Aarthi Ramamurthy is the Head of International at Clubhouse where she focuses on building global communities on the Clubhouse platform.

Prior to this, she was a product executive at Facebook building core consumer products such as Facebook Groups, Events, Formats and Governance tools to enable people to connect with others who share similar interests and experiences. Prior to Facebook, she co-founded tech startups backed by Silicon Valley’s top accelerators and investors such as YCombinator. Aarthi also held numerous senior product roles at Netflix and Microsoft, where she built products such as the Netflix streaming player and Xbox LIVE gaming experiences.

Aarthi writes at @aarthir on Twitter. She is an active speaker and angel investor. Along with her husband, she also co-hosts The Good Time Show on Clubhouse, a nightly show through which they interview innovators around tech and culture. In this exclusive interview with Nairametrics, she speaks on everything Clubhouse.

How has Clubhouse evolved into the platform it is today?

Our vision for Clubhouse has always been to create a place where people can talk with each other, not at each other. And it’s been incredible to watch a community come together and grow on Clubhouse, where millions of people could gather to talk, listen, and learn from each other in real-time, find their tribe, and meet new people. We have a lot more work to do, but our community has grown dramatically. Over the summer, rooms created daily grew from ~300k to ~700k, and the average listener now spends north of 70 mins per day on the platform.

Our creators are a huge part of this community and our growth. We always say we’re creator-first, and that means putting them at the center of everything we do. The success of our creators is intrinsically tied to the success of Clubhouse, which is why over the past few months, we’ve built tools to help them grow their audiences (Clips), create content (Replays) and are rolling out monetization mechanisms like payments and tipping, coming soon.

Our platform has evolved and grown a lot in the past year. We rolled out the app to Android users, removed the invite system, introduced the Backchannel messaging system, began launching Creator First Programs around the world, we improved search and discovery, and reworked the way that Clubs and members align to make the platform easier than ever to use. It’s been busy, but everything we build is in service to the community.

What makes Clubhouse different from other platforms?

We’re setting ourselves apart by creating unique and immersive experiences. We regularly roll out new features based on feedback from our community like Backchannel, Spatial Audio, Wave, Clips, Replay and more to make social audio easier and better for our community.

Seeing other platforms realize the power social audio is validating and we understand why – audio is an incredibly durable medium. But for Clubhouse, this is our singular focus – we’re working with our community to build the best and most simple social audio experience. It’s not a bolted-on feature. Our community engagement has continued to grow throughout the summer despite all of the new market entrances. We are committed to delivering the most innovative and focused platform for that community which is itself a new vanguard of creators.

Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse both have a record feature. How does Clubhouse Clips differentiate from Twitter Spaces?

One of the main pieces of feedback we got from creators is that they love hosting conversations on Clubhouse, but they wanted ways to share these conversations off the platform on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever platforms they enjoy using as doing so can help them grow their audiences. That’s why we launched features like Clips and Replays.

Clips will allow anyone to share 30-second clips of public rooms, so more people on the Internet can discover and join your club. Replays allow Clubhouse creators and moderators to capture and share the magic and energy of a live, public Clubhouse room. When enabled, creators can record a room, save it to their profile and club, or download it and share externally so listeners can tune in whenever they like.

When is the Clubhouse Clips feature being rolled out to a larger group of creators?

The Clips feature is currently available on iOS, with Android rolling out soon. Clips allow you to create and share short 30 second moments from public rooms with anyone, anywhere. When you’re in a room that has Clips enabled, you’ll see a little scissor ✄ icon – tap it to make a Clip of the last 30 seconds of the room.

What are the company’s plans to expand its target market base in the long run across various countries?

Historically, we’ve grown our platform through word of mouth – friends of friends inviting each other to have great conversations and be part of our community. Word of mouth is still an important part of our growth strategy, but we’re also focused on building the best product and experience possible and working with partners to bring incredible moments to Clubhouse.

To grow internationally, we’re taking steps to make sure that Clubhouse is accessible to all. This includes language localization, which we rolled out on Android to 13 languages initially. More language support is coming soon, which we suspect will help us grow further in non-English speaking countries.

The app has shown impressive interest in providing the opportunity for creators to monetize their content. How does the company intend to offer more affordable subscriptions and commissions charged on its platform?

From the earliest days of Clubhouse, a guiding principle has been to build a platform that puts the creator first. We aim to help creators build community, audience, and impact. And as Clubhouse continues to scale, Our goal is to build a business where our interests are aligned with those of our creators which is why we have announced plans to introduce gifting, paid events, subscriptions, and a creator/brand marketplace in the months ahead.

