Biz Failures

What Happened To HQ Trivia? Why Did It Failed?

Executive Summary:

HQ Trivia is an app that allows users to play against each other and win real and virtual cash prizes.

HQ Trivia was unsuccessful because it could not keep the game interesting due to intense competition and technical issues as well as problems with the founder’s leadership style.

How HQ Trivia Works

HQ Trivia allows users to play against each other in a live game and win cash prizes.

This is how it works: First, you need to download the app. It’s available for both mobile and tablet devices (Android, iOS), as well as Apple TV.

The trivia game is held every Thursday at 09.00 ET. The app’s games were first hosted twice daily back in the day it was launched.

After you have entered the game, you will receive a greeting from its host. He is streaming live from a studio and will walk you through all the questions.

The games are now hosted by Matt Richards, comedian and moderator.

To win a cash prize of $500, players will need to answer 12 questions. All winners will receive the same amount. Players have 10 seconds each to choose from the three answers.

They are banned from the game if they give a wrong answer. Players can purchase additional lives to continue playing the game.

The prize money can then easily be cashed out using PayPal. HQ Trivia initially set a minimum cash out balance of $20, but it was later removed.

HQ also has a second game, HQ words. This is a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ type of game that requires players to fill in letter blocks to complete sentences.

What happened to HQ Trivia?

HQ Trivia is a sub-organization within Intermedia Labs and is headquartered in New York City. It was founded by Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll in 2017.

Kroll and Yusupov are best known for their co-founding of the now-defunct Vine (alongside Dom Hofmann, their third running mate).

Vine was sold to Twitter in 2012 for $30 million, only a few months after it had been created (and not even released).

Vine became a cultural phenomenon over the next few years and was eventually buried in the product graveyard of Twitter. Vine was officially closed down in October 2016.

Kroll and Yusupov both had left the company by then. Kroll, who was appointed Vine’s general manger in January 2014, resigned three months later. He resigned, although people familiar with the matter said that he was fired.

He was reputed to have earned a bad reputation for his “creepy” behavior towards women during his tenure. He was also known to shout at his colleagues and clash with them at work. This behavior would come back to haunt him at Headquarters Trivia (but more later).

In October 2015 Rus Yusupov joined the 300+ Twitter employees who were being fired to streamline the company’s operations and make it more profitable. Kroll and Yusupov teamed up to create Intermedia Labs. This app studio would produce Hype, which allows you to broadcast your own content with your smartphone camera.

The app was launched in the latter half of 2016. The app was discontinued shortly after its launch. Bounce was their next project. It allowed users to create music videos and then have it auto-sync to a song. The app failed to take off again.

Their third attempt proved to be the charm. The iOS app for HQ Trivia was unveiled to the world in late August 2017.

Scott Rogowsky (33-year-old comedian) was one of the game’s most distinctive features. He spent the last decade trying to make it big. He had to return to his family home after he failed to make ends meet financially before he got his HQ Trivia gig.

Within the first few weeks, there were a few hundred people who joined regularly scheduled games. However, HQ’s user count increased as a result of media coverage. It had over 10,000 players playing concurrently by the end of October.

Yusupov was already in trouble for his actions in November. Over a profile the Daily Beast wrote about Rogowsky, Yusupov threatened to fire Scott Rogowsky as his star host. The host stated that despite HQ’s rapid growth, he could still go outside to “order his favorite Sweetgreen salad” without being interrupted by anyone.

HQ Trivia grew like wildfire despite Yusupov’s antics. Its games had attracted more than 100,000 viewers by the end November. The prize money increased from $100 at launch to $7,500.

The team reached out to many investors to raise funds to pay for these rewards. Due to Kroll’s reputation as a Twitter manager, it was initially difficult for them to raise funds.

HQ Trivia launched its Android app in December to expand and protect itself against new competitors (who, at times, were direct copies of The Q Trivia). It was also launched in Canada the same month.

HQ Trivia and its host Rogowsky were cultural icons by 2017. Some games attracted over 700,000. The app was experiencing more technical problems due to the rapid growth of users. The app’s streams became laggy and crashed at times. It had to be restarted.

Despite these issues, January 1st was a success. Over one million people requested to play in the 9 PM game to be eligible to win $15,000 cash prizes. HQ Trivia increased the excitement by launching a UK version of the game.

