🚀 Everything's coming up Clubhouse
Plus, a deep dive on Olivia Rodrigo & the future of the music industry
New newsletter alert! The China Spec features product teardowns of top Chinese apps from Calm PM Patricia Mou & tech analyst Rui Ma.
The first edition dives into Douyin, a video app owned by ByteDance (parent company of TikTok). Douyin has 600M DAUs in mainland China - for context, this is nearly 2x Snap’s global user base! Even more impressive is Douyin’s engagement metrics, with active users spending 80 minutes a day in the app.
Douyin was released a year before TikTok launched in the U.S., and there’s a few core differences between the two apps:
Videos can be 15 min long - an eternity compared to TikToks
Livestreaming is much more popular, with 85% of users watching streams
Creators can pay to promote their videos & target specific demos
Embedded commerce features - creators can monetize by adding mini shops to their profiles and selling products during streams
Streamers are ranked on leaderboards of engagement, and the “best” fans get special status, digital badges, and more creator attention
There’s an exciting lineup of product teardowns ahead, featuring apps like Pinduoduo, Taobao, and Alipay. You can subscribe to The China Spec here!
🎧 Clubhouse copycats multiply. Live audio is officially cool, with the world’s biggest tech companies scrambling to develop Clubhouse competitors. This week’s updates:
Spotify acquired Locker Room (a sports-oriented live audio app), with plans to roll out live audio experiences more broadly.
Slack’s CEO said on Clubhouse that they’re “building Clubhouse into Slack.”
Screenshots leaked of Facebook’s upcoming Clubhouse competitor.
Discord released a feature for broadcasting audio conversations.
Twitter Spaces is soon coming to desktop (it’s mobile-only now).
LinkedIn confirmed that it’s testing a social audio experience.
📚 Coursera pops in IPO. Edtech startup Coursera went public, closing its first day of trading up 36%. Coursera offers online courses in collaboration with universities & companies, serving both individuals and businesses looking to upskill workers. The company did $294M in revenue in 2020 (up 59%), with nearly 77M registered learners. Interestingly, Coursera has a small but growing product line of fully online degrees - you can get Bachelors or even Masters degrees from universities worldwide.
💸 Notable fundraises. A couple of funding rounds to highlight this week:
Substack (which we use to publish this newsletter!) raised a $65M Series B at a ~$650M valuation. The round was led by a16z, and will be used to double down on creator financing and build more tools to support writers. The company announced that more than 500K people subscribe to paid newsletters on the platform, and the top 10 publishers are grossing $15M+ per year.
Cameo became a unicorn, raising $100M at a $1B valuation. ~80% of Cameo’s video requests are gifts, but the company has been building a business offering for celebrities to appear at events/conferences or in advertisements.
Dapper Labs, creator of NBA Top Shot, raised $350M round at a $2.5B valuation. In the first six months since launch, NBA Top Shot has facilitated $500M in sales and registered 800K users. Fun fact - Michael Jordan invested in this round!
At-home fitness startup Tonal raised $250M at a $1.6B valuation. The company’s “all-in-one” wall mounted fitness machine sells for $2,995. Sales increased 800% last year, and Tonal is now preparing for an IPO.
🥘 Deliveroo IPO disappoints. Food delivery startup Deliveroo had a tough public debut on the London Stock Exchange - the company’s stock tumbled 26% on the first day of trading. It was London’s largest IPO in a decade, but ended up being one of its worst performing. Why? Some institutional investors declined to participate due to concerns over how Deliveroo classifies its drivers (particularly after a recent UK Supreme Court ruling), and the company’s dual class share structure is unpopular in the UK.
what we’re following 👀
How sellers are keeping up with the demand for vaccine merch on Etsy.
The Bessemer team outlines distribution & conversion tactics for consumer startups.
Influencer Jake Paul launches a rolling fund (“Anti Fund”).
MSCHF gets sued by Nike over its Satan Shoes collab with Lil Nas X.
It was a big week for Gen Z star Olivia Rodrigo! A recap:
Her breakout hit “Drivers License” became 2021’s first song to cross 1B streams
She released her second song, “Deja Vu” (music video above!)
She announced her debut album, which will be released on May 21
We’re particularly fascinated by Rodrigo’s use of TikTok to not only market her songs but develop them! After a clip of Rodrigo playing an early version of Drivers License went viral on TikTok, she decided to professionally record it. Interestingly, she designed the song to inspire TikTok users to make videos, with specific cues for transitions. It worked - the song dominated TikTok (and music charts) for weeks.
Before releasing “Deja Vu” on Thursday, Rodrigo dropped an early clip on TikTok to build up hype. The song quickly became the #1 trending video on YouTube, racking up views even faster than “Drivers License” did. Rodrigo has been called Gen Z’s Taylor Swift, and she takes a Swift-like approach in engaging with fans (check out her Twitter likes!). But it’s interesting to note how Olivia’s path has already diverged from Taylor’s. Taylor signed her first record deal in 2004, but didn’t become a country star until 2006, and didn’t break into the mainstream until the 2010s.
The time it takes to become a household name has shrunk considerably, thanks to platforms like TikTok that allow artists to release songs directly to listeners. While Rodrigo certainly benefited from her start as a child actress on Disney Channel, only 2.8M people tuned into her biggest break - High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. In comparison, she’s accumulated 208M views across her TikTok videos.
But Rodrigo’s numbers pale in comparison to the 33.9B views across videos tagged #singing on TikTok. It’s clear that the platform is chipping away at the power of record labels, who have historically been responsible for promoting and distributing new music. Record labels used to act as gatekeepers, deciding which artists would have a chance to make it big (and taking a cut of the profits). Now, up-and-coming artists can build their own audience with TikTok’s algorithm as their source of distribution.
Today, artists who make it big on TikTok still typically sign with record labels. Why? They give you upfront advances to professionally produce your music, which is an expensive process but then allows you to monetize (via streaming & licensing deals). In the future, we can imagine a world where fans invest in artists instead - we’ve already seen the early innings of this with platforms like Patreon and AmplifyX.
Will record labels continue to dominate the music industry?
If you’re interested in starting a company, check out Ramen Mafia. It’s an invite-only co-founder matching service with monthly cohorts around a specific theme (fintech is up next). Applications are due on April 9th!
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puppy of the week 🐶
Meet Peanut, a 15-month-old Australian Labradoodle. He lives in San Diego but is moving to Denmark soon - he’s a world traveler!
Peanut enjoys going on hikes, playing with his new cousin, Rosie, and greeting both people and dogs everywhere he goes.
Follow him on Instagram @thebestpeanutdude!
Hi! 👋 We’re Justine and Olivia Moore, identical twins and venture investors at CRV. Thanks for reading Accelerated. We’d love your feedback - feel free to tweet us @venturetwins or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.