Are there opportunities that Clubhouse intends to make available for creators to drive direct benefit from their rooms, which could provide more incentive for them to keep broadcasting, and building community in the app?

We’re working on a ton of features such as Pinned Links and Replays to improve the platform for our creators and community and help those who are interested create value from their efforts on Clubhouse. For our creators, we’ll be expanding monetization features so those who want to make content and build communities via the platform will have more opportunities to do so. We’ll also be focusing on improvements that will make the app easier to use, such as improved language localization and accessibility features.

In an era where virtual meetings and communication are thriving as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, how has that impacted Clubhouse?

When the pandemic started, we were all forced to stay home, and this led to a surge in the use of social media. Over time there has been digital fatigue, especially when it comes to video and that’s the difference with audio. Voice is durable, and it connects us at a human level.

What Clubhouse has done is to take the one thing we all enjoy doing, which is having conversations and making it dramatically easier to engage with friends and loved ones, including strangers across the world. Clubhouse was able to connect people when they were cooking, working out, etc, during the lockdowns. As people come out of the pandemic, they will still need to listen to audio as they commute to work, gym, etc. This versatility and the universal power of voice as a medium has helped Clubhouse grow during the pandemic and it will help it continue to grow post-pandemic.

What innovative strategy does Clubhouse possess that gives it an edge among its peers?

Focus. At Clubhouse, we are incredibly focused on our community – they are the lifeblood of our platform. We believe that the success of our creators is intrinsically tied to the success of Clubhouse, which is why we’ve rolled out tools like pinned links, replays, and clips, creator resources, and are planning to roll out monetization mechanisms like payments and tipping alongside other monetization features. Pinned links has been especially successful for our creators – our community has leveraged pinned links to drive more than 1.6 million clickthroughs to fundraise, sell books and tickets, promote upcoming events, and more in the first week of availability alone.

Regarding more ways to monetize, we are ramping up the global expansion of our monetization tools, intending to bring tools like tipping, subscription models, and ticketed events to markets such as Nigeria, giving creators multiple options to monetize. We want to bring creation + monetization to one place and ensure that creators can make a sustainable income on the platform.

Also, we want to bring programs like Creator First to more countries. Everything we do is meant for creators. Unlike other companies where creators are only one part of the strategy, for us creators are everything. So we have a focus on them.

Clubhouse was founded in the spring of 2020, given the peculiar nature of 2020, what has the growth trajectory of Clubhouse been like?

Clubhouse is an 18-month old company. We measure our numbers in terms of engagement and the length of time users spend on the platform. During summer 2021, we saw 300,000 rooms created each day and this has now risen to 700,000, with the average user spending 70+ minutes on the platform. We also recently saw our one billionth DM sent since launching backchannel. Where the community initially consisted of users in Silicon Valley/tech, we’ve now built a global community. It is not only our community that has grown to become global but we have gone from just the company founders, to 85+ people worldwide and we are still growing.

Currently, Clubhouse is privately traded and owned by its parent company Alpha Exploration Co. Are there plans for expansion and possible listing?

We don’t have plans to share at the moment, but if that changes we’ll let you know.

Clubhouse started with iOS users as its initial and major market but then diversified to android users, what necessitated this move and what has been the impact on the business?

It was always our intention to open up Clubhouse beyond iOS users. The iOS invite-only system was put in place to help us manage growth and give us time to scale. As our team grew from 8 people at the beginning of the year to more than 80 people now, we began opening up the platform to more people. In the long run, making the app available on Android opens up a potential audience of billions.

The impact of adding Clubhouse on Android was immense and we saw a million new downloads in the first month alone. We’re still seeing new people from across the world, including in Nigeria, continue to join Clubhouse to create and share unique moments that they simply cannot find anywhere else. The way we measure success is based on how many users are listening + spending time on the platform: 700,000+ rooms created a day (up from 300,000 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter of this year after the launch of Android) and the average user spending 70+ mins on the platform.

In April 2021, Clubhouse closed its series C funding with a $4 billion valuation. What would you say is driving the positive investment sentiment of venture capitalists?

It’s always been important to us to have investors who care deeply about diversity, and who will work hard to help us make Clubhouse a welcoming and inclusive community. We have a large number of investors in Clubhouse—large and small, spanning many different races, genders, and areas of expertise, and including many members of our early community. While we’ve never felt that fundraising itself is a milestone, we are planning to use these funds to make the product better each day and to help creators on Clubhouse thrive. Audio is the next step in the evolution of social networking, that is why traditional social platforms are launching similar features. The difference with us is that we purely focused on audio.