Paul Davison of Clubhouse on Hypergrowth and Becoming a “Real Business”


In just a year, Clubhouse’s explosive growth forced incumbents in the industry like Facebook, Twitter and Spotify to introduce similar audio products or, in some cases, to make strategic acquisitions in the space. Amazon is working on its own competitor Clubhouse, according to The Verge.

But the hype around social audio started to wane around April, which is ironically when the company announced a Series C round. reportedly valued Clubhouse at $ 4 billion, but we don’t know what the start-up is worth today.

From the start, the exclusivity helped Clubhouse, which ranked # 33 on that year CNBC 50 disruptor listing. The number of people who could register was limited and new users needed an invitation from a member and the company only switched from iOS devices to Android devices in May, after a year of iPhone exclusivity. In July, as part of an effort to reach more people, The clubhouse has dropped the invite-only rule and opened the app to everyone.

For co-founder and CEO Paul Davison, a former Google intern, this was a necessary shift towards scaling up technical infrastructure and increasing the size of his team rather than launch new features and refine the app. But Davison has since been able to focus on the latter: Last month, Clubhouse launched two new features in an attempt to separate themselves from the competition and keep the momentum going.

CNBC recently spoke with Davison, who maintains user retention is strong and maintains that our re-emergence in society will prove to be just as important to the business as the lockdowns induced by the pandemic were in its early days.

The following questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

CNBC: Do you share the view that Clubhouse’s hypergrowth is the result of the pandemic?

Davison: Rohan and I created Clubhouse just before the lockdown. Our goal is always to develop the platform in a gradual fashion, as we know it’s optimal for the community itself, but the reality of being a brand new platform means that waves of growth like the ones that we have seen in February, this summer and right now are inevitable. The good news is that throughout this year we’ve added tons of new features and made dramatic improvements to the experience of using the platform and our community-anchored retention on Clubhouse remains strong. .

CNBC: We’ve seen home stocks get run over as investors continue to bet we’re back to some semblance of normalcy. The company’s overgrowth proves it was one of the early beneficiaries of the pandemic, but how do you see growth in a world where listeners are not at home 24/7? What’s next for the Clubhouse?

Davison: Over the summer the world started to open up again as our community continued to grow. Similar to podcasts, Clubhouse becomes a platform for people who listen on the go. Whether it’s commuting, going to the gym, folding laundry at home, people tune in to hear Oprah recap her interview with Adele or learn more about what’s going on with NFTs. Clubhouse is another complement to our behavior in the real world, similar to how people won’t stop using dating apps because bars are open or stop shopping on Amazon because they can. go to stores.

We are in an exciting new chapter for the company as we have just launched a series of product updates over the past few months. Our creators can share the best moments from their rooms with our new features like clips and reruns and can engage more with audiences through pinned links. With this evolving experience, we are seeing creators making real connections with audiences, which keeps people coming to the app.

CNBC: In this next phase, how do you see the competition with the big platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Spotify? Can Clubhouse survive as a single product application? Looking back, was audio exclusivity a mistake?

Davison: It’s interesting to think that just two years ago social audio didn’t exist at all. We believe that focus is crucial because it allows us to prioritize service for our community. This singular vision combined with how quickly we can innovate and deliver new functionality ensures that we can deliver a world-class audio experience. Audio is a durable medium, and has been a primary medium since almost the beginning of time. Rohan and I believed in 2020 that an audio-only social platform would open up another form of communication and allow people to communicate in an authentic, unfiltered way, and we’ve seen it.

CNBC: You recently told The Hollywood Reporter that Clubhouse is developing “core features” to go from a prototype to a “real business.” What do you mean by that and how is it different from the Clubhouse as we know it today?

Davison: Until last July, we were in beta and relied heavily on the invite system to control our growth and prevent the platform from breaking down as we continued to build. In beta, we rolled out features like Payments, which were just the start of the monetization tools we planned for Creators and Backchannel to let users send messages to each other. These basic tools were the basis of the application we wanted to create.

When you open the app now, you’ll see an improved version of Clubhouse with improved search, room-related topics, pinned links to the top of your room, and more. We also worked on localization, making Clubhouse available in 26 languages ​​and allowing international users to view the app in their native language. Over the coming year, we’ll continue to take feedback from our community on what we can do to improve experiences and what tools creators need to thrive more on the app.

CNBC: Earlier this week, BuzzFeed became the first large modern digital media company to enter public markets, and their performance is expected to be closely watched not only by investors, but also by industry peers. How do you see public procurement in your quest to become a “real business”?

Davison: Eighteen months later, it’s still the beginning for our company. At the start of this year, there were less than ten people. Today we have over ninety and we are just getting started.

– CNBC Sam shead contributed to this report.

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