Clubhouse: a short-term fad or a platform with potential?

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Clubhouse. The word evokes nostalgic memories of treetop retreats for children. It also evokes images of discussions and shenanigans happening away from prying eyes.

Chances are you’ve heard the word Clubhouse everywhere in the past few days, well, perhaps a bit more that the usual chatter happening around the app, thanks to a recent conversation between Elon Musk and Robinhood co-Founder Vlad Tenev to discuss Robinhood’s decision to block Gamestop trading and the subsequent fall out from it.

So, what is Clubhouse anyway?

Here’s a quick overview about this audio-only platform.

Clubhouse launched in May 2020

From the outset, it billed itself as a “drop-in audio chat”. Think message boards but audio only. It immediately started gaining tracktion but its popularity seriously skyrocketed thanks to Elon Musk, whose chat maxed out Clubhouse’s chatroom occupancy rates of 5,000 users per room.

It had just 1,500 users and was worth $100m. As of February 1, 2021, it has two million users and is now worth one billion dollars.

Who are Clubhouse’s founders?

It was cofounded by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth.

Paul previously launched Highlight, a “serendipitous offline people-meeting location app” and “reveal-your-whole-camera-roll” app Shorts before his team was acquired by Pinterest in 2016.

Rohan’s accomplishments and projects include co-founding Memry Labs, which explored new behaviors to record and remember more memories, before it was aquired by Opendoor, and founding Lydian Accelerator, whose mission is to accelerate genetic treatments for children suffering from genetic diseases, including his daughter.

How can I access Clubhouse?

The app is currently available for Apple users only and you can’t simply download the app, create an account, and voila, you’re in. You need to be invited by a current member but good luck secure that elusive invite – each member is only given two invites to give away. This has resulted in a black market of sorts, where people are selling or buying invites.

Who uses Clubhouse?

When it first launched, it was mainly used by Silicon Valley insiders but over time that’s shifted to include more mainstream users from the general public to journalists.

So, how do I use it?

Once your account’s set up, you can pick topics of interest like tech, business, books and mindfulness, and Clubhouse will recommend conversation rooms and individuals to follow. 

Users can listen in on interviews and discussions and hosts can invite the audience up to the “stage”. It’s like a mix between a live podcast and talkback radio and the chats disappear once the conversation is over. 

Is it the next Big Thing, like TikTok?

Yes and no. It’s definitely a disruptive social media platform since it shook the current “wisdom” that people are focused on video content only. Clubhouse is proof of the concept that there’s a consumer for any type of product or service. You need to figure out your core niche and what’s the ideal product for them so you can get that initial, excited buy-in. Once you’re secure, your product/service will find its way to a larger audience naturally.

But how big will it really grow? Can it sustain the millions of users currently on the app and for how long before issues arise? What about when the founders open it up properly to the public, including Android users?

The founders plan to take away the invite-only aspect to it also as part of its next phase of development. Will it still be appealing once they do?

Right now, we all have more questions than answers but at the same time, we’re in a unique position of observing a platform grow from its initial stages in almost real-time so let Clubhouse take its course and where we end up.

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