhouse has cemented its status as not only the new kid on the block, but according to the article, “the new favored app of the VC set.” However, it emphasized how this app has a velvet rope in reference to the invite required to get in.
The article outlines how Clubhouse breaks with convention in other areas: it emphasized that apart from not having a website (yet), the app is private only, requiring invites to access it.
Clubhouse tries to see to it that the global pandemic and social distancing needn’t be an obstacle to recreating the quirky social awkwardness of intermingling at parties. The article used the analogy of the app allowing one to reenact the warm feeling you get when you cumbersomely elbow your way into a conversation at a party; the only difference is that Clubhouse offers people the opportunity to do so digitally.
It equated Clubhouse as being the audio-only version of Houseparty. Houseparty is a social networking service that allows you to drop into a random conversation with people.
This article by Ann Freier, credited Clubhouse’s resurgence of users to people’s voracious desire for spontaneous communication during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Like a virtuous cycle, Freier points out how the lockdown is attracting more developers and development efforts to fill the need among users who simply want to digitally get together with others, with Clubhouse mixing in the refreshing element of surprise and spontaneity
Though it acknowledges that the app was (is) still in its relative infancy, but by virtue of the Twitter upheaval it had generated so far, it was already more than well on its way to widespread recognition.
Freier described some of Clubhouse’s distinguishing features: providing a platform where users are able to join in or listen to other users across a range of unlabelled chat rooms, with no public app to download.
Clubhouse’s similarity with Houseparty didn’t go unnoticed, as the article acknowledged the former appeared to share a kinship with the latter. For those who are unaware, Houseparty also lets its users spontaneously join a chat room, but with video being its medium of communication.
Freier also pointed out the other difference between the Clubhouse and most other social apps like Houseparty, is that Clubhouse doesn’t require you to have a previous connection with the individual you are trying to jump the same room with.
This article, unlike others, started with the author’s own experience and first interaction with the app. The author, Nathan Baschez, explained he was initially perplexed after he got an invite and downloaded the app, only to subsequently encounter a blank screen.
Soon, Baschez said, a user named Paul appeared and began to explain how the quirky strangeness of the Clubhouse app works.
The author went further to explain that Clubhouse has one “global” room that you initially get to join. Push notifications on the app inform everyone on Clubhouse when you’ve opened the app so they can join you to chat if they so desire.
Baschez gave perhaps one of the most insightful reasons why Clubhouse has resonated so much, saying “is working because it’s halfway between a podcast and a party, and people love both of those things.”
Andreessen Horowitz Wins VC Sweepstakes To Back Clubhouse, Voice App Still In Beta, At $100 Million Valuation
This article highlights the regard and sway Clubhouse is having even among the upper echelons of the Venture Capitalist, despite still being at the incipient stage of its growth.
At the time of its publishing, the article’s author, Alex Konrad reported it only had 5,000 beta test users. Noting that it didn’t even exist several months earlier, Clubhouse had nevertheless pitted a duo of Silicon Valley’s best-known venture capitalist firms against each other in a competitive funding round.
The article reports that it eventually scored a Series A round of funding from Andreessen Horowitz in a deal that reportedly valued the company at least $100 million. Konrad reports that the deal encompassed $10 million in primary capital with at least $2 million in secondary shares.
The deal also placed Andreessen Horowitz partner Andrew Chen on Clubhouse’s board.