Clubhouse, a voice only, iOS only, Testflight only, 5000 users only, invite-only social app launched in April 2020 and scored $100M valuation with $12M investment from Andreessen Horowitz that same month. Unprecedented. It had 600,000 users as of Jan 1st, 2021 and ~2.5M as of Jan 23rd, 2021(1M weekly active users). Mindblowing growth in 3 weeks. Investors are gathering once more to lead the $1B new round now. So let’s talk about it a bit.
It created a FOMO. They got the biggest names in the Valley to sign up, create rooms and talk. The next month they got celebrities: Drake, Oprah, Tiffany Haddish, Ashton Kutcher, Jared Leto and etc. It got helmed as the “cool kids’ app”, the “celebrity app”, the “VIP app”. Roll out to Fall 2020, twitter folks called out Clubhouse for being poorly moderated, unfiltered, uncensored and thus letting homophobic, anti-semitic, misogynistic rooms and talks. The wave flatted itself out after Clubhouse team promised to improve censorship.
A couple of months in, Twitter acquired a couple of podcasting, mobile screen sharing (Squad, YC company), virtual hangouts apps and announced it’s working on Twitter Spaces (Clubhouse copycat). A couple of days ago Twitter rolled out the feature for some users to test. That was the same day I got a Clubhouse invite from Austen Allred, Lambda School’s Founder & CEO (YC company).
Here’s my super honest, bullshit-free review of Clubhouse as of JAN 22, 2021.
In its basic functionality, Clubhouse feels like a scrollable stack/timeline/list of zoom calls, all on different topics. You scroll, tap on the ones you like and instantly get into a voice-only unfiltered, uncensored call. It feels like listening to a podcast that you can participate as well. You can also create rooms, schedule rooms and moderate talks. You can become a member of various clubs like Stanford alumni, YC alumni, Startup and others and be notified of their calls/rooms.
Clubhouse is both overrated and underrated. It’s overrated in the US, but underrated in all other countries. And when the craze around it passes I think it’s gonna be majorly underrated. As when stripping down the FOMO, it actually does provide immense value. One of the biggest values is that every week the founders organize a townhall room and tell the users their company updates 🤯. That’s insane. Their transparency is on another level. Some companies are just starting to be transparent to the team whereas they are telling the updates to the actual users. On Jan 24 Paul and Rohan told about the new round being raised, hiring, early monetization plans, working on Android and plans to open up to everyone. Just amazing.
The Good 👇
✅ It’s invite-only, meaning only the CHOSEN are in the app and the quality is relatively high. You get to participate in very cool, exclusive calls with VCs, Founders, Celebrities
✅ It’s new, meaning you can get to a high following number very quickly and grow your account. Like Twitter or Insta 10 years ago or TikTok 1–2 years ago.
✅ It’s unfiltered, meaning you get to say and hear lots of unpopular, bullshit-free opinions on various topics
✅ It’s voice-only, meaning no stressing out on how you look. The only thing that matters is your ideas. Insta promoted your looks, Twitter promoted your writing skills, TikTok promoted your humor, entertainment skills and Clubhouse promotes your intelligence.
✅ Again, the power of voice, meaning people are organizing group meditation, watching the inauguration together, performing live Lion King musical 😨, having support group rooms and etc.
The BAD 👇
❌ It’s unfiltered, uncensored, meaning you can stumble upon a room where people are bullying each other, talking misogynistic, racist, anti-semitic stuff. Moreover, there are lots of charlatans and fraudsters asking money upfront for an opportunity to pitch a startup.
❌ It’s new, meaning it’s hard as f*ck to get to the good content. You can’t search available rooms, you can only scroll and sometimes all rooms are shit. Most of the times clubhouse is boring, unless you’re following just the right people who organize just the right talks.
❌ It’s voice-only, meaning your zoom fatigue will get amplified. After a couple of days, my head started hurting. It’s like you’re 24/7 in a call.
❌ It’s already not very personal, meaning when there were 5000 quality users, most room sizes were <50. Right now Tiffany Haddish organizes a room and there are >1000 people in the room.
❌ It’s 50/50 on the quality side, meaning most of the time you feel like you’re wasting time as, again, it’s very hard to find a worthwhile room. Turns out most people are fundamentally boring.
The OK 👇
⚠️ It’s invite-only, meaning the experience is still “closed” and probably a lot of cool rooms, ideas, talks that could happen, are not happening
⚠️ It’s iOS-only, meaning no Android users can get access.
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What I Think (summary and notes)😎
I think Clubhouse will open to the general public as soon as Twitter mass-releases Twitter Spaces. Otherwise, they’ll lose momentum and critical masses will already get used to TS rather than CH.
I also think that every founder should never take any investor seriously who asks “What if Big companies copy your product?”. Dude, c’mon, Twitter’s literally copying Clubhouse right now, Facebook copied Snapchat (valued $75B). THEY can always copy anything. That doesn’t mean products should stop being created. And one more thing, 99% of the time, before copying smth, the big guys make an acquisition offer.
I think that founders should stop obsessing about failures (myself included). Clubhouse guys founded another startup Talk Show before this, which failed. Iteration and consistency is the only key to eventual success.
P.S. I have 1 Clubhouse invite to spare. DM me @lussvontrier on Twitter if you want it.