After pitching to dozens upon investors over the months, Kroll & Yusupov finally were able to raise another round. Lightspeed Ventures initially invested $8 million in the business before it was launched.

Peter Thiel’s investment arm, Founders Fund, led a $15m round that valued HQ Trivia to a staggering $100 million – just six months after it launched (in February 2018). But HQ would not be HQ without the funding announcement.

Thiel’s investment in Thiel’s fund became the focus of public attention after Trump publicly supported him. It was also responsible for Gawker being shut down, among other questionable actions. This led to an outcry against Headquarters Trivia. Some even suggested that #DeleteHQ be deleted via their Twitter accounts.

The criticism soon faded and players continued to be crazy about the game. One of the most famous examples was a viral video showing a woman going crazy after winning $11.30 during one its January games.

The clip was aired by NBC just three minutes prior to the Super Bowl broadcast, which triggered a flood of new players. It was also able attract major stars such as Jimmy Kimmel, Robert De Niro and Sting to guest host a game with a prize of $300,000. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was even invited to host a game that offered a $300,000.

HQ Trivia launched its iPad app in March 2018 and found its first source of income. The founders signed a deal worth $3 million with several companies including Warner Bros. and Nike to host sponsored games within their app.

It also developed themed quizzes such as those it ran during the 2018 NBA finals. In July, it launched HQ Sports in July, a spinoff trivia game aimed towards sports fans. HQ Trivia added support for Apple TV a month later in August.

All of these changes did not stop the fall in user engagement that began in the summertime. Its app rankings dropped from the top 10 to the hundreds. Due to its slow growth, the company named Colin Kroll, its co-founder, its new CEO. Yusupov was effectively replaced by Colin Kroll, who took over as Chief Creative Officer.

Yusupov was accused of not keeping users interested. Yusupov was more focused on increasing cash prizes than introducing new game types. Both founders had reportedly clashed several times over how to use the money they had in their bank.

Kroll was appointed CEO days after a complaint was made against him for his alleged aggressive management style. This was, however, part of a scheme Yusupov orchestrated, TechCrunch revealed later. Kroll was apparently pushed by Yusupov to the HQ employee.The Top 10 Business Podcasts

Yusupov even suggested that Rogowsky be made the new CEO of the company. Rogowsky is HQ’s favorite host. Multiple board members at HQ resigned as a result. Kroll’s reign would not last very long.

Kroll, who was suffering from a drug overdose, was found dead in Manhattan on December 16, 2018. Kroll was found guilty of selling him the drugs and sentenced in September 2021 to eight years federal prison.

Yusupov was again appointed chief executive of HQ after Kroll’s death. HQ launched HQ words shortly after Kroll’s tragic passing. This was a ‘Wheel of Fortune” type of game that requires players to fill in blocks of letters to complete sentences.

In January 2019, HQ introduced virtual points. These virtual points can be used to replace actual cash prizes in certain games. Many of its loyal players were disappointed. Even worse, many of these users complained that they couldn’t cash out their winnings. Sometimes, it took weeks to resolve the matter.

Meanwhile, employees at HQ weren’t happy either. Twenty of the 35 employees of the company wrote a February 2019 letter asking the board for Yusupov’s resignation and to hire a more experienced CEO.

Yusupov won the victory and was elected to remain as CEO. The company fired two employees who had rebelled against Yusupov. However, the departure of one employee did not end in favor of the company.

Rogowsky was concerned about HQ’s uncertain future and took up a side job hosting ChangeUp, a new baseball talk show on DAZN. Rogowsky decided to stay at HQ and host its weekend contests.

Yusupov wanted him to be signed only to HQ Trivia. Negotiations between the two fell apart and Scott Rogowsky was fired on April 12, 2019. Matt Richards replaced him. Yusupov also told media that they conducted an internal survey of the company’s top players. They rated Richards (who had been guest-hosting before) higher than Rogowsky. This move was widely believed to be an attempt to divert attention from Yusupov.

HQ kept trying new features like allowing players to win cash prizes for answering certain questions. But even these features couldn’t stop the bleeding. In an effort to cut costs, HQ Trivia laid off approximately 20 percent of its workforce in July 2019. This is equal to seven employees.

In February 2020, it was finally the end. HQ Trivia announced it would terminate operations and lay off 25 employees. The show’s final game, which aired the 13th of Feburary, was a clear symbol of the chaos it experienced. They were clearly seen drinking champagne and consuming alcohol.

