With attention on audio-focused social network Clubhouse exploding in recent weeks, Chinese entrepreneurs are racing to replicate the success of the invite-only app that has attracted interest from some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley.
One of these entrepreneurs is Justin Sun, the millennial crypto whiz who said on Twitter that he was launching China’s version of Clubhouse, called Two. However, the app actually launched last year and just recently got an investment from Sun, Chinese media iFeng reported. Unlike Clubhouse, the app is available on both Android and iOS, where it has been available at least since last August, reviews on Apple’s App Store show.
Sun is the founder of cryptocurrency platform Tron, best known for purchasing the company behind BitTorrent – the popular peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. The entrepreneur is now the latest person looking to cash in on the sudden popularity of Clubhouse.
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“These days, many friends are talking about how to quickly copy Clubhouse. My feeling about it has been quite mixed,” wrote Wu Yunfei, a member of the product team behind Dizhua, an audio-focused social app incubated by knowledge sharing platform Guokr.
China @joinClubhouse has officially launched! We've decided to go w/ the name "TWO"! Please visit https://t.co/tWrXjFf3Ku to download or iOS Appstore/Android stores in China. Only Mandarin for now but English will be avail next week! #Clubhouse Try it! #TWO @2TwoApp
— Justin Sun (@justinsuntron) February 2, 2021
In a post on WeChat, Wu wrote about the appeal of using Clubhouse, explaining his experience of chatting in a room with hundreds of Chinese product managers.
“Early adopters are mostly product managers and investors in the internet business, people who have a strong ability to collect new information,” Wu said. “Every room you enter, even if you don’t run into friends or acquaintances, is filled with people with similar interests.”
This is the strength of Clubhouse that makes it so unique. Users of the platform have excitedly talked about the “serendipity” of the audio-only conversations happening there.
This combined with the app’s current exclusivity – people need an invitation from existing users to join – has helped turn it into what has been dubbed the hottest social network in Silicon Valley since Snapchat.
Since launching on iPhone in April 2020, Clubhouse has built a following among venture capitalists and tech company founders.
The company recently raised US$100 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, putting the start-up’s valuation at US$1 billion. The app’s profile rose even more this week when Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made his debut on the platform on Monday.
As a result, there has been a recent boom in social audio apps. Although China has seen a number of such apps in recent years, some with sizeable followings, none have become the cultural phenomenon that Clubhouse has.
Since launching in 2019, Dizhua has become one of the most popular social audio apps in China for allowing users to stay anonymous. Besides Dizhua and Two, Chinese apps Tiya and Yalla have also drawn comparisons to Clubhouse.
Tiya, a subsidiary of Guangzhou-based Lizhi, also launched in 2019 and has ranked among the top 15 social networking apps in the US over the last month. As attention on Clubhouse has risen this week, so have shares of Lizhi, which went public on the Nasdaq last year. The company’s share price closed at US$5.16 on Tuesday, up 41 per cent from the previous day.
Yalla is another similar Chinese-owned app that has grown in popularity in the past year. Among the company’s many high-profile Chinese investors is Orchid Asia, which is also an investor in Lizhi.
But Yalla is not designed for Chinese users. The Arabic social media app launched in the Middle East. Yalla said it had 12.4 million users in the second quarter of 2020, 5.4 million of whom were paying subscribers. That same quarter, users collectively spent 309.5 million hours in chat rooms, the company said.
Chinese users who want the real Clubhouse experience can technically still access the app from within the country’s Great Firewall, but Apple removed the app from the App Store in China last October. Curious users can still install the app with Apple accounts set to other regions, though.
However, without an invite code, getting the app installed is only part of the challenge. People who do not know anyone on Clubhouse might have to spring for one of the many codes that have shown up on various Chinese e-commerce sites.
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