The Clubhouse app reportedly achieved unicorn status with its latest US$100 million investment round. Have you scored an invite yet?

Clubhouse, the hottest social media app of the moment that focuses on live audio and candid conversations, has had quite 2021 so far. In late January, the San Francisco-based company secured a US$100 million investment in a round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, reportedly valuing the company at US$1 billion.

Then, on Sunday night, Pacific Time, Elon Musk hopped into one of its chatrooms and for 90 minutes, fielded questions from a panel and discussed topics including Bitcoin, tunnelling, the vaccine roll-out efforts in the United States, the future of Tesla, how much he loves the Cobra Kai TV series and how his calendar is packed with back-to-back meetings (billionaires, they're just like us).

In an unexpected move near the end of the chat session, Musk pulled Robinhood CEO Vladimir "Vlad" Tenev onto the virtual stage and grilled him on the recent Gamestop fallout. All of this happened live and was fed directly into the ears of thousands of Clubhouse users in the main chat room as well as dozens of overflow rooms. The audio feed was also piped live to other streaming platforms including YouTube.

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In an era of global lockdown and self-isolation, when summits and conferences seem unlikely to take place anytime in the near future and opportunities for live, interactive exposure to key global figures and thought leaders can often wind up feeling passive and one-sided, Clubhouse offers a surprisingly intimate environment for communities and interest groups of all variants.

There are large-scale events, such as Musk's appearance on the platform, and there are also niche interest groups. A quick swipe through the scheduled programming one day surfaces sessions including:

  • A UFO discussion led by a leading authority on the topic
  • A Berlin startup community chat
  • Morning prayer and chanting groups
  • Homeschooling best practices groups
  • Sewing groups
  • Women in IT lunchrooms

It's also easy to set up private audio rooms for select friends, meetings or 1-1 chats, with the benefits of Clubhouse being that the concept of meeting moderation is built-in to the user experience—i.e. moderators have the mic, the audience can raise their hands to ask a question and moderators have the authority to bring people on "stage" to speak.

Tatler Asia
Drop-in audio social networking all Clubhouse achieved unicorn status this week... and hosted Elon Musk
Above Drop-in audio social networking all Clubhouse achieved unicorn status this week... and hosted Elon Musk

For anyone who grew up in the '80s and remembers those teen chat lines where you could dial a local number to just... talk to strangers? That's sort of what Clubhouse is like, only there's more information, more audience segmentation and it's a little bit more exclusive, at least for the time being.

According to a recent report, the platform has grown from 600,000 users in December 2020 to 2 million active users. You must be invited to join, with each new member allocated only two invites at initiation and more later as they continue to engage with the app. 

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Once in, users can set up private rooms, schedule public discussions, form clubs and interest groups, and find new and interesting people to follow and engage with on the app. Co-founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth have also announced that monetisation and creator collaboration are on the horizon.

"Creators are the lifeblood of Clubhouse and we want to make sure that all of the amazing people who host conversations for others are getting recognised for their contributions," they wrote in a recent blog post. "Over the next few months, we plan to launch our first tests to allow creators to get paid directly—through features like tipping, tickets or subscriptions. We will also be using a portion of the new funding round to roll out a Creator Grant Program to support emerging Clubhouse creators.

Join Tatler Asia on Clubhouse for a new series of chats and open conversations. See you there.

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