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Losses of investors, conflicts and successful projects: the story of Colin Kroll and his influence on Vine and HQ Trivia

On December 16, it became known about the death of a 34-year-old entrepreneur.

Colin Kroll is one of the founders of the Vine project, which in 2012 was sold to Twitter, as well as the online HQ Trivia quiz. It was launched in 2016 and until the death of Kroll remained CEO of the company.

Kroll was educated as a software engineer, worked at Yahoo, and developed the JetSetter premium travel site before launching Vine and HQ Trivia. Despite the success of his projects, Kroll faced complaints about an aggressive management style and an inappropriate attitude towards women, which caused him to have problems finding investors and communicating within companies.

Colin Kroll Variety

The first projects and work in Yahoo

Kroll studied computer science at Oakland University, located in Rochester, Michigan, near Detroit.

He began his career as a software engineer at the Right Media platform for buying and selling advertising sites. In 2007, the company acquired Yahoo for $ 680 million. After the purchase, Kroll received an engineer position in search and advertising technologies Yahoo.

In 2011, Kroll left Yahoo to become the vice president of luxury travel development for JetSetter, and then moved to the position of technical director. In 2013, JetSetter was purchased by TripAdvisor.

Creating a Vine

In June 2012, Kroll and his JetSetter colleague Dom Hoffman, together with the developer Rus Yusupov, created an application for recording six-second videos – Vine. In October 2012, even before the application was fully launched, Twitter bought it for $ 30 million to compete with Instagram.


Vine officially launched in January 2013. Initially, Kroll served as chief technologist at Vine, and in 2013 he became CEO of the company.

By April 2013, Vine had become the most popular free application on the App Store – the service was liked by teenagers and young people. Vine reached 200 million active users per month, but the application could not be monetized, and it suffered from conflicts within the company.

In April 2014, Kroll retired from direct work at Vine, becoming a consultant for Twitter and Vine, and in December 2014 he left the company completely.

Reasons for leaving Twitter: squabbling, drinking, over-independence and poor Vine management

On December 18, 2017, the Recode edition said that Kroll was fired from Twitter for poor management and incorrect treatment of women. There were no public statements about harassment against him.

Recode journalists talked to more than a few of Kroll’s former colleagues from Twitter and Vine, who described him as a quarrelsome and disinterested person who conflicted with his colleagues. Five employees said that Kroll was periodically late for work, came disheveled and with a hangover.

As conceived by Twitter, Vine was supposed to work as a separate product, at least initially. For example, the Vine offices were located in New York, and the Twitter leadership was located in San Francisco, as Kroll believed that “the company’s inspiration is more about media and television than technology.”

House Hofmann, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll Business Insider

Vine co-founders – Kroll, Rus Yusupov and Dom Hofmann – resisted any attempts at interaction between the two companies, which was detrimental to the development of the service: the management refused the help of Twitter engineers and the transfer of Vine to internal infrastructure and Twitter servers.

At the end of 2015, Twitter added work with the camera to the application instead of integrating with Vine and in 2016 closed the service

“Do not sell your company!” – the reaction of Rus Yusupov to the closure of Vine

Kroll, in response to a Recode publication, wrote a statement: “Four years ago I was fired from Vine for poor management. It was a painful experience, but it opened the eyes and served as a catalyst for professional development. Now I understand that some things I did or said made others feel uncomfortable. I apologize to these people. ”

Creating Intermedia Labs: Starting Hype, Bounce and HQ Trivia

In 2015, Kroll, along with Vine co-founder Rus Yusupov, opened Intermedia Labs. The first project was the Hype application for creating “interactive” broadcasts: the service allowed to add various effects to the video, as well as audio, photos and gif-animation. The project failed, and TechCrunch joked that “contrary to the name, Hype did not get a proper hype.”

Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll Recode

In the summer of 2017, Intermedia Labs launched the second failed project, Bounce, a service for creating music videos from the dance movements of users synchronized with suitable songs.

