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Can Clubhouse Keep the Conversation Going?

Tech’s hottest startup has benefited from turning its high-profile investors into talent. But the biggest test will be moving beyond the Silicon Valley faithful.
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Illustration: Larissa Hoff for Bloomberg Businessweek

Investment firm Andreessen Horowitz has supplied much of the capital that helped spark the sudden rise of Clubhouse, the audio-based social network that’s become one of the hottest things in Silicon Valley and has drawn in megacelebrities including Oprah and Drake. In a twist on the standard venture capital model, it also provides a good deal of the talent responsible for the content.

Clubhouse is an invite-only app, structured as a series of “rooms,” where speakers lead discussions in front of audiences who can also be called on to participate. Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, the founders of the firm, which is often referred to as A16Z—a play on the letters in its name—host their own show on Clubhouse. They also regularly show up in other rooms, and A16Z’s other partners encourage people from their wide range of contacts to hold court. The entire thing can resemble a smartphone-based version of the conferences and salons that venture capitalists rely on to burnish their thought-leader credentials and build hype for projects. (Bloomberg LP, which owns Bloomberg Businessweek, has invested in Andreessen Horowitz.)