A deal with Whistles Media, which offered $20 million for HQ Trivia, was canceled days earlier. However, if that seemed to be the end, you don’t really know Yusupov enough.

Yusupov managed to find an anonymous investor, saving the company a month after the announcement. HQ Trivia emerged from the startup graveyard in March. In all likelihood, one of the reasons was the emergence and spread of the coronavirus. This virus forced people to lock themselves in their homes, and attracted some people to the trivia game.

HQ Trivia still runs its Words and trivia games on a weekly schedule. Its user engagement has declined from the early days when it had more than one million users.

Why did HQ Trivia fail?

HQ Trivia fell because it couldn’t keep its game interesting due to intense competition and technical problems as well as issues regarding the founder’s leadership style.

Let’s take a closer view at each one of these reasons in this section.

Lack Of Innovation

HQ Trivia’s failure to innovate and keep the game interesting was one of its major problems.

Yusupov was unable to deliver new features or products quickly enough, which is why he was removed as CEO.

He was said to be slow in making decisions and pushing deadlines further into the future.

Instead, HQ Trivia relied solely on its existing game format. It assumed that adding new hosts would increase the cash prizes and not changing the host.

The novelty of the game format eventually wore off, and even new formats such as HQ Words were unable to excite users again.


HQ Trivia was also challenged by trivia games from abroad and local competitors.

Q Trivia and HTMLriket were launched right after the launch. The first was almost a clone.

Even worse, Chinese entrepreneurs started creating local versions. U.S. television stations even created their own apps.

While HQ Trivia was having a hard time innovating, its competitors were introducing new formats of games every day. Combining these two factors didn’t help HQ Trivia.

Technical issues

HQ Trivia was and is still plagued by a number of technical issues that seriously hampered the gaming experience.

It was slow and sometimes even broke down at times. This meant that games had to be restarted completely, which led to users dropping out.

Bots were another issue that emerged around January 2018. Software programs such as the HQ Trivia Assistant or HQuack would automatically answer user questions.

Their accuracy can be as high at 90 percent, according to some reports. This often resulted in more people winning games which led to a significant decrease in the amount of prize money each player received.

In a February 6th 2018 game, 786,883 participants participated. 9 046 people answered all questions correctly. These winners were then awarded all except 23C/.

Players also have difficulty cashing out winnings. Some players have to wait for months before the money hits their bank accounts.

It’s not surprising that people will turn their attention to other entertainment options if the entire premise of the game is eliminated, which is to win money.


Another reason HQ Trivia failed was Yusupov’s leadership.

Due to Kroll’s past history at Twitter, it was difficult for the duo to raise money in the early days.

He was accused of being aggressively shouting at people and showing creepy behavior towards women.

This behavior was allegedly transferred to HQ Trivia. However, the majority of employees supported him when Yusupov was replaced as CEO.

Yusupov wasn’t the saint he claimed to be. He first exposed his questionable behavior when he threatened to fire Rogowsky after a light-hearted profile the Daily Beast published on him.

He had difficulty capitalizing on the initial excitement surrounding the company. Instead of innovating new game formats, he was slow to make decisions and just doubled down on what worked before (that is, to spend more production and prize money).

His former colleagues described him as self-centered, egoistic and arrogant. One anonymous employee of HQ Trivia said the following about Yusupov or Kroll: “Colin loved Headquarters and was more dedicated to Rus than Rus. Rus cares for Rus. Colin said that he cared about the ,” content to TechCrunch on April 2019.

A group of employees signed a petition to remove Yusupov as CEO. However, this was unsuccessful. Many of these employees left HQ, making it difficult for the company to release new products or fix the technical problems.

What does HQ Trivia stand for?

The company and its leadership never stated what HQ stood for. Yusupov, who was being interviewed by CBS This Morning in January 2018, said that there is no official answer about HQ’s official name.

Scott Rogowsky (HQ host) sat next and suggested the name “Hard Questions”.

In fact, he teased the audience many times about the real name over the next weeks and months. One show, he was carrying an envelope containing his actual name. He finally opened the envelope and it jokedly said “Humpbacked Quail.”

Others have however been more adept at finding the truth. Reddit user actually checked the source code of the app and discovered that one of the servers was called “quiz.hype”, which he believed to be the true meaning of HQ.

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