Invite-only chat app Clubhouse booms in Japan

Platform News: Clubhouse audio and social media app

Clubhouse is growing so rapidly in Japan, it now ranks first among free apps on Apple’s App Store in a test of its international viability following its latest funding round.

The US-based app vendor, which users must be invited by other users to join, reached a valuation of approximately $1 billion in the round announced on the 24th of January, a source familiar with the matter said confirming previous media reports.

Clubhouse built a following among venture capitalists and start-up founders gossiping in its audio-only chatrooms following its launch last March as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world.

In Japan, it hit a tipping point over the last week with a swelling user base of investors, tech industry workers and media.

Opportunities for spontaneous social interaction have been limited due to the global coronavirus pandemic, with Clubhouse providing an alternative forum to Twitter, one of the most successful social networks in Japan.

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“The power of social media is erupting in every direction,” Shintaro Yamada, Chief Executive Officer of flea market app Mercari wrote in a Twitter post in reference to recent trends including Clubhouse.

Fashion billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is among public figures shifting activity to the app to talk about the money giveaways that helped make him Japan’s most followed Twitter account with more than 10 million followers.

Clubhouse, which is backed by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is attracting celebrities including Atsushi Tamura, a tech-savvy comedian who invested in recently listed start-up Base Inc.

COMMENT: The marketing strategy behind Clubhouse is fascinating in its timeless simplicity. It encourages those with a huge potential, or actual following to onboard with the app and then limits the consumer usage in order to create a demand for access to the product. This is somewhat similar to the strategy used by Facebook during its initial period and by TY Toys back in the mid-1990’s with its Beanie Baby products.

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Japan’s entertainment industry is fragmenting as alternative platforms like YouTube weaken the grip that talent agencies and broadcasters held over the lives of performers.

It remains to be seen whether Clubhouse will bed in as expansion erodes the sense of exclusivity felt by its members and social options expand as the pandemic-hit economy reopens.

The growth of Clubhouse has led to handwringing on the app over why the country’s tech sector has not been able to produce its own equivalent.

Japan has been slow to ride a global boom in audio content, with players like Asahi newspaper belatedly launching their own podcasts.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Sam Nussey. Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa. Commentary by Rob Phillips.

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