Illustration by J. Claeys

This spring, Silicon Valley investors watched with a mix of envy and disbelief as top VC firms battled for a stake in tiny audio app Clubhouse. Now others are getting in on the act.

Dozens of audio startups, including Betty Labs, Geneva, Chalk, Rodeo and Spoon, are raising capital from venture firms such as Greylock Partners, Alphabet’s GV and BoxGroup. These apps serve as places for people to talk live with friends, colleagues or new acquaintances.

Investors are keen to find the next audio star, freshly alert to the sector’s potential thanks to Clubhouse’s $100 million valuation, as well as the rise of Discord, a talk and text chat app recently valued at $3.5 billion. Entrepreneurs are betting that consumers and professionals, sick of endless texting and Zoom calls, will turn to these apps with relief.

“I’m trying to make the next Snapchat or Instagram for audio,” said Midas Kwant, the founder of Rodeo, an app backed by Floodgate, BoxGroup and SV Angel that allows people to create and listen to group audio chats with their friends. “It might sound crazy but that’s the goal.”

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