Entrepreneurs

Clubhouse: Why Has It Taken Off?

A typical startup will go through several pivots to find the product-market fit. But this has not been the case for Clubhouse. Launched on the iOS app store in April 2020, it has become one of the hottest social networks in the world.

What is it then? Well, this is how the company describes it:  “Clubhouse is a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations—with friends and other interesting people around the world. Go online anytime to chat with the people you follow, or hop in as a listener and hear what others are talking about.”

It’s really simple—but powerful and engaging. “With around two million weekly active users and with many people still waiting to receive an elusive invite, Clubhouse is undoubtedly the app of the moment and the talk of the own,” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, who is the president of Socialbakers. “Appearances by Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have propelled it into the limelight. Essentially the application is giving people access to stimulating conversations at a time when the global pandemic has forced many of us to take distance.”

The buzz is that Twitter has already made a $4 billion offer to buy the company. And yes, Clubhouse is looking at its next funding, which will certainly be large.

So then, what are some of the reasons for the success? What are the takeaways?

I had a chance to talk to tech and marketing veterans about this—and here’s what they had to say: 

Pierre Subeh, who is Chief Operating Officer at X Network:

Clubhouse brings a new twist of innovations with its invite-only platform that sold itself since day one as a form of elitism, the virtual kind. Think about a yacht club, but on your phone.

James Wilsterman, who is the Chief Technology Officer and cofounder of Volley:

The most interesting aspect of Clubhouse is that listeners can become audio creators so easily by unmuting themselves and joining conversations; furthermore, voice itself is information-dense, conveying meaning through language, tone, pauses, and emphasis.

It’s simply more natural for many of us to start talking than it is for us to craft a pithy tweet or construct a compelling Instagram story. Given how natural and intuitive speaking is, voice has been underinvested in as a software input since podcasts were popularized over twenty years ago.

Mike Owen, who is the Chief of Business at Spiketrap:

People seek deeper understanding in their conversations, and context is key. Platforms that enable nuanced communication between users will enjoy more robust engagement, and see stronger user retention. Audio formats allow participants to convey more context via their tone of voice, much in the same way that emojis and emotes provide context for text-based communication.

On the user experience front, audio-only formats enable users to tune in or participate during the in-between moments of their day. Time spent with audio formats has shifted over the years—from radio to audiobooks and podcasts—and the interactive live conversation experience offered within Clubhouse is the next evolution in the space.

Tiffany Xingyu Wang, who is the General Manager and cofounder of Oasis Consortium:

Audio has been called the “Goldilocks” medium as it’s more personal than text but less intrusive than video. Researchers have long known that audio can make difficult topics more accessible, and humanize challenging issues through simple back-and-forth conversation.

Shachar Orren, the Chief Marketing Officer at EX.CO:

Audio is a bit more casual than other formats of communicating, such as video. Audio allows people to engage while they are doing other things, which is different than reading an article, looking at pictures or hosting a Zoom meeting.

More people could be inclined to listen to audio while going about other daily tasks like cooking dinner or doing laundry, because it’s a more flexible format, while still being really engaging.

It’s also useful as an internal communications tool for companies with global teams, as it offers employees a way to connect quickly without setting aside a whole 30 minute or hour long scheduled Zoom session.

Thibaud Clement, who is the CEO and cofounder of Loomly:

Perhaps most surprisingly, a factor contributing to the success of live audio apps is the popularity of Airpods and other wireless earbuds. In 2019, Airpods generated $12 billion in revenue, which means 8% of Apple’s revenue. That alone is more than the entire revenue of Spotify! That immense commercial success is, at the very least enabling, if not empowering, the success of audio-first social networks, such as Clubhouse, Spaces (Twitter), or the new initiative by Spotify. To go even further, as Ben Thompson puts it: “Clubhouse is the first AirPods social network.”

Jeremiah Owyang, advisor to Rally.io:

Clubhouse is incredibly easy to use and it doesn’t require users to build an extensive profile about themselves before getting into the fun. Users can quickly discover conversations that resonate with them and raise their hand to speak directly to experts that they wouldn’t get the opportunity to speak to in person.

Andrew Lee, who is a partner at Initialized Capital:

Clubhouse is authentic—the quality of the audio is monumentally better over data than over phone or radio. The fidelity of a small audio cue, like a mute/unmute conveys just enough without encountering the problem of Zoom fatigue.

Tom (@ttaulli) is an advisor/board member to startups and the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction, The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems and Implementing AI Systems: Transform Your Business in 6 Steps. He also has developed various online courses, such as for the COBOL and Python programming languages.



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