Clubhouse: The Bomani Effect  by@rachelminnlee

Clubhouse: The Bomani Effect

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Rachel Lee Hacker Noon profile picture

Rachel Lee

mother of unicorns. not a hacker. social distancing since 2018

Bomani X (yes - a real person!), is the current face of the hottest new voice/audio social media app - Clubhouse.

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The Clubhouse app was downloaded 2.3 million times by 31 January 2021, and is currently available on iphone - it is, also, currently invite-only and is offering a wide range of audio-based activities based on your preferences, including live music sets, tech startup chats, and even speed dating. Interestingly enough, none of these is yet monetised, although Clubhouse has plans to turn their popular users into influencers.

Clubhouse has decided not to depend on an ubiquitous letter logo favored by almost all tech startups in this era. Instead, they use their logo space interestingly, as a platform to showcase some of their most interesting users. Bomani X can probably be determined as a ‘digital entrepreneur‘ - besides being an American guitarist and songwriter, he founded a sharing network for home concerts and hackathons called New Perspectives Party, and Lit.Spins - a subscription box service that pairs books with classic vinyls. That is such a great idea appealing instantly to the heart of all real music lovers, who are book lovers as well. This branding also works to help new users discover other users, some of their past ‘faces’ being Julie Wenah and King Kiko, just to name a few.

I listened in to Bomani X’s chat over the last weekend, with the Italian digital community, the purpose of this chatwas to introduce the app as it had just recently launched in Italy. I learned a lot from being in the same room as music producers, actual clubhouse owners and the people trying to make a difference in digital music and entrepreneurship in general. It was a good way to spend my evening listening in to these great talents who all want to help out each other to make a kind of impact, and I could instantly see how powerful this app could really become. As Clubhouse launches in the rest of the world, it would not be the first social app to face controversies and legalities about privacy and moderation. Just a couple hours ago, China has blocked Clubhouse after a brief, uncensored chance to catch freewheeling conversations about taboo subjects in China.

As most of Southeast Asian companies do business and interact with the Chinese and Chinese tech, it is quite a sad (but expected I guess?) and troubling turn of events that effectively prohibits the young talents there from getting worldwide access to showcase themselves and their skills or their ideas. Right now there is no official announcement from Beijing, however, if it is officially banned or not, but several people have faced connection issues, and the general consensus is that it will be a matter of time before it becomes officially banned.

In Europe, there are serious concerns about moderation and the app faces legal action over data protection and privacy laws - launching while not having platform terms and privacy notices in the specific country‘s language is a violation of consumer protection rules in many European nations. Just last week, Italy took the lead in being one of the first countries to set restrictions on TikTok. Italy has ordered the popular Tiktok app to immediately ban underage users or users whose age could not be determined, after the recent news came to light that a 10 year old died after filming a viral ‘blackout’ challenge on TikTok.

While in the recent past, many popular apps from US startups just need to show a basic ‘adequate protection’ privacy terms and were easily given the go-ahead with a spurious wave of the hand from the powers that be. Right now, however, due to the recent fiasco of privacy concerns - namely Whatsapp in the eye of the data privacy policy storm - Clubhouse has faced criticism, even at home in US, with its lack of effective moderation and abuse prevention practices.

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This week it was recommended to me to tune in to the chat room : ‘Southeast Asia Tech Club’s : Post Work Chill’ and so I did. I later realised that the recommendation to join this chat was due to knowing one of the speakers in the chat room, a bright, talented young man who was working in a tech unicorn; who also runs a cool cocktail bar (that closed down during the pandemic - and reopened after a merger with another cafe!), and in this chat he announced that he recently joined one of the most beloved Singapore’s robo-advisor fintech startups. I have always been silently rooting for this young man’s career after knowing about his work 4 years ago, inadvertently - as the nature of my work leads me to be a high user of LinkedIn, almost daily. I often follow these young talents’ careers, and root for their success. Now, hearing him speak about his new move and the evident excitement and joy in his voice about his new role, I am suddenly nostalgic for all those familiar faces, those familiar voices whom we haven’t had the chance to interact with personally, for far too long.

Initially, I thought that the best use case of Clubhouse would be similar to an older Chinese app ‘Zhihu’, which functions as a Q&A app - Zhihu’s closest current counterpart would be Quora, similar as a Q&A portal - but the difference is that Zhihu also has chat rooms for specialized knowledge seekers, specifically targeted at different listeners thirsty for a usually technical type of answer to their questions. I’m keeping my eye out for Clubhouse’s creator pilot program. Unlike other social media influencers, the creators chosen has age (and wisdom, and knowledge) on their side.

I think now, Clubhouse has made me sentimental for the days where we could easily mingle with each other in conferences - meeting someone new, as well as saying hello to the familiar ones in the tech scene - and I would say that Clubhouse is perfect as a brand new alternative for the type of networking in conferences we have missed out on. Plus, it feels so much more relaxed and casual - and, more social than using something like Zoom, for example, for a ‘drinks chat’.

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These ’clubs’ are rather cool:

  • BomaniX (The Bomani Effect Group)
  • Good Time - Daily light hearted wrap up of what’s happening in tech and culture

Clubhouse is an invitation-only, audio chat app, valued in Dec 2020 at $100 million. It is now valued at 1 billion USD since Jan 2021. I was honored to be nominated by an Australian investor who was, in turn, invited by the founder of Product Hunt. The app is not yet available on Android.

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