Clubhouse couldn’t have launched at a better time. In March 2020, the audio-based social network was introduced to a newly quarantined world that was starving for social interaction. Video group chats like Discord and Houseparty aimed to provide virtual solutions to the isolation problem, but Clubhouse offered a different answer: themed town hall-style conversations.
Early users of the app were tech and music industry professionals and tastemakers who joined via an exclusive invite-only process. Relying solely on audio (users could create and join rooms but weren’t able to share pictures, video, or even text) Clubhouse became known as a social audio networking app. It became a trend almost immediately, with a slew of celebrities (Elon Musk, Oprah, and 21 Savage to name a few) hosting or joining conversations on the app. In February 2021 alone, Clubhouse was downloaded by 9.6 million users. At its peak, Clubhouse was valued at $4 billion, with Twitter offering the same amount to buy the company. So why did the download rate dip to only 922,000 in April, just two months later?
Growing too fast isn’t a problem new brands usually face, but in this case, it may have led to Clubhouse’s ultimate downfall. But why?
With only eight employees at the launch of Clubhouse, the company scrambled to hire additional team members, and lacked the proper systems to hire effectively. With insufficient staff, some conversations went unmoderated and got out of hand, leading to complaints of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic speech.
Originally exclusive to iOS, Clubhouse didn’t bother to launch an Android-friendly version of the app until May 2021, months after their peak that February. The app’s exclusivity had run for too long and without an Android or a web version (which didn’t debut until 2022) causing the company to lose users just as quickly as they had gained them. Loyal creators began to move over to Twitter’s Spaces feature, which was easier and more inclusive of non-iOS users.
While the app does in fact still exist, when talking about social media, the name Clubhouse is rarely mentioned anymore. The app’s fast rise and decline just goes to show that when it comes to trending, slow and steady wins the race.