You might have heard of an invite-only app garnering a $100m valuation with only 1,500 users. No this is not a prank, and yes those numbers are real. That app is Clubhouse, a new way of learning, bonding, and interacting with well…strangers! Unlike other social media platforms that try to make it easier to keep tabs on people you already know, this platform puts the focus on interacting with people you haven’t met yet.

So what exactly is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is an audio-based social network that allows users to host rooms, where anyone can join and listen. Discussions can be completely open or structured with main speakers and audience members who may be invited to speak on “stage,” if selected. The rooms are listed in the order of how many people you follow that are already hanging out in that room, and you can create your own room, or invite someone to join you. Think of it like a freeform podcast you can interact with in real-time.

Where did it come from?

Clubhouse was built by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. If Paul’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he created the location-based connecting app Highlight, and “what’s in your camera-roll” app Shorts, before being acquired by Pinterest. Together with his co-founder Rohan, they created the perfect app for a pandemic that would see us confined to our homes and longing for spontaneous, non-Zoom human interactions. The app has been featured in the media for some of the celebrity traction it’s had, including Oprah Winfrey, Ashton Kutcher, Chris Rock, Mark Cuban, and many others.

Is it really something I should care about?

Twitter seems to think so. Jack Dorsey is already preparing to launch a competitor called Audio Spaces, that will include transcription, speaker controls, and reporting features. The Clubhouse app saw 50 million downloads in a month, which was a 70x increase over its pre-COVID levels. The question of whether it will continue to be relevant or buzzworthy after the light at the end of the COVID tunnel is reached, will be an interesting one to follow. That will likely depend on if they are able to add moderation to avoid PR snafus like this and foster an environment of positive dialogue inside the “boundaries”.

Sooo…there is no swiping, and it won’t set me up with dates. Do I still want it?

The answer is “probably.” The app is great for networking and meeting people who are interesting. If you work a lot or live in non-coastal states, this can be an exciting new way to meet people who are truly on your wavelength. Or you can meet people who think completely differently from you, and get outside of your comfort zone. You can hear fresh takes, get new perspectives, and potentially discover great ideas as a result of your newfound exposure. Then, it becomes easy to collaborate with those new connections with the features that allow you all to sidebar your own conversation or spearhead a broader conversation together.

Another cool feature? You can be heard by, and interact with, celebrities, thought leaders, and some really amazing people. There have been keynote-worthy talks on topics ranging from getting investment to breaking into the music industry. If Clubhouse continues in its current form, it will truly be a great way to learn. This is magnified by there being some really great thought leaders to gain knowledge from. There are also some not-so-great people you probably shouldn’t listen to, but it’s been pretty easy to tell the difference so far.

Finally, we would say that a side effect of the exclusivity and high profile speakers are reduced barriers. There are discussion rooms on breaking into several elusive industries, free mental health advice, and film business insights, hosted by people who are highly respected in their industries. For example, Oprah has been on the platform. 21 Savage and Drake both judged users’ beats during competitions on the platform, and Kevin Hart surprised users with a very animated discussion of whether he was actually funny or not.

Any tips when I get it?

Sure! Here are a few pieces of advice from the team:

Aaron: If you want to host a big discussion (fyi this gets you clout and followers), have a limited number of people “on stage”. Also, have them go in order, and if you are featuring a ton of speakers, once they’ve said their piece, put them back in the audience. Since the platform is audio-only, you want to minimize confusion and provide a seamless experience. It’s easy for it to feel garbled.

Sander: Have two moderators for any discussion you host. You’ll understand why if you don’t.

Eze: Provide thoughtful feedback that adds to the conversation. Don’t just talk for the sake of talking. If you add value to conversations, it makes it easy for you to then transition those in the room to connections and friends. You can meet some pretty amazing people this way!

As with any networking tool or event, the Clubhouse platform is as powerful or irrelevant as you want it to be. We suggest leaning into it as a fun way to gain different perspectives, and find people who are experts in fields you care about. Without the distraction of superficial visuals, Clubhouse lets those with the best ideas rise to the top. Then you can snatch them up to be friends because you know exactly how amazing their brains are, and you can have a deep conversation where you fall in love with how you both think.

I guess we take it back, maybe this is a type of dating app after all…