Everything you need to know about 2020's buzziest app yet, Clubhouse.

What is it?

Clubhouse is a new buzzing social app that’s taken over Tech Twitter.

Why does it matter?

It’s being heralded as “Twitter for audio”. Early users who’ve been using it constantly rave how amazing it is and share that they spend an average of 8-12 hours a day on the app. This is wild for any early-stage consumer app. Many people love it, some hate it but as an outsider and a fellow tech founder in the industry, I’ve been fascinated about the whole story so far. Today, the news came out that the app that has barely 5000 beta users is now worth $100m in valuation. Unusual? You bet. Too early? I don’t think so. Read the whole post and decide for yourself.

Where can I find it on the Internet?

That’s the thing. You can’t find it publicly on the Internet yet. There’s not even a landing page. The founders have been sharing invites to try the TestFlight app privately on a case by case basis after you fill out a Google form. This “exclusive” factor has resulted in tremendous FOMO among the tech enthusiasts.

Who are you?

I’m KP, one of the co-founders of Cuppa which is the Internet’s first virtual coffee shop. We’re building a place for anyone to have 1-1 virtual meetings with other interesting people from Twitter. As someone who loves keeping up with cutting edge consumer tech and new trends, Clubhouse fascinates me very much.

Do you have an invite yet?

Nope. But I’d love to. I’ve been following the story closely ever since it made its first appearance on Twitter in April. [Update: I’m finally in. Loving it!]

Who are the founders? What did they build before this?

Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth. They launched an audio app Talk Show before this which didn’t seem to gather the same attention Clubhouse has been getting. (Check out this podcast hosted by Paul created to promote Talk Show)

How does it work?

(If you are a current beta user, please help me if there are any errors in this description!)

There’s a host/moderator who creates a new room and invites a bunch of speakers. There is generally no topic/agenda announced ahead of time but you’ll see a pattern once you see who’s being invited as speakers. Once the room is created and the audio only session is on, everyone who follows these speakers gets a notification about the session and can join in as a listener.

The host can see who’s joining in and can choose to invite one of the audience members to join as a speaker as well. You have the option to accept the request to join the panel or deny politely (see screenshots below). At any time, you can browse through several rooms and hop in and hop out as you wish. It’s super fascinating!

What’s awesome about Clubhouse?

Think of it as a hybrid of Twitter and TED but only audio.

You get to listen to super interesting conversations/discussions among 3-5 smart people moderated by a host. But the host can invite an audience member to be part of the panel at any time so this makes it feel more interactive than a recorded podcast. The fact that it is all “real-time” also makes it fun like a sporting event. There are no second takes, do-overs or post-processing. Just raw, authentic, and immersive experience of being with talented people. I think it’s very cool and definitely a zero to one idea. Imagine being in a room with your favorite movie actors or Olympic swimmers or NASA scientists. Whatever your particular interest might be, you’ll naturally want to learn how and what the top 10% leaders/influencers think about various topics. That’s why it’s a hint of TED mixed with the rawness of Twitter.

What can new founders learn from Clubhouse’s journey?

  1. Viral products don’t happen overnight (or by fluke)

    Clubhouse is clearly a phenomenon now but it came after Talk Show. I have to reckon that the story goes even back. As founders, your first (or 2nd or 7th) idea might not take off. Don’t give up yet. Keep producing and keep iterating.

  2. Build leverage before you need it

    Naval describes leverage as a key factor in any business’s success. The founders of Clubhouse cashed in on their years of built-up leverage by placing the product in some of the most influential VCs and founders around the world. Some may think it was all because of their “inner circle” or “prior connections” but that misses the point. No one has an inner circle by default, you build that over time by adding value to the right people.

    The beauty with leverage is anyone can build it if they wish to. Especially today on the Internet. You don’t have to live in Silicon Valley but if you have a sincere intention to help people, you can do 100 different things to spend your energy/intellect in the service of others freely and it compounds over time. (You can count my writing this post as an act of building tiny leverage)

  3. Ship fast

    One key trait I’ve found in my research on Clubhouse is how early users constantly compliment founders fo acting on feedback quickly and building out newer features. When you are just 2 founders, you have the rare privilege to move fast and build things. No design by committee or needing approvals from higher executives. Not a lot of founders lean into this advantage. When you are quick to react to user feedback, no other startup can copy you because they are always playing catch up.

  4. Influencer effect is real

    Mimetic theory of desire is a real phenomenon. Clubhouse taps into our human desire to keep up with the Joneses. We love being on the next big thing and who else to prod us into trying it than people who we admire. By giving access to top tech thinkers, Clubhouse built incredible FOMO around the product from early days. Superhuman did the same to similar success.

  5. Word of mouth trumps all other kinds of marketing

    The most fascinating part about Clubhouse is how scrappy the founders stayed in the last 2 months. All the buzz and momentum came from early fans and users which is the holy grail of marketing. No paid ads, no Quibi like explosive user acquisition strategies or podcast sponsorships. They didn’t even have a Product Hunt launch yet. Yet thousands of early users are flocking to use the app. That’s some badass word-of-mouth marketing in play.

  6. Ride a market wave

    Clubhouse rode the coronavirus pandemic driven wave of increased consumer demand for social apps, interactive and immersive online experiences powered by feeling less social due to shelter in place restrictions. Some call it the “timing” or the “market pull” but as a founder, you’ll need to find a wave to ride because without that you will fight consumer adoption an uphill battle.

What can no-coders learn from Clubhouse’s story?

I come from the no-code world so I naturally view things from the no-code lens. What I’ve observed from own personal journey leading up to Cuppa and now from researching Clubhouse is how much the concept of “iterations” is undervalued or even outright misunderstood by many people.

I’ve seen no-coders trying to perfect a landing page and holding off shipping a reasonable one. The fear of looking incomplete/embarrassing is a strong one and that needs to be curbed.

No-code tools are a blessing because they let you ship a v1 fast so use them to test your ideas/hunches and don’t dwell for too long. Just ship a bare minimum v1 over the weekend or two and put it in the hands of your customers. THAT’S THE REAL MARK OF A NO-CODER. Not worrying about optimizing your landing page too early. Heck, as we’re learning, you might not even need a landing page some times ;) Focus on iterations and not architecting the best possible take-off.

What’s next for Clubhouse?

It was just announced today publicly on Forbes that Clubhouse has raised a $10M primary and $2M secondary for the founders from a16z on a $100m valuation which is incredible but seems in line with the expectations of it to become the next Twitter. Read the full announcement here.

I’m sure the founders are planning a public beta at some point this year after working out all the quirks of the private beta they’ve been testing. It’ll be interesting to see who they’ll target after VCs/tech Twitter. I have to suspect media and celebrities but I could be wrong.

Hopefully, they’ll have a landing page soon :)

Other media coverage on Clubhouse:

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