Welcome to Clubhouse: The Invite-Only Audio Chat App That’s Taking Over Silicon Valley

social media app clubhouse

Paris Hilton, Bethenny Frankel and leading tech consumers on the new social media platform

What do Elon Musk, Kanye West, Bethenny Frankel and Paris Hilton have in common? They’re all hopping on the invite-only voice chat app Clubhouse. It’s been described as listening in on a live recording of a podcast from the comfort of your own home. With a reported $12 million in funding from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, the app is valued at $100 million. Silicon Valley has called Clubhouse “the future of social media,” raking in more than 2 million users since its launch in 2020. 

We spoke with leading consumer tech investors and some of the celebrity users about the new platform and what this could mean for the future of social media. 

Here’s your primer on Clubhouse

What is Clubhouse? 

Listen up, Clubhouse is the new audio social media app where members drop in to chat — like actually talk. Think of it as a cross between a cocktail party, a podcast and a panel discussion. And what happens in Clubhouse stays in Clubhouse — no recordings allowed.

Right now, iPhone users can download Clubhouse on the App Store, but you’ll need an invitation from an existing member to join. Instead of typing posts, Facebook style, members engage in real-time conversations (imagine that) by dropping into conversation groups on everything from solo travel to entrepreneurship to mom-warriors, some led by big-deal names like Mark Cuban, Elon Musk and Oprah.

Vogue described Clubhouse as “a dizzying bringing together of live podcast-style conversations, panel discussions, networking opportunities (some savvy people are already swapping ‘influencer’ for ‘moderator’) and advantageous multiple-room use (locked and private options are available so you can talk to pals too), the social-media app mimics real-life interactions.” 

Who started it? 

It was founded by entrepreneur Paul Davison and former Google engineer Rohan Seth in 2020. This is not Davison’s first venture in Silicon Valley. The entrepreneur first came onto the scene when he launched the social media app, Highlight, in 2012, which allows users to share their locations with others. 

Who is on it? 

As you tap through the app, you might run into personalities like Oprah, Chris Rock, Ashton Kutcher, Mark Cuban and more. Even our very own Katie Couric made her debut on Clubhouse. “It’s different from Instagram, Twitter, Facebook,” she said. “Clubhouse is a one-of-a-kind drop-in audio app that allows people to connect with one another spontaneously. It’s like a party line on steroids, if anyone remembers those!”

However, the invite-only setting has made it tough for the average person to hop on the app and join the conversation. Each new user is given two invites to hand out and interest in the app is popping off — especially following Elon Musk’s live talk on Jan. 31st that maxed out the platform’s 5,000-person chat room capacity.

Here’s what people are saying: 

Bethenny Frankel joined the app in early January. “For someone unfiltered like me, it’s a magical, dangerous place,” the Real Housewives of New York City alum told KCM. 

Leading consumer tech investor Carter Reum said he loves the spontaneity of Clubhouse. “It’s like a bunch of smart people bumping into each other in a hallway of a conference having a really interesting conversation. As more people join the conversation, it takes on different topics.” 

Meanwhile, Paris Hilton has nearly 40k followers on the app. “I like hanging in the back of the [virtual] rooms,” Hilton told KCM. “I always seem to get invited on stage, which is the story of my life that I can’t seem to do anything incognito.” Hilton, who is launching her own podcast This Is Paris, says she loves audio in general because it doesn’t compete for her attention. “I can enjoy it in the background… and I think podcasting needs to evolve into shorter soundbites.”  

Entrepreneur Doug Imbruce called the invite-only audio chat app “the Soho House of the digital world.” The pandemic has made everyone a captive audience, Imbruce told KCM. “Clubhouse is a live platform that forces urgency and has a lot of value.” 

Written and reported by Eliza Costas