The HQ Hype


Launched on August 26 of 2017, HQ (Humpback Quail) is a trivia-based game founded by former executives at the popular 6-second video streaming app Vine. Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll sold their extraordinarily successful app for $30 million to Twitter in October 2012, four months after its release. After former colleague, Yusupov, left Twitter following a series of layoffs, Kroll decided to create his second startup, Intermedia Labs. He, along with Vine creative director Rus Yusupov, founded HQ trivia as their second project with Intermedia Labs using an $8 million investment on their video streaming service Hype.

In HQ, contestants answer up to 12 multiple choice questions in one quiz based on suggestions from users of the app. Players have 10 seconds to answer the question so “Googling” the answer is not an option. Questions suggested by users must concern the following topics: music, movies, science, games, food & drink, educational, sports, literature, history, geography, art & design, business, entertainment, TV, tech, and nature. Most games cater to a devout 900 thousand participants that show up every game to contend for a $2500 prize pool. However, on February 11th, a hopeful 1.7 million participants showed up to contest a $15,000 prize in a 15 question quiz with 7 winners reaping a $2142.85 prize apiece. Following their enduring growth, on March 4th, an unbelievable six winners―out of 2.8 million competitors―won $8333.33 in a $50000 prize pool. Games are hosted by Scott Rogowsky, lovingly known as Quiz Daddy, live, at 3PM EST and 9PM every day. The routine live streaming schedule has become a core expectation among HQ’s fans, and there is considerable discord within the fan base about whether or not the developers are providing sufficient bandwidth for the sheer weight of 900k+ regular contestants, as occasional software errors become more problematic. Apple describes the HQ as an “A live game show that anyone can win.” Given the possibility of utilizing a bit of trivial knowledge and luck to earn such potential prizes at no expense promotes the experience, fostering a community of “HQ-ties” that share their intense passion for the game and its host, Scott.

The number of players that advance to subsequent questions is completely determined by the difficulty of the questions, a matter that generally seems to increase as the quiz progresses. Some games result in less than 10 winners, where some games have rewarded an immense group of 100 or more winners. In either case, HQ is dishing out every cent of their prize pool. The application provides no ad service as of now, nor does it charge users to download the app or gain their controversial “extra lives”. Yusupov has said on multiple occasions that there is a slew of brands willing to collaborate with HQ trivia’s immense platform, but so far no questions have featured sponsored advertising. Despite a seemingly unprofitable business model, Kroll’s company hit a valuation of $100 million earlier this February, due to high user interactivity and companies hoping to use an affiliation with HQ for marketing. HQ patrons include billionaire Peter Thiel and Cyan Banister, both contributing a $15 million net investment, with Banister hoping to become an HQ trivia board member. There is hope for Yusupov and Kroll’s HQ, where its hold on a huge fan base can become an asset for large corporations.

Not everything has been perfect for Yusupov and Kroll. Some investors have opted to withdraw from affiliations with HQ due to Kroll’s shady workplace behavior in the past when he was an executive member of the Twitter team in charge of Vine. Being fired from his position as Vine’s general manager, his shrouded past in the Twitter team has discouraged several investors. Where Silicon Valley is host to numerous companies under less than mediocre management, Kroll’s firing is unusual given that performance is put before potential in the Silicon Valley environment.


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