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Clubhouse: Who is on your cap table? 

 January 11, 2021

By  Barbara

Minute Read

Over the weekend on twitter I noticed a few conversations going on about Clubhouse. There is an article from CNBC discussing how African American culture is saving the app Clubhouse from being a boring place.  The original article that sparked the conversation is here: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/10/black-users-turned-social-app-clubhouse-from-drab-to-fun.html


The twitter thread started here with the link to the article from above included:

Nice article on the different ways that "The Culture" has helped pull @joinclubhouse from SV "watering hole" to embracing the art, hustle & talent most likely to be found in "the Yard" at Hillman College. 


Then a great question was asked by an investor:

I’m more interested in who captures the wealth @joinClubhouse will eventually generate. Anyone have a picture of the team? How diverse is the cap table?


Well, I responded to this thread:

They are already exclusive by the fact that only iOS users can use clubhouse. Typical thinking involved here...Plus they are missing a hugh market opportunity....


A Clubhouse user jumps in: 

They are already exclusive by the fact that only iOS users can use clubhouse. Typical thinking involved here...Plus they are missing a hugh market opportunity....

My response to this:

Your missing more than 50% of the US market. iOS is even less worldwide...Again, exclusionary since everyone doesn't have one and it's typical valley thinking....


The Clubhouse users' response:

They're not even a year into this endeavor. It's ok to not try to acquire the entire market at once. That's why it's important for companies to not only know the market size but also TAM and SAM. Gmail was invite only, too. The good products figure it out eventually.

My response:

The point is not about their product rollout strategy. They could have made it a progressive web app. The point is that it's exclusionary and only for a certain type of people (people that have iPhones which are usually not an inclusive device).

The original posters response:
I agree but also as the clubhouse user mentions most offerings of new products choose to go rollout on limited platforms before they work the links out. Harold and I are Team Android and use iPads to use the app.

My response:

Not the point. I'm working with several products that have limited rollouts, but can have access on all phones and devices....


The investor jumps in:

I think the iOS only thing points more towards the tech team than them being exclusionary Back when IG launched there weren’t any solid multi platform dev languages. Had to write one in Objective C and the other in Java Now when I see android/IOS only I think suspect tech team


The clubhouse user responded:

Suspect tech team? $100M valuation? With those red flags, why be concerned about who is on the cap table?


The investor responded:

Good point. But, cash easily fixes a poor tech team. They’ve figured something out on the product side of the house. And, have captured the attention of the Black Community like no other app. User engagement is crazy, people are spending 6+ hours a day on there. 
I can’t express why it works, but it’s interesting. I listen to a lot of podcasts so it’s kinda like tuning into an unlimited variety of podcasts where you can chime in and influence the direction of the conversation.
When someone on the @theallinpod says something elitist and myopic, though well meaning, and I all I want to do for like 5 mins is to point it out. But I can only scream in my car. @joinClubhouse lets me talk back to the podcast...


I responded:

Agreed. There are many ways to build apps now that are more cost effective (1 code line, set of devs, etc.). Shows CTO/tech team's lack of creativity, innovation & vision vs. the path of least resistance and typical thinking.

Your original cap table question is valid. How is the Black Community, which is creating hugh value for this app, creating wealth with this app? Who's on their Board? Who are their investors? Important questions, if we want to start having serious participation.


The investor responded:

I agree 100. But only a handful of people will be on the Board or on the cap-tableIf 15% of the first 100 people at Facebook, Google, Netflix, Uber were Black in meaningful roles; we’d have 100s of new Black people worth $100millon+The next deca-corns need to be diverse


I responded:

Agreed. Not only for 100 people, but investors and board members as well. We can't be just consumers anymore....


The Clubhouse user responded:

I encourage everyone with the interest to build a platform or to monetize their audience to do so. I'm enjoying CH and definitely wouldn't have invested in it. If y'all are interested, I'd suggest starting a room and asking if there's anyone that can answer. Too rich for my blood

A few observations came out of this conversation:

(1) The Clubhouse user didn't get it.
I don't have Clubhouse (which I have 5 invites for), because I have an andriod phone.  In todays tech world, you don't have to exclude people because of devices. That's typical Silicon Valley thinking.

(2) Who was on the captable?
There was no answer for that as of today. An assumption was made that there are Black investors, but no proof was given. We're content being users of technology and really not builders (founders).  There was no answer as to the construction of their investors (are there women investors, black investors?).  The Clubhouse user did not know and neither did the investor.  I would guess that it's a typical Silicon Valley play.

(3) Happy being just the consumer
Part of the conversation went to wealth building.  Black people are being consumers and are going to be monetized, but are they really going to participate in the wealth creation of a $100MM Valued company that's just starting? We have to start changing the way we use our time and energy.  Just because you like something doesn't mean it's going to build wealth for your community.

(4) Missing the mark
The whole conversation went over the Clubhouse user's head.  To tell me to make a room on Clubhouse to discuss it when I can't access clubhouse because excluding people is a part of their roll-out strategy.....Went over their head.

I was at a board meeting over the weekend and I asked this question: Where is our stuff?  Now I'm going to ask, who's going to use our stuff?

About the author 

Barbara

An award-winning CTO and VC Fund Manager helping entrepreneurs and investors understand emerging technology.

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