Clubhouse is moving quickly today, but in some ways it feels like the journey started a long time ago. The two of us met back in 2011 through a mutual friend, and we connected over a shared love of social products. Back then, Rohan had been working on ways to help friends find each other in cities, and Paul was building an app called Highlight to help people form friendships with others around them. Over the next ten years we both kept working on social products—experimenting with new apps, failing, and starting again.
In the fall of 2019, we reconnected over some work that Rohan was doing to help his daughter Lydia, who was born with a rare genetic disease, and eventually that reconnection led to us finally teaming up to work together. Against our better judgment, and with the support of two very patient spouses, we decided to give social apps one last try.
After a lot of iteration in the audio space, we launched Clubhouse in March of last year. Our goal was to build a social experience that felt more human—where instead of posting, you could gather with other people and talk. Our north star was to create something where you could close the app at the end of the session feeling better than you did when you opened it, because you had deepened friendships, met new people and learned.
Unlike our other attempts, Clubhouse seemed to strike a real chord with people, and it has accelerated quickly over the past ten months—from a small handful of beta testers into a diverse and growing network of communities. This past week, two million people around the world—musicians, scientists, creators, athletes, comedians, parents, entrepreneurs, stock traders, non-profit leaders, authors, artists, real estate agents, sports fans and more—came to Clubhouse to talk, learn, laugh, be entertained, meet and connect. It’s the most exciting thing we’ve ever been a part of.
The thing we love most is how voice can bring people together. No matter where you live in the world or what networks you have access to, in Clubhouse you can be in the room—often with people whose lived experience has been very different from your own. In one of the most turbulent and troubled years many of us have experienced, people on Clubhouse have come together for important and nuanced conversations on topics of social justice reform, BLM and anti-racism. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, room after room filled the hallways with people discussing constitutional law, sharing stories about RBG’s childhood, and praying in silence together. Each week, parents of children with genetic diseases gather in Clubhouse to discuss medical developments with doctors, researchers and other parents—talking, debating and learning.
We’ve also been blown away by the brilliance and creativity of the Clubhouse community. Each night in Clubhouse, there are now thousands of rooms filled with people hosting game shows, recapping NBA games, singing opera, discussing philosophy, meeting other musicians, sharing travel tips, running support groups, and meditating together. They’re hosting daily talk shows, performing standup comedy, playing guitar and giving history lectures. In December, forty strangers who met on Clubhouse auditioned, rehearsed, and hosted a full-blown musical production for thousands of people that made national headlines. They are creating entirely new ways for people to come together, all through the power of voice.
Our focus now is on opening up Clubhouse to the whole world. With that goal in mind for 2021, we have secured a new round in funding, led by Andrew Chen at a16z, who also led our Series A. It’s always been important to us to have investors who care deeply about diversity, and who will work hard to help us make Clubhouse a welcoming and inclusive community. We now have over 180 investors in Clubhouse—large and small, spanning many different races, genders, and areas of expertise, and including many members of our early community. While we’ve never felt that fundraising itself is a milestone, we wanted to share how we plan to use these funds to make the product better each day and to help creators on Clubhouse thrive:
- Welcoming more amazing people 🎉 From the earliest days, we’ve wanted to build Clubhouse for everyone. With this in mind, we are thrilled to begin work on our Android app soon, and to add more accessibility and localization features so that people all over the world can experience Clubhouse in a way that feels native to them.
- Keeping the servers up 👩🏽💻 We’ve grown faster than expected over the past few months, causing too many people to see red error messages when our servers are struggling. A large portion of the new funding round will go to technology and infrastructure to scale the Clubhouse experience for everyone, so that it’s always fast and performant, regardless of how many people are joining.
- Ensuring you get fast support ⚡️ User safety has always been a top priority for us, and as we welcome more people, it will remain one. This means scaling up our Trust & Safety and Support teams as we grow, continuing to invest in advanced tools to detect and prevent abuse, and increasing the features and training resources available to moderators. We’ll also be aggressively growing our support team so that everyone’s clubs can get same-day approval. :)
- Improving ranking and discovery 🌍 As we’ve grown, the number of conversations happening on Clubhouse has skyrocketed, and it’s our job to help you find the right ones each time you open the app. With this new round of funding we’ll be investing heavily in discovery so that we can show you people, clubs, and rooms that are perfectly tailored to your interests—and help you discover new rooms you never would have thought to look for.
- Investing in creators 👨🏽🎤 Creators are the lifeblood of Clubhouse, and we want to make sure that all of the amazing people who host conversations for others are getting recognized for their contributions. Over the next few months, we plan to launch our first tests to allow creators to get paid directly—through features like tipping, tickets or subscriptions. We will also be using a portion of the new funding round to roll out a Creator Grant Program to support emerging Clubhouse creators.
We know we have said this before, but we are so incredibly grateful to everyone who has joined Clubhouse, given us their feedback during Town Halls, shared their stories, and been part of the journey so far. We built Clubhouse to be a blank canvas filled with amazing people, and it is nothing without the incredible people who fill the rooms each day.
We’re working hard to scale Clubhouse as fast as we can and open it up to everyone soon. In the meantime, anyone can join with an invite from an existing user, or sign up for the waitlist so we can welcome you in soon. We are also hiring in all areas, so if you are excited about our mission, we would love to talk with you.
Thank you again. It means so much to us to be able to build this product for you, and we’re so excited for this next chapter.
- Paul, Rohan and the Clubhouse team