After the setbacks, Kroll, who was a fan of Twitch online broadcasts, and Rus Yusupov, invented a “game that people would like to play with friends and family” —an interactive HQ Trivia quiz. In Russia, this format is known for the show “Clover” from “VKontakte”.Online quiz per million users

Problems finding investors

The company started looking for investments in November 2017. The search progressed with difficulty: because of Kroll’s behavior while working on Vine and Twitter, potential deals were sabotaged , and representatives of the foundations refused to cooperate. In March 2018, the service managed to attract $ 15 million, with an estimate of $ 100 million. The investment round led the Peter Til Founders Fund.

HQ Trivia gained viral popularity, in part thanks to its charismatic presenter Scott Rogowski and the ability to win real cash prizes. Six months after the launch of HQ, Trivia attracted interest from Nike

 and other major advertisers, and Jimmy Kimmel and actor Duane “The Rock” Johnson acted as guests of the show .

But the popularity of the application began to disappear as quickly as it appeared: by August 2018, on iOS Trivia dropped to 10th place in the general top downloads, in the Games category from 44th to 196th, and in Applications from 151st place to 585th.

According to analyst firm Sensor Tower, Trivia was installed 12.5 million times in all the time, and the number of new installations is gradually decreasing: if in February the application was downloaded more than 2 million times, then in July it was already 560 thousand.

The popularity of HQ Trivia in the App Store T echCrunch 

In November, Sunday contests with a prize of $ 25,000 gathered 580,000 players instead of two or more million players earlier, the Disney-sponsored game gathered 818,000 players on Sunday, and from 200 to 400,000 players took part in it on weekdays.

The conflict between Kroll and Yusupov

Amid falling interest in Trivia, there were problems within the team – in September 2018, Kroll took over the post of general director of Trivia, and Yusupov quit. In November, the Recode publication published a material on disagreements between the company’s founders and investors.

Recode sources believe that Yusupov did not know about the scale of Kroll’s problems on Twitter, and this seriously destroyed the founders’ trust in each other when investors began to refuse them because of their distrust of Kroll.

Also, Kroll and Yusupov differed in their views on the development of the service and the investment of the company’s money. According to the journalists of the publication, Yusupov was one of the reasons why Trivia did not grow fast enough. Instead of launching new quizzes, HQ launched a flagship show with big prizes and famous guests, as well as the British and sports version of the show.

Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll Recode

In August, Trivia investor Jeremy Lew and Kroll decided that Kroll should become CEO of the company, since Kroll’s “technical education” would enable him to better cope with the work and further development of quizzes.

A member of the board of directors, Cyan Banister, refused to participate in the voting for the change of leader, since her investment fund “never dismisses thefounders of the company.” As a result, the two voices of Kroll and Lew turned out to be enough for Kroll to become the general director of Trivia – Yusupov turned out to be their only opponent.

During the voting, an employee of the company filed a complaint about Kroll’s “inappropriate and unprofessional” behavior, in particular, aggressiveness and obscene language in the office.

The complaint was considered by the board of directors, which drew a third-party specialist to verify Kroll. He considered that Kroll’s behavior was “not a matter of concern,” and the decision to appoint Kroll as CEO of HQ Trivia was final.

In total, HQ Trivia expects to generate more than $ 10 million in revenue in 2018. Kroll was faced with the task of developing new game shows and fighting an abundance of competitors: a month after the launch of HQ Trivia, Chinese and European counterparts appeared.

The gaming business of wanting to win: why Chinese equivalents of HQ Trivia and Clover applications are more successful

On December 16, 2018, Colin Croll was found dead in his apartment in Manhattan. According to the TMZ publication, the death was caused by a drug overdose.

So sad to hear about the death of my friend and co-founder Colin Kroll. My thoughts and prayers are directed to his loved ones. I will remember him forever for his kind soul and big heart. He made the world and the Internet better. Rest in peace, brother.


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