Off Brand

How Clubhouse Won the Elon Musk vs. Robinhood Faceoff

Silicon Valley’s new favorite social platform just had a breakthrough moment

Rob Walker
Published in
4 min readFeb 3, 2021
Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Getty Images

Sorting out winners and losers in the GameStop spectacle and the related meme-stock market mess is getting confusing. Is the little-guy investor crushing the Wall Street establishment? Is Robinhood still a villain or more popular than ever? Will any of this affect GameStop’s actual future as a business?

Who knows? But amid the absurd chaos, one unexpected winner managed to sneak through with a slam-dunk self-branding moment: Clubhouse, the invitation-only, audio-centric social networking app.

Previously known mostly to the rarified tech elite and investor class — who seemed to like it, but for reasons that eluded many mainstream observers — Clubhouse suddenly found itself cited by the New York Times, CNBC, and everybody else as a key source of information about the hottest story going.

There’s a roughness to the exchange — Musk bluntly butting into answers, Tenev’s vaguely ragged yet somehow earnest tone — that’s accidentally fascinating.

That’s because Clubhouse is the venue where — somehow — in the wake of the GameStop drama, Elon Musk grilled Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev in one of the most bonkers “interviews” in recent memory.

To take one step back: Clubhouse has generated lots of buzz among the technorati. But the descriptions of the service have often made it sound like a big, weird conference call or maybe a live podcast with sketchy sound quality.

And that was pretty much the vibe for most of Musk’s appearance on The Good Time Show, a recurring event conducted via Clubhouse that in this case happened at 1 a.m. Eastern time on Monday. There was a hint that things might get interesting when Musk asked, “By the way, can you let in Vlad, from Robinhood?” But what followed was a bunch of boring chitchat about Mars and self-driving cars or whatever and Musk puzzling his way through questions about memes, while his dog (or someone’s dog) occasionally piped up in the background.