20 Mar 2021 Gaston Legorburu


Clubhouse app launched and hit the three commas club all during the pandemic. Is it a pop-up or here to stay? 

Aside from Bumble’s ceiling-shattering CEO Whitney Wolfe, the Clubhouse App is the COVID unicorn and tech’s biggest story. The iOS-only app’s valuation vaulted from $100M to $1B in less than one year. Twitter is launching its copycat called Spaces, and Facebook is also, reportedly, building its own. 

Described as another conference call, an audio-only version of a hotel banquet-hall seminar, a webinar, a keynote pane, a podcast alternative, Clubhouse App -- officially -- is drop-in audio.

Unofficially, it is everywhere except China. 

It has all of the makings for it to stick around for a good, long while: an adept community working to push the boundaries of the app’s core audio feature; a roadmap and monetization strategy aimed at paying and empowering its content creators; top Silicon Valley VCs shaping and shepherding its explosive growth, plus a very likable founding team that keeping user-centered design principles at their core.


The Content & Community Experience

“Our north star was to create something where you could close the app at the end of the session feeling better than you did when you opened it, because you had deepened friendships, met new people and learned” wrote the founders in the Clubhouse official blog.

Overall, the content feels open. Club creators have autonomy over the room (muting privilege!!) and the absence of ads keeps the dialogue from feeling rushed. 

    • People Not Brands: Because the groups are created by people, it's more panel and topic vs. selling products and services. The downside is that EVERYONE is selling themselves to some degree, so every stage entrance is a quasi-qualification. Also, Clubhouse profiles are becoming a business card of sorts as a cottage industry shapes up with Clubhouse consultants. Fortunately, the business cards are buried enough to not worry about it disrupting your experience.
    • Diversity of Thought: It’s enriching and enlightening to hear everyone vs. reading a post and manufacturing the author’s tone. In a world where we seem to be forced with stewarding off algorithms that target our reptilian brain, there’s something refreshing, real and a little jarring about listening to 21 Savage talk about being bored and the conversation naturally turning to the “hip hop police.”
    • True Discovery: Perhaps this will be a degradation of experience at some point, but just being able to actively discover new interesting things. For those who remember life before auto-play and recommendations this pulls that forward. It’s almost like curated people-watching.


Channel Surfing

  • An Oral History of New Jack City: Mario Van Peebles and actors from New Jack City recounted the history of the film, its impacts on modern cinema and plans for its 30th Anniversary. Ice-T, Vanessa Williams and Fab 5 Freddy joined Peebles in the storytelling. Ice-T gave a candid recap of how he and Peebles met. In a real club … bathroom.
  • How I Built This with Guy Raz: NPR’s Guy Raz brings his How I Built This to Clubhouse. It’s not just about how a show is built; this club allows its curated panel to connect with readers in a mini Shark Tank-style open-pitch. In one session, former Focus Brands COO Kat Cole was in the crowd and connected with a maker of Belgian waffles from Tampa. Focus owns Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, btw.
  • Welcome to the Club House : This Club has 30+ admins helping the throngs of newcomers navigate through the app as a sort of Noob-triage. This collective group is hyper responsive. It’s like 30-plus My Space Toms ready and waiting to answer your toughest Clubhouse questions.


Clubhouse Monetization Strategy

On the heels of its recent Series B fundraise from Andreessen Horowitz (reportedly $100M at $1B valuation) Clubhouse is charting its own monetization path independent of other social apps that rely on ad placement monetization. 

According to TechCrunch, Clubhouse App’s “plans around monetization routes for creators appear to be relatively open-ended at this point, with Clubhouse saying it’ll be launching ‘first tests’ around each of the three areas it mentions (tipping, tickets and subscriptions) over the ‘next few months.’” Its revenue will take the shape of payment processing of those “tests.”

Also of note is the scale of its infrastructure, working team, expansion to Android and investment in detecting and preventing abusive content. 

The Founders 

You should read their background. It will leave a positive impression of their priorities and motives for their success.

The (Literal) Billion Dollar Question: Will It Last? 

The answer is yes, because audio has never gone away. It may face some headwinds in a post-COVID world but a prospective report posits that the app itself will take a crack at the multi-billion-dollar live events industry. 

The question will be if the audio will stay ad-free. And if so, how will agencies and brands look to this app as an extension of their content and campaign distribution strategies? 


 Other Things You May Love: 

  • The App tile story. It is part of the overall brand identity. 
  • The Founders
  • It’s hands-free! No Swipe if you don’t want to. 
  • There’s a sense of community - “Welcome to Clubhouse” club (shout out to @Abraxas for his help on the app tile origin story) 
  • Leave Quietly - channel surfing is scientifically proven to make you happier
  • The Moderator can Mute people … fun stuff

Some Things That May Make You Leave: 

  • Everyone is trying to be an influencer - moderators need to be vigilant to keep clubs moving
  • Savvy users have started to use DM features from other platforms to screen questions ahead of time
  • There’s no way to know who is who
  • Making a club - or at least getting approved - takes time. Weeks or months. 

Follow Me: @GastonLeg


Insider, business transformation

Gaston Legorburu

Gaston is a NY Times best selling author, speaker, and industry hack. Readers of Gaston’s New York Times bestselling book Storyscaping, industry pundits, and audiences worldwide can attest to his visionary ability to see and shape what’s next for brands and humans. Adweek recognized him as a “game-changer who is modeling the creative company of the future.” Gaston has been at the forefront of the digital disruption across the agency and consulting worlds for the last 20 years. Before launching GlueIQ, Gaston served as the Chief Strategist and Chief Creative Officer for PublicisSapient and their brands.

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