Clubhouse was sort of perfectly made for the pandemic. People aren't going out, and they're desperately searching for social connections and entertainment. The app provides both in a way, while capitalizing on the draw of celebrity influencers on the platform.
It's also built on one of the most effective strategies for generating buzz and excitement--scarcity. To join Clubhouse, you have to have an invite from someone who is already a member. Not only that, whoever invites you has to have your phone number and has to give Clubhouse access to their iPhone contacts. No access, no invites.
From a business standpoint, it certainly makes sense that Clubhouse is taking this approach. Building a social graph from scratch is very hard, and requiring users to upload their contacts list is the most effective way to determine connections.
There's a problem, however. As always, the problem comes down to figuring out the right balance between protecting user privacy and the use of data to provide the best experience for both the user and the business behind the app.
In that sense, it's worth considering that Clubhouse has a few policies that aren't exactly privacy-friendly. Even worse is the fact that you have to do a bit of digging to even understand what those policies actually are. I reached out to Clubhouse multiple times but did not immediately receive a response to my questions about how it uses data.
It seems pretty clear that Clubhouse is getting ready to monetize the platform it's building. That's fair--every business should have a plan for making money. If that plan includes monetizing its users' activity and data, I think we can all agree it should be upfront and transparent about that fact.
I'm all for Clubhouse making money, but I agree with Jason, they need to be upfront and tell people what they are using data for.