CLOSE

The clubhouse is the latest, invitation only, social networking app that has hit the market. It has a podcast vibe and arouses interest in technical icons.

Buzz60

Julie Wenah sought solace in sharing her thoughts when a friend invited her to join Clubhouse, a voice-only app where users chat and debate topics ranging from politics, business, technology, professional networking, sports, music and religion .

Wenah’s anxiety and isolation intensified and pushed her “close to the edge”, she said when COVID-19 returned home in May. She felt sad and guilty after seeing nearly 2,000 of her staff laid off due to the pandemic, and then traumatized after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing aftermath.

“Voice is a very intimate tool. There is something powerful about being able to hear someone’s authenticity, vulnerability and strengthens everything in one room, “said Wenah. “I think this helps break down barriers and shows that we are more alike than we are different.”

What is a clubhouse?

The sonic lure of the 11-month-old clubhouse creates a frenzy beyond its exclusive status. The app is only available to iPhone users, as the invitations are so rare that they have even appeared for sale on eBay. The app with its unregistered calls has proven to be so popular globally that it is now banned in China. On Thursday there was a “What the hell is the clubhouse?” discussion attended by hundreds in a mixture of Arabic and English.

The chats in different rooms take place in real time and at all times. Think of the only voice platform as intimate conference calls with potentially thousands of people from all walks of life weighing in. The phrase “Be authentic” is heard all the time.

Wenah, who currently serves as a senior adviser to Airbnb and has been a policy adviser to the Obama administration, has attended and moderated hundreds of rooms in the clubhouse, including “Testimonium Tuesday,” where members share what they think.

Her ubiquitous presence also made Wenah a face for the clubhouse – literally. She appeared as the app’s third “icon” when it became available on Apple’s App Store in August. She has also witnessed the growing popularity of the invite-only app from more than 3,000 users to now seeing great characters including Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Drake and Brad Pitt appear.

Members may feel that they are either tapping conversations or exchanging ideas with power players and celebrities – for free. Chatting can continue for hours as this interaction comes at a time in a world that is mostly frustrated and tired of being socially isolated and exhausted from attending video conferencing all day.

How to connect: What is Clubhouse, the lively new audio app?

COVID-19 detection: Can Apple Watch or Fitbit help reduce coronavirus pandemic?

While Clubhouse has not revealed how many people use the app, it has been downloaded more than 8 million times worldwide – more than twice as much as February 1 – and 2.6 million downloads in the US alone, according to the app tracker App Annie. The clubhouse is reportedly valued at $ 1 billion and raised more than $ 100 million in funding last month alone. Facebook is reportedly building an audio chat, and Twitter is working on a similar product called Spaces.

Notable investors include prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists and former clubhouse users Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. Horowitz’s wife, Felicia, who is honored by many to help diversify members using the app, moderates a well-attended virtual dinner party on Saturday night.

A recent collection centered on an understanding of black art, covering topics such as street art and what will be displayed in museums, as well as making art more accessible and affordable. Guests included former Walt Disney Co. president Michael Ovitz, CBS News’ Gayle King, CNN analyst Van Jones, Tina Knowles (yep, Beyoncé’s mother) and hip hop impresario Fab 5 Freddy.

Another popular attraction is a weekly “town hall” with clubhouse founders and series entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth where they spend an hour Sunday morning taking questions from members. During a unique way to spend Valentine’s Day, 5,000 people – the maximum number in a clubhouse room (and thousands of others who heard in an “overflow room”) – heard Davison deliver quick answers to questions.

The clubhouse has room to ‘develop’

The app is currently exclusively on the iPhone. So when will the app be available for Android users? “We’re working on it,” Davison said. He also claimed that the members are human beings, not bots. “We want to make sure the person you’re talking to is the actual person. That’s how it works for now,” Davison said.

Davison also answered questions about the rules on misinformation, abuse, hate speech and bullying. Reports and comments on misinformation, harassment and dangerous rhetoric against the LGBTQ community have been published.

Davison repeated comments that appeared in a blog post last fall that the clubhouse does not tolerate any of these things, and how it also adds security features and gives moderators their strength. The app also has in-room blocking and reporting features to give members more control over their security.

Jennifer Grygiel, a social media professor at Syracuse University who has been using the app since October, hopes that Clubhouse will resolve any issues sooner rather than later when only invited membership increases.

