One of the biggest success stories of the pandemic has been an app called Clubhouse.
Clubhouse, which officially launched in February 2020, took off in late Spring and has since become the place to hangout, network, and connect.
All day and night there are conversations taking place on a wide range of topics from crypto secrets to racial injustice to the NFL playoffs (with top players from the league!)
The founders, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, first raised money and eyebrows with an all-star consortium of Silicon Valley backers, including Andreesen Horowitz and the Cultural Leadership Fund (shouts to Chris Lyons for putting so many of us on!). The roughly $100 million dollar raise caught a lot of people’s attention: how can an app in beta with fewer than 5000 users garner a valuation like that?!
The rollout was pitch-perfect and every night more and more superstars joined up to spill their behind-the-scenes trade secrets. Clubhouse quickly became the place to share ideas that weren’t in the press or on the mainstream panel circuit. It was unfiltered and safe. It was exciting and contagious. And it was taboo to record a session and post about it. People were begging for invites.
This week, less than a year later, Clubhouse announced another raise, at a billion-dollar valuation. And, again, people are surprised that it’s valued so high.
As the newest member of the Silicon Valley Unicorn Club, Clubhouse is still in the early innings. They are in the pole position to change culture like no social platform has since Music.ly (and Instagram before that).
I don’t think Clubhouse would have worked without the pandemic. It was timed perfectly and unveiled impeccably. It’s a true testament to the visionaries at the VC firms that got involved early, bet big, and lifted this up so quickly.
Now, influence is being generated in droves; networks are expanding; it’s the top hack to grow social clout across other platforms; and it’s the best place to hang out and share ideas with friends, colleagues, thought leaders, and an open-sourced community of people with common interests.
Sure, it has drawbacks. There are a lot of trolls, fake gurus, and fraudsters. It can suck time. There is misinformation. Music sound quality is terrible and there are no rights agreements in place yet. A growing gripe is that it’s built off the back of its community, which is predominantly black, but users will never own or benefit from the big cash at the end of the rainbow.
So where do things go from here? How does it monetize?
Influencers are being created on Clubhouse and savvy brands will want to get involved. Monetization through brands and creators is coming. I see influencer marketing campaigns being built around subjects on Clubhouse. Brands are going to begin curating conversations to tap into this burgeoning audience. Imagine the Pepsi Halftime Show commentary channel, presented by Pepsi featuring Clubhouse influencers of their choosing. Every week it feels like a new idea spawns on the platform. It’s only the beginning.
But the bigger culture shifter for Clubhouse, and what will make this a $5 billion dollar company by the Summer, will be its ability to revolutionize the Podcast world.
The biggest streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple, and Amazon) have all shifted their focus to podcasts. Spotify wants everyone to make podcasts and is encouraging creators on their platform and uses Anchor to monetize through ads. Meanwhile, Apple is playing with the idea of creating a separate paid subscription service for their podcasts. My bet is that Amazon Music, Audible, and their podcast unit all merge under one division soon, making it a podcasting powerhouse.
Once you can record your Clubhouse sessions without fear of social fallout — and easily turn those convos into podcasts available anytime — the heavy-hitting Clubhouse panels will become some of the most important podcasts around. This will create virtually unlimited, clearable content to feed the voracious appetite of audiences wanting more and more content. The massively rich platforms such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook/Insta, Google/YouTube, and Spotify thrive off of having more and more creators creating more and more content. It’s exhausting but it’s true.
This is why I think Clubhouse’s current valuation is still extremely cheap. These companies need something like Clubhouse, and they need it badly.
My thesis is a $5 billion valuation by Summer. That would put the original investors at 50x their money in 18 months, an unbelievable return. Smart money would say that’s enough, but we’ll see. A bidding war between the FANGS of tech could balloon this valuation to astronomical heights. That tide could raise all boats in the tech community.
Naturally, I’ll be on Clubhouse talking about Clubhouse this Friday at 11am EST, joined by some very smart friends. Come check it out.
Also published on Medium.