🔈 Agora: the tech behind Clubhouse


February 15, 2021

{date(‘MMMM dd, yyyy’,time(“now”))}
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
ClickUp

While r/WallStreetBets has received untold hype, another subreddit — as recently highlighted by the New York Times — has been indispensable for people trying to navigate government stimulus: r/Unemployment.

Somehow, Reddit is still only valued at $6B?

The Big Idea
Kanye West and Elon Musk

Meet Agora, the company powering Clubhouse

Clubhouse is scorching hot right now.

The invite-only social audio app — which lets users conduct real-time conversations or eavesdrop on celebrities and investors — is suddenly everywhere.

While the company is private, those looking to capitalize on its rise have been betting on Agora, a software firm that has seen its market value more than double, rising to $10B+, since the end of January.

Agora makes tools for ‘real-time engagement’

Founded in 2012, the company offers APIs (application programming interfaces) for real-time voice and audio features in only a few lines of code.

It went public last summer with the very relevant ticker $API.

According to investor Justin Caldbeck, Clubhouse was built in 1 week on Agora (Clubhouse does not speak publicly about its tech stack, but a recent Bloomberg article highlights that the connection does exist).

In recent months, Clubhouse has grown to 6m+ users, catalyzed by a Jan. 24 funding round (which valued the startup at $1B) and an appearance by Elon Musk during the GameStop/Robinhood controversy.

And with this growth, Agora has seen its stock price surge.

The tech isn’t just used by Clubhouse…

Per DFT Capital at Seeking Alpha, it powers several billion-dollar firms:

  • Bilibi: A $53B Chinese social video-sharing app
  • New Oriental Education: A $33B Chinese ed-tech firm
  • Yalla: A $5.6B app called the “Clubhouse of the Middle East”

Agora charges on a per-usage basis, which means that the more often people use these services, the more cheddar $API makes (it projects $125-$130m for 2020).

Agora’s founder Tony Zhao is a veteran of WebEx…

… Cisco’s video-chat business that counts Eric Yuan (the founder and CEO of Zoom) among its alumni.

Agora is based in Shanghai — and some observers have raised questions about Clubhouse’s vulnerability to government surveillance. The app has already been blocked in China.

But elsewhere, the hype machine continues.

Next up: a Clubhouse chat between 2 soft-spoken people Musk and Kanye West (and maybe Vladimir Putin, too).

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Send as email to a friend View on our website
Snippets
  • “We need to inflict pain” is what Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said in reference to Apple, after the iPhone manufacturer unleashed a new privacy policy that will hurt FB’s ad biz. (We wrote more here.)
  • Maryland is the first state to tax digital advertising… with a levy of up to 10% on revenue for firms making $100m+. Facebook and Google are a little bit above this threshold, with respective digital ad revenues of $84B and $147B last year.
  • Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm have all raised concerns to global regulators about chip manufacturer Nvidia’s $40B acquisition of chip design firm Arm. The issue: a potential change in Arm’s licensing terms.
  • The Amazon of South Korea (Coupang) has filed to go public at a potential $50B valuation. It would continue Masayoshi Son’s recent win streak, after his fund notched an $11B profit in the latest quarter on DoorDash’s IPO.
  • Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey put 500 bitcoins (~$24m) into an endowment to fund Bitcoin development in Africa and India.
Q&A
Keith Wasserman

Keith Wasserman runs a $1.6B real estate portfolio. Here’s what he’s bullish on post-COVID.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, 36-year-old Keith Wasserman has a good college hustle story.

While studying at the University of Southern California, he operated one of eBay’s largest shops, Keith’s Bargain Center, which sold 200k items. The products ranged from DVDs to clothing.

After graduating in 2007 at the height of the housing bubble, Wasserman purchased a 4-unit building in Bakersfield, California. Today, that property has turned into Gelt Inc., a $1.6B real estate portfolio with 32 buildings (~15k units) across America.

The Hustle recently spoke with Wasserman about all things real estate.

How will “superstar cities” (e.g., NYC, SF) do as people leave?

Wasserman thinks these cities will be fine in the long run.

“At the end of the day, single people want to live in proximity to dating [opportunities] and near big cities,” he says. “Rent drops [will attract] a different set of people who may otherwise have been priced out.”

What cities he’s bullish on in the next 5 years

Here are 3 cities that Wasserman is investing in:

  • Denver: “It’s our largest expansion area right now.”
  • Salt Lake City: “This is a high-quality city that is very business-friendly.”
  • Albuquerque: “We are seeing slow and steady rent growth here among a population of retirees.”

What asset class he recommends for smaller investors

Manufactured home parks. Here’s why:

  • Minimal maintenance: You buy the land plots and rent them out to people who own (and maintain) manufactured homes themselves.
  • Sticky tenants: It’s inconvenient to move (the average tenancy is 10 years).
  • Recession-proof: It’s fairly low-income housing, so people aren’t leaving for cheaper options.

“The thing I love about real estate vs. other industries is that it’s not winner-takes-all,” says Wasserman. “There are millions — if not tens of millions — of millionaires in real estate. There’s enough out there for a lot of people to get involved.”

(Read the full Q&A here.)

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Send as email to a friend View on our website
SPONSORED
Get down with ClickUp →
Got student debt?
Oh the places you will go

College Cash: tackling America’s $1.7T student debt problem

“Going to college is so affordable,” said no one ever. Au contraire, we’ve got a problem on our hands:

  • 65% of US college graduates have student loans
  • The average loan amount is $37k
  • Student debt collectively totals $1.7T

Enter College Cash. It’s a startup that’s helping students repay their debt in a novel way: A marketplace of brands compensates students by paying off part of their debt in return for user-generated content (“UGC”).