“At some point, they may be pressured to address their business model issues before there are significant issues in this room. We see this on other platforms, such as Facebook Live, where there is also real-time communication, “said Grygiel. “The risk of bad actors can arise as the base grows. Like everywhere else on the internet, it can be exploited. ”

But a former CEO of a multi-billionaire company and frequent clubhouse moderator believes that the founders take everything members say with them, while making major changes to the back of the app.

“They are growing and evolving,” said Kat Cole, former CEO and president of Focus Brands, the parent company of Jamba Juice and Cinnabon shopping malls. Cole said the clubhouse could make a group of changes members wanted, “but it would distract from a pure listening and speaking experience. They have had the discipline of adding other tools, such as a calendar, and trust and security tools, to protect the room. There is always more they can do. ”

Cole, who is based in the Atlanta area and has nearly one million followers, said she is not an investor in the clubhouse, but “a passionate member.” She hosts and advises in several rooms, including one called “Leadership Lab.” On Friday, Cole and Wenah co-moderated a Leadership Lab session entitled “Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide” based on the critically acclaimed book by Harvard business professor and former Uber leader Frances Frei, who also attended and asked questions.

A self-described multitasker, Cole, a married mother of two young children who is an angel investor, mentor and board member of several companies, said that Clubhouse offers her more flexibility than she envisioned after she started in May. “I can host rooms with thought leaders who explore important issues, and I can participate in my paper jams, make something to eat and touch so many lives in the process.”

Cole likes the app’s “low friction and high usability.” She compares the clubhouse to attending a virtual conference, except you do not have to travel or be seen. “Because it’s voice, I think I get more nuance, it feels more emotional,” she said.

Grygiel said that Clubhouse’s strategy, from managing growth to hiring employees and making money, will determine whether it will still be mentioned with Facebook and Twitter. “Networks just don’t pay the bills, and it’s unclear who benefits from being in the clubhouse right now, besides the early group who are already well connected,” Grygiel said.

The clubhouse lure? Who is comming

Shortly after Clubhouse received its final round of funding, Musk raised his eyebrows in the app to chat with Vlad Tenev, the controversial CEO of Robinhood over the GameStop trade turmoil on Wall Street. Musk later tweeted that he would try to get Kanye West and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the app.

Not long after Musk, Facebook boss Zuckerberg appeared at the Clubhouse and praised virtual and augmented reality.

These surprising observations show that some may appear, said clubhouse member Cliff Worley, senior director of portfolio growth marketing for Kapor Capital in Oakland, California. He feverishly tried to listen to Musk in a packed room – and even an “overflow” room – without success. He contented himself with a livestream on YouTube.

“It was like trying to buy the hottest pair of sneakers on a delivery date, and you’re not getting into the app,” Worley said.

Grygiel is unsure of the app’s lifetime. “The clubhouse may have a timeline. We’ll see.”

Worley, who has moderated chat rooms with his former boss, Shark Tank star Daymond John, disagrees.

“The clubhouse is a value-driven app. It does not hide behind a highly produced video or photography with this,” said Worley. “If your vote gives no value, you will have no significant successor.”

Suezette Yasmin Robotham, a diverse, equity and inclusion practitioner in a Silicon Valley technology company, shares a similar sentiment.

“I think this has created an opportunity for more voices to be amplified on a level playing field,” said Robotham, who co-founded a Black Love Club.

Clubhouse as a room for sincere conversation

Of course, the app provides business opportunities. For Ruby Gadelrab, the founder of MDisrupt, a platform that pairs digital health innovators with industry experts, she hopes to chat with a digital health founder she met on the app, leading to a partnership.

Gadelrab appreciates the app’s openness. She remembered a fascinating discussion about eliminating health inequalities.

“It was one of the most super and brutally honest conversations about the differences and the ways to fix them,” Gadelrab said. “We could speak more openly, more freedom to speak.”

The honesty and vulnerability prompted Wenah, who has 1.5 million followers, to share her feelings in the app after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May. She suffocated because the Houston native has a childhood friend who knew Floyd, also a Houston native.

Wenah, then living in Oakland, California, revealed to clubhouse members that she was afraid to walk a block to a nearby post office for fear she might be charged because it was close to where a federal officer was shot dead during a protest over Floyds killed. A clubhouse member was so moved that she drove an hour from Silicon Valley to help Wenah overcome her fears.

She shared it in a Twitter thread in August, six months before the app’s popularity increases and becomes the app’s third icon.

Last week, she reflected that “I still feel a sense of healing, a sense of belonging and instant fellowship.”

Read or share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2021/02/21/clubhouse-app-social-media-network-elon-clubhouse-invitation/6787183002/