What happened to HQ Trivia?

HQ Trivia is a trivia video game first released in 2017 where users can win prize money by participating in live trivia games.

Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov founded the platform after they sold the social media platform Vine to Twitter.

HQ Trivia was a near-instant success, with the mobile app boasting more than 700,000 players connected to a single trivia game in December of that same year.

While the platform was valued at $100 million in March 2018, users started to decline a few months later at an alarming rate. 

After just three years in operation, CEO Yusupov noted in a company memo that “lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ Trivia will cease operations and move to dissolution.

Founding and Early SuccessHQ Trivia was founded by Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll. The app was launched in August 2017 and quickly gained a large following. HQ Trivia was unique because it allowed users to participate in live trivia games and win cash prizes. The game show format, hosted by charismatic presenters, attracted millions of players who tuned in daily to answer trivia questions.
Rapid Rise and Viral PopularityHQ Trivia’s format and the potential to win real money prizes made it a viral sensation. It garnered millions of users and received substantial media attention. The app’s games usually took place twice a day, creating a sense of community and excitement among players.
Funding and Expansion EffortsHQ Trivia raised significant venture capital funding to support its growth. The company explored expansion into other live game formats and experimented with different revenue models, including sponsored games and in-app purchases.
Controversies and Management ChangesDespite its popularity, HQ Trivia faced internal challenges and controversies. Colin Kroll, one of the co-founders, tragically passed away in December 2018. The company also experienced issues related to internal disputes and changing leadership. These challenges affected the app’s stability and user experience.
Decline and ShutdownHQ Trivia’s decline was marked by a decrease in user engagement and technical issues, including outages during games. The company struggled to maintain its early momentum, and users began to lose interest. In February 2020, HQ Trivia filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations. It attempted a brief comeback later that year but ultimately shut down for good in February 2021.
Legacy and ImpactHQ Trivia left a lasting impact on the mobile app industry by popularizing the concept of live interactive game shows. Its success paved the way for similar apps and formats. While HQ Trivia’s original app is no longer active, its influence on the gamification of live content and social experiences can still be seen in various online platforms.

Novelty factor and increased competition

The game lost its novelty factor rather quickly because the company did not consider it important to introduce new features or make the game more exciting.

To some extent, the lack of innovation was facilitated by Yusupov, who was a slow decision-maker and, in some cases, avoided making decisions entirely.

The game instead relied on increasing the cash prize to keep players interested, but this became difficult over time because the prize money had to be split between more and more winners.

Exacerbating the lack of novelty was the increased popularity of trivia as a business model.

Two online competitors were launched around the same time as HQ Trivia, and, to make matters worse, several American television studios also created their apps.


Kroll and Yusupov also had difficulty raising money because of Kroll’s time on Twitter, where he was accused of indecent behavior toward women.

Yusupov’s tendency to make slow decisions and his self-centered nature made the company vulnerable.

After Kroll died in December 2018, Yusupov was appointed CEO, and an employee petition to have him removed soon passed around.

The initiative ultimately failed, so many employees chose to resign instead. This further hindered the company’s ability to release new products or respond to technical issues.

Trivia host and platform stalwart Scott Rogowsky then resigned from hosting a show about Major League Baseball.

He left HQ Trivia with a few choice words about its leadership, noting on Twitter that it was “poisoned with a lethal cocktail of incompetence, arrogance, short-sightedness & sociopathic delusion.

Technical issues

Trivia streams frequently lagged, and many games had to be restarted from the beginning.

Users became enraged after they were eliminated from games for no reason.

As early as 2018, software programs such as the HQ Trivia Assistant became prevalent on the platform.

These programs could answer questions with up to 90% accuracy, which caused more people to win games and take an ever-smaller share of the prize money.

For example, there were more than 9,000 winners at the end of a game held in February 2018, with each winner receiving the paltry sum of 23 cents in prize money.

Moreover, some reported waiting three months for the funds to land in their accounts.

Revenue decreases

HQ Trivia initially generated millions in sponsorship revenue from Nike and Google.

It even partnered with television stations such as NBC and CBS to promote its programs. 

However, revenue declined because of the factors mentioned above.

In response, the platform moved to a model where game winners were compensated with credits that could be redeemed for merchandise.

It also attempted to increase its user base by offering a Wheel of Fortune-themed game and one based on photo challenges.


In February 2020, Yusupov stated that the company had run out of cash after a potential acquisition deal failed.

Four days later, however, he noted that he had secured a deal to maintain the operation of the platform, including the 25 staff that were recently made redundant.

On March 30, 2020, HQ Trivia once again held trivia competitions.

Key takeaways:

  • HQ Trivia is a trivia video game first released in 2017 where users can win prize money by participating in live trivia games. Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov founded the platform after they sold the social media platform Vine to Twitter.
  • The novelty of HQ Trivia wore off quickly for consumers because leadership avoided introducing new features. The lack of novelty was exacerbated by new competitors and a style of leadership that did not favor decisive action.
  • HQ Trivia was also beset with technical issues. Games frequently lagged, and some players were eliminated from games for no reason. Automated software programs also reduced the platform’s legitimacy and decreased the amount of money a winning entrant could receive.

Quick Timeline

  • HQ Trivia is a live trivia video game launched in 2017, where users can participate in real-time trivia contests to win prize money.
  • Co-founders Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov, who previously sold Vine to Twitter, founded HQ Trivia.
  • The platform experienced rapid success, with over 700,000 players participating in a single trivia game in December of its launch year.
  • HQ Trivia’s value reached $100 million in March 2018, but it faced declining user numbers soon after due to various factors.
  • The game lost its novelty factor as it lacked innovation and new features to keep players engaged. Increased competition from similar trivia platforms also affected its appeal.
  • Leadership issues, including slow decision-making and allegations against Colin Kroll, further impacted the company’s growth and reputation.
  • Technical issues, such as lagging trivia streams and use of automated software programs to answer questions, undermined the platform’s integrity.
  • Revenue declined as sponsorship deals decreased, and the company attempted different strategies to attract users and retain them through credits and themed games.
  • In February 2020, HQ Trivia faced financial difficulties and staff redundancies. However, the platform managed to make a comeback in March of the same year.
  • Despite its revival, HQ Trivia faced significant challenges, and its once-massive success was overshadowed by a decline in user engagement and competition from other platforms.

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