Recently, the Internet boomed with Clubhouse app-related topics. Blogs and news websites, and Q&A platforms exploded with tons of articles and discussions devoted to an awesome app. Even on Clubhouse, users still talk about Clubhouse! The app attracts everyone’s attention. Let it be a venture capitalist or a student of a local college; everyone’s either interested in Clubhouse or already invited to a closed digital community (access to Clubhouse is invitation-only.)
But what is this all hype about? How does a social audio app win tons of investments and attention? Are there any ways for your business to succeed in the same niche? Is there a gap for new voice-only social media apps?
Let’s find out right now.
A quick look back
Before we open a curtain to the Clubhouse success story, there’s a story we’d like to remind you of.
Remember Myspace, once the largest social networking website in the world? Founded in 2003, it was prevalent in 2005-2008.
But the success didn’t last for long.
Unexpectedly, Facebook superseded Myspace. The absolute leader among modern online social networks started as a small web app for Stanford students, and now, Facebook's user base exceeds 2.8 billion. Although a popular and well-established app at that time, Myspace gave up its position to a new small Thefacebook.com.
No matter how successful a product, an app, or a company is - a better competitor can always take its place.
A similar scenario may happen to Clubhouse. Founded in March 2020, it now has more than 2M active users and reports a $1 billion valuation. However, there’s a chance the app will lose its position to a new, more interesting, or more protected, or more user-oriented social networking app.
While everyone’s busy watching the Clubhouse success story, you may cultivate an idea of a similar app. You can build a better or more attractive app and target a specific community and particular needs with your product.
If Clubhouse-like app development is your goal, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you’ll find out how to build a social audio app, what challenges you may face, and how to start the development process without wasting your budget.
The story behind the Clubhouse voice chat app
Clubhouse captured the social media market so rapidly it may even seem like it appeared out of nowhere. Still, there are years of experience and efforts, as well as tons of investments behind Clubhouse.
- Experience and failures
Since spring 2020, the app has been conquering the market.
But the Clubhouse founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth met back in 2011. Each of them was busy with his own product, but they shared the same focus: social apps.
Paul founded Highlight - a location-based app that allowed discovering people nearby. In 2016, Pinterest acquired the app. After almost six years at Google, Rohan co-founded MemryLabs. The company built several social products and became a part of Opendoor in 2017.
“Over the next ten years (since 2011), we both kept working on social products—experimenting with new apps, failing, and starting again.”,
say app founders on Clubhouse blog.
Each new attempt to launch a life-changing product contributed to their experience and expertise in the social apps market. After numerous iterations, the shot turned into a product that goes above and beyond the classical interpretation of success.
- 2020 social isolation
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation changed the usual rhythm of life. People all over the world found themselves isolated in their homes, with minimum to no chance for face-to-face communication with colleagues, friends, and relatives.
Although it was impossible to predict such striking success, spring 2020 turned out to be a perfect time to launch an app like Clubhouse.
Andreessen Horowitz, the leading investor of the Clubhouse, shares the same opinion:
“Clubhouse could not have come at a better time for social media.”
When founders focused on building “a social experience that felt more human—where instead of posting, you could gather with other people and talk,” people needed verbal communication and the illusion of live communication, conference or show, the most.
- Audio features
Still, there are plenty of social networking apps. How did Clubhouse capture such an interest?
Audio-only functionality may be one of the answers.
The interest in verbal communication may be the reason first users came to the app. They may have been attracted with an opportunity to reduce the screen time and switch to AirPods-based social network instead.
Good old verbal communication tasted exotic when social isolation was the reality.
“Almost all social media requires us to look at a screen. This is the first one where I’m not looking at a screen. I’m involved in social media but I’m sitting by the pool with my kids and as long as I’m muted and not speaking, it’s great.”,
says Bilal Zuberi, a partner at venture firm Lux Capital and one of the first Clubhouse adopters.
Even those users who didn’t have accounts on other social networks wanted to join Clubhouse.
- Silicon Valley disruption
The first 1,500 users were mostly the big names - tech investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, founders, etc.
“It’s either dead by July or it’s something big.”
said Josh Felser, co-founder of venture firm Freestyle and an early Clubhouse user.
Apparently, it’s still alive, much more powerful and profitable than it was in July 2020. The app’s early days, when it was mostly supported by well-known figures in Silicon Valley, positively impacted the app’s growth. The opportunity to listen to or even talk to celebrities and tech investors attracted other users and made them try the Clubhouse app.
