Tuesday 9 February 2021 6:34 am

What is Clubhouse? The $1bn app loved by Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg

Elon Musk knows how to send markets into a tizzy, with his tweets about bitcoin and dogecoin sending prices skyrocketing.

Now invite-only audio app Clubhouse is the latest craze to feel the Elon effect. At the end of last month Musk made his first appearance on the audio app with Robinhood’s chief executive.

The stream maxed out with more than 5,000 people listening and has since enjoyed mainstream virality.

But what is Clubhouse and who uses it? 

What is Clubhouse? 

Clubhouse launched last May billing itself as a “drop-in audio chat”. Like Reddit messageboards or other online forums it allows people to chat about a range of topics but instead of instant messaging it’s real-time audio. 

Once a user is set up they can pick topics of interest like tech, business, books and mindfulness, and Clubhouse will recommend conversation rooms and individuals to follow. 

Users can listen in on interviews and discussions and hosts can invite the audience up to the “stage”. It’s like a mix between a live podcast and talkback radio and the chats disappear once the conversation is over. 

Who uses Clubhouse? 

As of 1 February Clubhouse has 2m users but for now only iPhone users who have been sent an invitation can use the app. 

Initially Clubhouse seemed to be used by a tight-knit group of Silicon Valley insiders including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. But since Elon Musk joined Robinhood boss Vlad Tenev late last month to talk about the platform’s decision to block Gamestop trading it has picked up mainstream interest. 

Unsurprisingly users in China picked up on the virality of Clubhouse with some offering to pay up to $77 ($55) for invitations to talk about politics more freely, according to the Financial Times. But Beijing has now clamped down on the app with chinese users finding themselves unable to access Clubhouse on Monday according to TechCrunch reports. 

How do I get an invitation? 

Currently the only way to access Clubhouse is through an invitation from an existing user who initially has just two invites. 

In a blogpost last month Clubhouse said its focus was on “opening up Clubhouse to the whole world” which includes work on its Android app. 

How much is Clubhouse valued at and who are its investors? 

The app has grown extremely rapidly from its launch in March last year. In May it had just 1,500 users and was worth $100m. 

Last month Clubhouse secured $100m in a new financing round led by existing investor Andreessen Horowitz who also led the company’s $10m Series A last May. Clubhouse is now worth $1bn boasting more than 180 investors to date. 

Founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth said as well as expanding the app to Android, a large portion of the new funding would be used on scaling infrastructure and technology to support the millions of new users.