Elon Musk Makes Characteristically Wild Debut on a Buzzy Social App Clubhouse

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Elon Musk’s debut on a new social-conversation app was a wild ride, with talk ranging from wiring a monkey’s brain for video gaming to the entrepreneur’s grilling of Robinhood’s chief executive, all while many users were unable to join because of the surge in demand to hear the world’s richest man speak.

Many who tried tuning into Clubhouse, the app backed by venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, ended up on pirated streams that popped up on YouTube and aired the chief executive of Tesla Inc. taking questions from moderators for more than an hour. The invitation-only platform founded last year is one of the hotter commodities in social media and has the potential to become a can’t-miss information platform for journalists, investors and the public, much like Twitter Inc. -- a service beloved by Musk.

As news of the billionaire’s impending appearance at 10 California time on Sunday evening spread across the internet, there was a flurry of tweeting by people seeking invitations to hear him speak. Several “pre-game” rooms -- where users can join conversations or just listen -- emerged beforehand to discuss Musk’s upcoming appearance.

So it’s no surprise that the moderators, which included tech industry veterans Marc Andreessen and Steven Sinofsky, also convened a “post-game” session, where they talked about how Clubhouse’s platform had been “stretched to its limits” as people sought to join the room with Musk. They said three engineers had been on hand to deal with any issues. They also spoke about bringing on other luminaries, including Bill Gates.

While the limited number of users on Clubhouse -- which debuted in March -- lends it an air of exclusivity, it’s also starting to grow faster and attract more funding, pushing it further into the news and social-media spheres. It now has an estimated 5 million users, a jump from 3 million just 10 days earlier. Last week, investors including Andreessen Horowitz valued it at $1 billion. Clubhouse raised $100 million in the round, according to Axios.

What Clubhouse offers is a certain amount of clubby intimacy with others on the platform. Some of that is retained when luminaries such as Oprah, Drake or Jared Leto show up. Sunday’s session with Musk was as close as any of his million Twitter followers were going to get to a conversation with him.

The session started off with the founder of rocket company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. talking about colonizing Mars and whether he would feel comfortable letting any of his sons to make the journey to the planet. That segued briefly into whether the Netflix Inc. series “The Expanse” was worth watching or not.

“The important thing is we establish Mars as a self-sustaining civilization and that we ensure the long-term existence of consciousness,” Musk said. That naturally led to a back-and-forth about aliens. “I’ve seen no conclusive evidence,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t aliens; I just haven’t seen the evidence.”


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