- Exclusive access
Although the noise around the app gets louder, it is still not available for everyone. The invitation-only policy allows accessing the app only with an invite from a registered friend; in turn, each newcomer gets only two invites.
Is there a chance the app went viral because of the invitation-only approach? This feature certainly spices up the interest in the Clubhouse topic. The app seems to be a closed community where, in the first months after release, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs represented the majority.
So, this social audio app is available on iPhone only; you can use it only if you’re invited; you have only two invites to send to your friends. In some cases, the number of invites may increase, or you may get a special offer to send an invite to your contact from a waitlist. But still, the app’s uniqueness and limited access make it even more tempting.
In May 2020, the app had 1,500 users only. At the same time, it was worth $100 million and attracted $10 million of investments!
Such a great success for a relatively small app!
With the support of Silicon Valley investors, the app founders raised huge investments during the first months after release. Andreesen Horowitz shared some thoughts on this on his blog:
“We believe Clubhouse will be a meaningful addition to the world, one that increases empathy and provides new ways for people to talk to each other (at a time when we need it more than ever).”
Clubhouse raised the latest funding in January 2021. Now, more than 180 investors support the app.
- Elon Musk’s tweet
The tipping point is February 10th, when Elon Musk shared a tweet about holding a Clubhouse talk with Kanye West. Half a joke, this tweet made everyone on the web talk about the Clubhouse social media app. Interested users desperately tried to find invitations; on some stocks and Chinese eCommerce websites, users could even buy ones!
With impressive investments supported by celebrities and Silicon Valley players, the Clubhouse app became one of the main topics on the web.
The app walkthrough: Clubhouse features
Clubhouse the social audio app is a phenomenon in the market. But what features make it so special? And what functionality should you implement in your app to attract users and investments?
Find out what’s going on behind the login page.
Sign-up and user profile
An invited user gets a message with an invitation link that leads to an app download page. Once logged in, users are asked to add their real names, profile photos, and short information about themselves and provide links to accounts on other platforms.
Newsfeed and search
After sign in, users can define their interests and proceed to a feed with multiple topics and discussions called rooms. A search feature allows exploring interesting topics or people.
Users can create two types of rooms:
- Public rooms, where everyone can join the room as a listener;
- Closed rooms only invited users can enter.
Users can view an existing room, join it, create and modify their own rooms. When entering a room, the user is on mute by default and can “raise hands” to request participation in a discussion. The room’s moderator and speakers may then decide who’s allowed to speak next. The Leave Quietly feature allows leaving a room without interrupting the speaker.
There are three roles of users in an app:
- Moderators - users that create a specific room and host the discussion;
- Speakers - users invited to become speakers in some rooms;
- Listeners - users that may enter the voice chat but cannot participate in discussions.
In different rooms, users may play different roles. For example, if you create a room about raising funds in 2021, you become the moderator in this room. You may invite Y Combinator founders, famous entrepreneurs, and startup owners to share their experience and become speakers. At the same time, you may be interested in other rooms and spontaneously join them as a listener. Also, you may be a speaker in a particular room as well. The well-defined roles allow minimizing chaos and interruptions.
Upcoming discussions and calendar
Depending on the user’s interests and attended discussions, the app may suggest some upcoming talks to join. A user can add planned talks to the calendar.
Here, users can view updates from their Clubhouse network and see who followed them. If users enable Clubhouse access to the contact list, they can see who recently joined the app in the activity section.
Another critical feature is push notifications. When users enter a new room, their followers get a notification about it. This feature increases engagement and allows the number of listeners to multiply rapidly.
The app’s functionality and design are quite simple. But content created by speakers, a friendly atmosphere, and an opportunity to join rooms where people share valuable insights, experience, and exciting information makes users spend hours on the app.
Clubhouse weaknesses and what they mean for your startup
Watching the Clubhouse success story, other IT giants start working on the alternatives.
Facebook, the absolute leader among social networks, plans to compete with Clubhouse. There’s no information on when the new product will be live, but the new product will be the invite-only social audio app.
Instagram launched Live Rooms. This feature allows up to four users to participate in live stream sessions.
Twitter tests the audio messages, too. Its product called Spaces is now at the early stages of development. Spaces allow users to communicate privately, just like Clubhouse does.
What does it mean for your startup?
