Imagine yourself in a hallway surrounded by a never ending row of doors. Behind every door is a room and in every room people are whispering to each other.
This is Clubhouse.
The latest permutation of social networking, Clubhouse is a voice chat platform created by two former Google employees Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth. Rather than express yourself in text, it’s all about the spoken word—and not just talking, but listening.
“It seems like pretty early on, people who are intosaw that this was a place where people who might be interested in btc are, and started rooms for respectfully answering basic questions for people,” said Neeraj Agrawal, communications director at Coin Center, adding, “I was actually pretty impressed.”
The app, which is valued at $1 billion, is still rolling out. To get in, you need an invite from someone already on the app—and you must own an iPhone. On the plus side, invites are now flowing around, with the app’s user base drastically increasing in the last few weeks to more than 2 million users. So by now, you should be able to ask your friends for an invite.
On Clubhouse, users create rooms to discuss any topic they can think of. Some of these rooms are small, secretive and intimate. Others provide speakers with an audience of thousands that span hundreds of countries. And in many of these rooms, along lots of these corridors, Bitcoiners are slowly entering the platform and building a growing community.
Bitcoiners flock to Clubhouse
Some of the biggest names in the crypto industry have already made Clubhouse profiles, including the likes of Pierre Rochard, Bitcoin strategist at crypto exchange Kraken, and Anthony Pompliano, host of the Pomp Podcast.
Some of crypto’s biggest names are already holding talks on the app. Angel investor Balaji Srinivasan has been hosting regular talks and even Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has joined in on discussions (on a panel next to Brooklyn 99’s Terry Crews).
Ok this might’ve been a mistake pic.twitter.com/0sDK0ynENa
— Myles Udland (@MylesUdland) January 25, 2021
“Going to try this Clubhouse thing all the kids are talking about,” said ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees, who will be discussing crypto on Clubhouse on February 4.
Going to try this Clubhouse thing that all the kids are talking about. BYOB. https://t.co/vyO75JloRP
— Erik Voorhees (@ErikVoorhees) January 25, 2021
Peter McCormack, host of the popular What Bitcoin Did podcast, also joined Clubhouse, for the simple reason that “everyone is talking about it.”
Clubhouse, I'm going in, wish me luck!
— Peter McCormack (@PeterMcCormack) January 25, 2021
Out of respect for the app’s terms of service, we’re only going to identify and quote people that have given us written approval. But in order to visualise how the Bitcoin community is developing on Clubhouse, we’re going to characterise what we saw.
Here’s what’s been happening on Clubhouse.
The Crypto Scene on Clubhouse
My first foray into the crypto scene on Clubhouse didn’t start well.
“Shut up, shut up, just shut your mouth,” one user said barely a minute into the hour-long session.
Other users tried to regain control of the room, but it wasn’t to be. “What was his name so we can all block them?” “What a dick.” “I didn’t see which profile was talking,” other users said in frustration.
Within five minutes, the room was shut down and started over. But luckily, this time, the session went smoothly.
“I just started learning about crypto about three weeks ago via this app, and it’s completely changed my life,” said one user. “You guys are giving super relevant and easy to understand information and I’m so glad to be here,” she added.
This shows one advantage of Clubhouse over current social media apps, like Twitter. Instead of being drowned in the noise, it’s easier to communicate more freely with other people. And by using audible conversation, people tend to be more respectful than when they’re hidden by anonymous accounts. Although who knows what will happen when the rest of the world joins.
Another user, who said she didn’t have any Bitcoin, asked for help in actually making her first Bitcoin purchase. “I tried the Edge Wallet, which I know you’ll go through for everyone else, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to get Bitcoin,” she said.
Now that so many have joined Clubhouse, the Satoshi Roundtable club is getting critical mass — we hope it can be a good spot for private or semi private rooms so industry people can talk to each other without “What found should I buy?” questions & dive into deeper topics.
— Bruce Fenton (@brucefenton) January 25, 2021
Moments later, she received her first satoshis.
And just like that, Clubhouse helped to create the world’s newest Bitcoiner.
The speed of the crypto industry can be exciting, but sometimes, it can be overwhelming. For that reason, not all of Clubhouse’s crypto rooms are dedicated to mainstreaming crypto or recruiting new Bitcoiners. Some are about supporting the people already in the industry during tough times.
Crypto, Clubhouse and mental health
A few hours after the Crypto Virgin Hour, I entered a room hosted by a 3D crypto artist who goes by the pseudonym Fesq, titled “CryptoArtist’s Mental Health Talk.”
Fesq is a self-taught 3D artist based in Brazil, whose Clubhouse profile describes him as “diving into crypto art and NFTs.” Also on the virtual stage was Alex Ness, who has been practicing 3D design for over a decade, and Alycia Rainaud, a French digital artist based in Montreal, Canada.
The three artists discussed the importance of taking care of their mental health while working in the new and emerging crypto art space. “When you invest yourself in something, there’s always a backlash,” Rainaud said.
The crypto art space is booming, but as much creativity as the industry produces, artists still need to make a living, and when it doesn’t go to plan, the creator’s mental health can pay the price.
“Everyone will say it’s not about the money, but ultimately people are looking at the money,” Ness said, describing the crypto art space. “I was super excited, and I started to post stuff, and it’s not about the money even, you just want people to be seeing your work, and it really fucks with your head,” he added.
“I really think it’s important to communicate the mental health issues that might come with such a volatile market,” Fesq added.
The future of crypto on Clubhouse
I found Clubhouse to be a promising experiment but one that is racked by challenges. While it enables people to have their voices heard, it has the potential to become a minefield of misinformation and echo chambers. Here, Clubhouse’s first line of defence is the quality of its users and moderators.
I told Coin Center’s Agrawal about my own experience on Clubhouse, where my first crypto room barely lasted five minutes before having to be shut down.
1/4 Range of quality on @joinClubhouse is extreme. There are some insanely high value crypto rooms, stacked with founders & thought leaders, better than a $4000/ticket conference panel, yet minimally attended.
— Jesse Powell (@jespow) January 25, 2021
“It kind of sounds like the system worked, if the room totally stopped, that did pause the abuse,” Agrawal said, adding, “I’m aware there has been some controversies on the app and they’re still figuring out moderation.”
One of those controversies is the potential for crypto scams to become commonplace (the kind of thing that has plagued Twitter for years).
Agrawal highlighted a previous request encountered on Clubhouse, where one user was looking to make money off of people trying to learn about crypto. “Venmo me cash and I’ll send you a stock tip,” Aragwal recalled, adding, “I was in a room after that where people were talking about how grossed out they were by what they saw.”
But putting the onus on moderators to protect the integrity of Clubhouse is still a good idea, according to Agrawal. “I think that’s a good way to stem misinformation. What I’ve seen is if somebody says something wrong, they get jumped on,” he said.
And that strategy might just help mainstream crypto after all.
“Clubhouse is a pretty inviting place, in the sense that if you have a question, from what I can tell you seem pretty likely to be able to get an answer.”
The only question left is will it draw in all of crypto Twitter, or is the app just a passing fad?