Its founder, Demetrius Curry, is currently looking to raise a $1m seed round to make it a reality.

College costs keep rising…

… and as a result, graduates owe 26% more than they did 10 years ago.

Curry was moved to take action after realizing the cost of his own daughter’s future education. He’s even gone as far as to sell his own plasma to pay for web hosting fees to get his idea off the ground.

Per TechCrunch, his startup allows brands to ask users to create photo and video content for their respective service or product.

Why UGC?

  • It’s 20% more influential than other types of media
  • 93% of customers appreciate UGC when making a purchase

Where does College Cash go from here?

Short-term, the focus is on fundraising. Long-term, Curry envisions College Cash providing additional ways to fund college.

One idea: a tip integration within gig economy platforms (e.g., DoorDash) for workers paying for school.

So… no debt, no problem? Fingers crossed.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Send as email to a friend View on our website
SPONSORED
Invest responsibly →

FINE-ISH PRINT: Investing involves risk and performance not guaranteed.

Funding of the day
meme

Creator economy startup Stir is now valued at $100m after a new funding round, per The Information.

The investment is led by Andreessen Horowitz, which has also backed 2 other high-profile creator economy startups: social audio app Clubhouse (you may have heard of it) and newsletter platform Substack.

Stir is used by creators to manage the income they generate from things like ads and fan subscriptions (including revenue splitting with collaborators).

Founded by former Facebook designer Joseph Perri Albanese, Stir raised a $4m round in October 2020 and counts the CEOs of 2 creator payment platforms — Cameo and Patreon — among its investors.

The software is not yet widely available. But with seemingly everyone releasing a newsletter, podcast, or YouTube channel, it looks like the right tool at the right time.

Check out our related coverage:

  • OnlyFans’ huge year
  • How Stir helped YouTuber Airrack get to 1m subscribers
  • How Instagram’s largest meme account launched a top Patreon show, “All Gas No Brakes”
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Hustle Cons Greatest Hits ebook

Over the years, we’ve learned… secrets.

The business secrets, tips, and tricks that have helped founders go from zero to millions — and even billions — of dollars.

Want to see ‘em? Just refer {3-referral_count} more friends to The Hustle and we’ll send you our curated set of interviews with founders from brands like Zola, AWAY, Vungle, Bonobos, and more.

Here’s a message you can use to share with your friends:

Hey! Do you read The Hustle? It’s the best daily business newsletter out there — only takes 5 minutes to read and you’ll sound like the smartest person in the room. Sign up here, it’s free: {referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Stickers

Laptop lookin’ sparse? Water bottle lookin’… clear?

You’re only {5-referral_count} referrals away from your first Hustle swag, Sam’s Stickers. Slap a few of these bad boys on the ol’ laptop and let everyone in the coffee shop know that you know. You know?

Here’s a message you can use to share with your friends:

Hey! Do you read The Hustle? It’s the best daily business newsletter out there — only takes 5 minutes to read and you’ll sound like the smartest person in the room. Sign up here, it’s free: {referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Pint Glass

Look at you, smarty pants. You’ve already shared The Hustle with {referral_count} friends and enemies.

But hey, just because you’re a business nerd doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cool bevvy. Get {10-referral_count} more referrals and we’ll send you a pint glass etched with The Hustle logo.

Anyway, here’s a message you can use to share with your friends:

Hey! Do you read The Hustle? It’s the best daily business newsletter out there — only takes 5 minutes to read and you’ll sound like the smartest person in the room. Sign up here, it’s free: {referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Ambassador Rewards

You’re only {15-referral_count} referrals away from earning our signature dad hat meant for ladies, gents, and dads alike to show folks they’re in the club.

Here’s a message you can use to share with your friends:

Hey! Do you read The Hustle? It’s the best daily business newsletter out there — only takes 5 minutes to read and you’ll sound like the smartest person in the room. Sign up here, it’s free: {referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Always be Hustlin' tee

You’re close to the most coveted item in Hustle-land: The Always Be Hustlin Tee.

The fabric? Luxurious. The cut? Relaxed, yet refined. The message? Indisputable.

Share this link with {25 – referral_count} more of your friends to get the goods:

{referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Hustle Hoodie

Damn, you’re on a roll. You’ve got the pint glass. You’ve got the hat. It’s time to complete your collection, don’t you think?

Get {50 – referral_count} more referrals and we’ll send you our favorite piece of Hustle swag: The Startup Sweatshirt. Slipping into this piece of fleece might just transport you to Silicon Valley (or maybe somewhere better, your pick).

Share this link to get the goods:

{referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Trends Screenshot

Hey, we see you. You’re out there spreading the gospel of The Hustle like it’s nobody’s business. Seems like you might be ready for a little more…

Get {100 – referral_count} more referrals and we’ll slide you a free subscription to Trends.

And no, this ain’t an ad. We just think you’re the kinda person who would thrive in our top-tier community (it’s usually $299) full of founders, investors, and builders (AKA ambitious, no B.S. business folks like you — and enjoy our premium research and content.

Share this link with {100 – referral_count} more of your friends to get the goods:

{referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →
SHARE THE HUSTLE
Plane

If you love us so much why don’t you just marry us?

Get {1000 – referral_count} more referrals and we’ll fly you to The Hustle HQ in beautiful, downtown eastern Austin, Texas. Round-trip flight, 2 nights in a hotel downtown, and some wining and dining with The Hustle fam.

Heck, you practically work here anyway. Copy & paste this link to share:

{referral_url}

P.S. You can always check your referral count here.

Share The Hustle →

How did you like today’s email?

Join 1.5m+ professionals getting The Hustle daily news brief

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

100% free, no ads or spam, unsubscribe anytime

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.

If you don’t like it, unsubscribe any time. Privacy policy.