Clubhouse gives people who missed TikTok a chance to become influencers

You’re reading this, so you weren’t there to help America settle the West. You probably weren’t there to help man land on the moon. And you will probably have to wait a long time to help colonize Mars.

So here’s a consolation prize: You may still have a chance to claim virtual territory on Clubhouse, the highly animated social network dedicated to live audio, before everyone else gets there. Hurry though – there are plenty of people trying to do the exact same thing.

Clubhouse is a frothy mix of AM radio and a very good tech conference, and it allows you to set up or attend chats online with famous people or your friends, or anyone in between. A few weeks ago, for example, Katie Couric, Paris Hilton, and reality star-turned-entrepreneur Bethenny Frenkel met in a virtual “room” that had more than 1,000 people listening to their conversation; sometime later in the evening, the same venue turned into a discussion about the merits of bitcoin with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg, and John Legere, the former CEO of T-Mobile.

Clubhouse launched less than a year ago and immediately caught the attention of Silicon Valley and other types of technology. It has grown rapidly since then, expanding its user base to include everyone from French speakers to black activists.

But there is one particular type of clubhouse user that you will find in the clubhouse quite often: the speculative clubhouse user. It’s someone who wants to be in the Clubhouse because maybe the Clubhouse is going to be a big business, and they want to get in before that happens.

“You’re looking at how clay is being molded right now. What you see happening in the Clubhouse right now will turn into something else, ”says Laurel Touby, who succeeded in the first internet boom by building and eventually selling MediaBistro, a job board, and an event company.

Touby is now an investor in Supernode Ventures and says he gave Clubhouse a try last year when other investors were first fascinated by the service. He wasn’t surprised, but he finally saw enough hints that it could be a staying power social network. She says she decided to “leave [her] drawers and cheer up ”by spending time hosting Clubhouse rooms.

“I admit it. I wasn’t early enough on Twitter. I wasn’t early enough to get on TikTok or other platforms. But this is an opportunity to get here early.”

Warning: like other social networks, Clubhouse is not one thing. And the bigger it gets, the company recently announced that it now has 10 million weekly users, the more things it can or will convert.

But it is surprising right now to hear and see how many Clubhouse users spend their time in Clubhouse talking about Clubhouse: What is Clubhouse going to be? How do people become Clubhouse Power Users? What existing company or industry will Clubhouse exploit?

It’s the kind of discussion you probably wouldn’t see on early social media. This is because people who joined networks like YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook early on were probably not thinking about how they could turn their presence on the platform into influence, money, or a career. That’s not true now, and now all the big networks are saturated with potential influencers. The platforms do not have formal guards yet, but when everyone is let in, the doors are obstructed anyway.

Which, obviously, is part of the Clubhouse appeal – maybe it’s YouTube in 2006, and you can become famous just by showing up. Or, alternatively, you can present yourself with a very clear idea of ​​what you think you can do on a new platform. We are in a very wise era of social networks.

“If I were starting a podcast today, I wouldn’t start a podcast, I would just come here,” Guy Raz, the successful host of the How i built this podcast, featured in a Clubhouse room about … the future of the Clubhouse.

Clubhouse itself actively woos the Clubhouse-obsessed user by giving Clubhouse users ample opportunities to speak with CEO Paul Davison, who hosts a weekly live onboarding presentation for new users, where he guides them through the basics of Clubhouse features and etiquette (It’s not okay Be racist or anti-Semitic; it’s okay to leave a clubhouse room quietly without announcing your departure).

Davison also hosts another weekly live meeting for all Clubhouse users, where he updates them on product roadmaps and allows them to discuss their complaints (which include some very real privacy concerns). Davison, a 44-year-old man who had made multiple attempts to create a social startup before hitting the jackpot last year, is a talkative and outgoing brand ambassador, almost a polar opposite of Mark Zuckerberg’s taciturn and gnomic model and Jack Dorsey.

Even more important: Davison has been explicit about the idea that the Clubhouse could become a useful, or even profitable, place for users to set up a store.

Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube started without any concerted effort to help users build their presence, and they were definitely not outlining a way for early adopters to make money on their platforms. But when Davison announced a $ 100 million funding round for Clubhouse in January, he emphasized explaining the ways that users could make money in the future (perhaps they will sell tickets or subscriptions to the rooms they host, for example) and announced that some of the money the company just raised will go towards a “Creators Grant Program”, which will be distributed to some power users who host popular rooms. That program hasn’t started yet, but it will be interesting to see the kinds of people that Clubhouse officially endorses with their money.

One thing you won’t find much at Clubhouse: young users who flocked to Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok early on. This is likely the result of the company’s growth strategy, which, for now, requires new users to have an invite from existing users, which means they are more likely to see people who look and sound like them. first influencers of technology and culture Clubhouse brought in for the first time, and less like their children. That could change in the future, or maybe Clubhouse will continue to be a social network for seniors who like to talk and listen rather than text and swipe. Regardless, the relative lack of youth at the Clubhouse has not gone unnoticed by its current base.

“[Clubhouse users] they feel like they missed the boat by breaking through on Instagram, “says comedian and activist Baratunde Thurston, who said he joined the network last May,” to claim my name, “and then pulled out after finding the platform mostly populated. by capitalist companies. However, late last year he came back and found a new group of users who were “smart, skeptical, cautious and hungry all at the same time. You have a relatively smart group of social users who have good questions.” He said.

There’s also a very special subset of Clubhouse-obsessed users: the venture capitalists at Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most powerful and prominent investment stores in Silicon Valley. They love the app so much that they invested millions of dollars in it leading that $ 100 million funding round, and are using it as their own personal clubhouse.

A16Z, as the company is known in Silicon Valley, ranks prominently and unapologetically throughout the Clubhouse. Founders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz host a recurring talk show dedicated to “unfettered conversations” between themselves and other technology leaders. (There are Some Chaining: Andreessen blocks many users, often reporters he has also blocked on Twitter, from hearing any conversations he has on the app. Horowitz’s wife, Felicia, hosts a weekly “dinner” that includes guests like Oprah Winfrey . And A16Z’s new partner Sriram Krishnan co-hosts another recurring talk show in which Elon Musk interviewed Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev as the GameStop saga unfolded. It is also supposed to one day host a conversation between Musk and Kanye West.

A16Z is also active behind the scenes: People familiar with Clubhouse say the venture company has played a prominent role in inviting celebrities to test the app, and that Chris Lyons, who manages an A16Z fund specifically meant to drive black participation in the technology. In the industry, he has emphasized using his social network to get prominent black celebrities like Kevin Hart to try the app.

Clubhouse’s most recent investment round already values ​​the company at $ 1 billion. So Clubhouse would have to be really big, like Twitter or Pinterest, for A16Z to have a home run return on its money. But owning a large part of a popular platform, where you can summon an audience whenever you have thoughts you want to share? That is also worth something.

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