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Tech Entrepreneur Justin Sun Just Launched a China Version of Clubhouse

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Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun, who made headlines in 2019 by scoring a 4.57 million USD lunch date with Warren Buffett, has just announced that he has invested in audio-only livestreaming platform TWO, declaring his intention to turn it into China’s answer to Clubhouse.

Although Sun’s tweet about the deal seems to imply that “TWO” is a new operation, the app has apparently been available for a few months already — an app bearing that name currently has a 4.7/5 rating on the App Store with user reviews from as early as September 2020. It also has 500,000 monthly active users already, as well as more than 9,000 daily livestreaming events according to Phoenix New Media’s Chinese language news portal ifeng.com.

The 31-year-old Sun — who likes to brand himself as a Jack Ma protégé — is a high-profile millennial tech entrepreneur who founded the cryptocurrency platform TRON, and has served as CEO of file-sharing company BitTorrent since 2018. 

In 2014, Sun also founded live chat app Peiwo, which means “Accompany me” in Chinese, and has attracted more than 10 million registered users worldwide. However, it was taken down from Chinese app stores in 2019 following criticism over vulgar and pornographic content on the platform.

Never shy of publicity, Sun tweeted just a few days ago that he would buy 1 million USD of GameStop stock to join the cause with Reddit communities.

Clubhouse, an invite-only audio social networking app that essentially combines the functions of Zoom conferencing calls and public radio platforms, is one of the hottest tech companies around right now. Sun’s announcement came less than 24 hours after Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a vocal debut on Clubhouse, which resulted in a boost for the shares in the platform’s associated companies.

It is unclear whether there is any official relationship between Clubhouse and Sun’s new venture, despite him tagging them in his announcement tweet.

Clubhouse itself is valued at 1 billion USD and has attracted more than 2 million users. Founded early last year at the beginning of the pandemic, Clubhouse has been generating buzz for being frequented both by Hollywood celebrities and Silicon Valley movers and shakers.

The app has also been riding a wave of popularity in China — especially since Musk’s appearance — though this has prompted multiple commentators to wonder how long it will last before going the way of Twitter, Facebook and other US-developed social media platforms in disappearing behind “the Great Firewall.”

Hashtags related to #Clubhouse# have been trending on microblogging platform Weibo, while numerous invite codes for the platform can be found for sale on ecommerce site Taobao. While some are questioning the overnight fame, some others are comparing Clubhouse to China’s long-time audio chat app YY and Tencent QQ’s video chat rooms. “This kind of rustic app is already outdated in China,” reads one comment under a related social media post.

Related:

Watch: How China’s Army of Apps Helped People Through Coronavirus Isolation

 

Sun’s “Clubhouse China” will also go up against the country’s existing podcasting platforms, many of which have seen an increase in listenership in recent years — notably Ximalaya FM, the most popular podcasting app in China with over 600 million users in 2019. Qingting FM and Lizhi FM are the two other major players in the market.

However, it is still too early to tell if Sun’s much-hyped investment in the TWO app will have as big an impact as Clubhouse has so far had overseas.

Cover Image: Depositphotos

Siyuan Meng
Born and raised in Shaoxing, Siyuan lived in New York and Los Angeles prior to Shanghai. She likes going outdoors.