While Clubhouse is the only major player among audio-based social media apps, there are chances to launch a competitive product and make it viable. Fully aware of the Clubhouse’s weaknesses, you may come up with an idea on how to outrun the app. It may be a challenge to raise the same amount of investments or grow as fast as Clubhouse does. However, you may succeed by targeting a particular region or group of users.
There is another way to succeed with a social audio app. You may launch a product that organically complements the Clubhouse functionality, and later, your startup may be acquired by one of the market leaders. Or even Clubhouse itself.
Before you start working on your app, check three main Clubhouse drawbacks.
1. “Android version coming soon.”
Android users can’t try the Clubhouse social network app yet. Although there’s a repository with an open-source version of Clubhouse for Android devices on GitHub, it’s not an official version. The Clubhouse team claims to invest funds in an Android app soon.
But app development takes much time. And while Clubhouse founders focus on business development and effective scaling, you may think about launching an audio social app for Android users.
The audio recording feature is only allowed if all the room’s speakers give their permission for it. If they don’t, and you miss a particular discussion, you can’t listen to it on record. However, a user already managed to live-stream the session with Elon Musk.
So what’s next?
Will the Clubhouse team protect users’ rights and save content from duplication on other platforms? Will they find ways to detect abuse, improper behavior, and privacy violation?
In a case with apps based on text and visual content, it is easier to protect users’ rights. In the audio social app, this may be challenging.
If Clubhouse does not provide a high level of safety and support, users will abandon it eventually. And this may be a gap to fill with your reliable product.
Seth and Davison say that in the next few months, they plan to pay content creators directly. Great news for content creators! But still, no information about monetizing an app.
How does the Clubhouse social media app make money? And if investments come to an end, how would the app survive?
Monetization is a cornerstone of any successful business model. As of now, Clubhouse founders proved their app is really good at fund-raising. But are there any other ways to monetize the audio-based app?
If you already have a vision of creating a profitable app like Clubhouse, that’s a significant handicap. Having a Monetization Approach section in your business plan, you increase your chances of attracting investors and making your app profitable from the launch.
How to build a voice streaming app better than Clubhouse?
There are five steps you need to take to launch an initial version of your social media app.
1. Start with a discovery phase
The project discovery phase may help you to reveal more Clubhouse weaknesses and discover unsatisfied users’ demands. With information about the target market and available opportunities, you will increase your chances to launch a demanded product.
2. Decide on functionality
You already know about Clubhouse features. But it’s not enough just to mimic them and launch a duplicate of such a powerful voice-only social media app. Analyze users’ preferences and brainstorm on how to enhance your app with unique features.
Try the Clubhouse app yourself and describe your opinion about it. Is there some inconvenience you’ve experienced? Can you define features that will make your app better than Clubhouse?
Prioritize the critical functionality and share your app requirements with a development team.
3. Create a prototype
The next step to better understand the app and its potential is prototyping. A prototype is a visual interpretation of your idea that demonstrates its basic functionality, main screens, and relations between them. Consider creating several prototypes to beta test each of them and choose the most attractive version.
4. Validate your idea
A minimum viable product is an app with basic functionality.
- It helps to test your idea and make sure you are on the right path.
- It’s a chance to understand whether you move in the wrong direction and pivot.
- It requires fewer resources than a full-feature product, so you can validate the concept without investing a ton of money in it.
MVP development may take from four to six months or even more.
Software engineers, software testers, designers, project managers, and business analysts participate in project development.
In our upcoming article, we’ll take a closer look at the time and cost to build an MVP of an app like Clubhouse.
5. Collect feedback and upgrade the app
App development is an iterative process. Once you roll out the first version of an app, make it available for users and ask for their feedback. Analyze users’ concerns and negative reviews. Fix bugs and errors and decide how to improve your app based on feedback.
Implement changes and roll out a new version.
Iteration by iteration, you will get a better product each time.
Final thoughts on Clubhouse social network app and its rivals
The hype around Clubhouse may come and go. But compelling apps stay forever.
Clubhouse shows how right timing, the tech community, and large investments can turn a simple app into a viral product. However, the app’s future is still hard to forecast: there are some drawbacks and uncertainties with potentially negative impact.
This social audio app is an inspiring case for future startup founders. If you have a striking idea, it’s essential to launch it right in time. And if you plan to launch an app like Clubhouse, there’s no better time than now.
Soon, Facebook, Twitter, and maybe even other tech giants may join the race. So you better start now and launch an audio chat app while the market is not overcrowded with influential players.