August 2, 2021

Business leaders turn to the Clubhouse app

(Toronto) Many Canadian executives are turning to the Clubhouse app as a new forum.

Tara Deschamps
The Canadian Press

As the financial results season approaches, Restaurant Brands International (RBI) Head of Corporate Services Duncan Fulton is spending days on end preparing for calls with reporters, analysts and investors, but he didn’t. hardly ever gets the chance to speak to customers who frequent Tim Hortons or Burger King outlets.

That changed in February when he joined RBI CEO Jose Cil on Clubhouse – an audio platform launched last spring that gives the opportunity to organize and participate in discussions on any topic imaginable.

Mr. Fulton describes it as a form of “talk radio with a telephone platform reinvented, but where you are the director.” He himself moderated a discussion the day after the publication of RBI’s latest quarterly results. “Our customers don’t care about our Adjusted EBITDA. They care about the real business, our food, our brands, so we were like, “Why not use Clubhouse?” ”

As COVID-19 spread across the world and millions of people were confined to their homes, executives of major venture capital and tech firms began to ogle this invitation-only app.

Earlier this year, hundreds of business leaders and other Canadian users were on Clubhouse, which has offered an increasing number of invitations since late 2020.

They got to hear SpaceX President and CEO Elon Musk say whether or not he believes in aliens; Shopify executives Tobi Lutke and Harley Finkelstein talk about entrepreneurship; and Wattpad founder Allen Lau discuss his recent decision to sell the business.

This helps democratize access to these top executives, argues Mr. Fulton, who himself discovered the app thanks to restaurateur Stephen Beckta, for his part invited by Mr. Finkelstein of Shopify.

Fulton says he appreciates the exploratory nature of the platform and the ability for moderators to control who can speak and when.

Ryerson University digital media professor Richard Lachman recognizes that the platform can prove useful for executives looking to manage their image. However, users will quickly lose interest in boring or overly scripted conversations, he notes, and awkward situations can arise if executives don’t know how to answer “aggressive” questions or kick a participant out quickly enough.

While the app doesn’t advertise itself as private, the invitation-only membership has created a laid-back vibe, even as the user base continues to grow.

Clubhouse, which did not respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press, has a “rule” prohibiting the transcription, recording or sharing of personal information heard on the app. Still, a quick search of other social networks reveals dozens of records and quotes from the app.

Last year, prominent venture capitalists came under fire when an audio leak revealed they were ridiculing a reporter from the New York Times and complained about the so-called “cancel culture” in English.

In addition, with the arrival of other audio applications and the flood of new users, it will become even more difficult for business leaders to make their mark on Clubhouse, predicted Mr. Lachman in an interview.

“It might be valuable right now, but in a year or two it can go to waste. ”