HQ Trivia and Vine co-founder Colin Kroll dies apparently of drug overdose: Police

Co-founder of the popular HQ Trivia app, Colin Kroll, in New York, on Dec 1, 2017.
Co-founder of the popular HQ Trivia app, Colin Kroll, in New York, on Dec 1, 2017.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Colin Kroll, co-founder and chief executive of the popular HQ Trivia app, was found dead apparently of a drug overdose in his lower Manhattan apartment early on Sunday (Dec 16), police said.

Police officers found his body facedown on his bed after a concerned woman called 911 and asked police to check up on him in his SoHo apartment on Spring Street. The woman's relationship to Mr Kroll was unclear, but police said she grew worried about his well-being.

Police said they found what appeared to be cocaine and heroin in the apartment.

Mr Kroll was 34.

Before creating HQ Trivia, which livestreams 15-minute trivia shows typically twice a day to tens of thousands of mobile users, Mr Kroll co-founded the six-second video app Vine, which was sold to Twitter in 2012 and closed down last year.

He went on to work briefly for Twitter, and later acknowledged being fired for "poor management" after allegations of inappropriate workplace behaviour towards women.

HQ Trivia quickly became a viral sensation when it debuted in August 2017, drawing together hordes of people for a livestreaming, interactive game, and inspired a range of copycat apps that aimed to seize on the same popular format.

The app, which is based in New York, has experienced a drop-off in audience, but it continues to attract thousands of people to play, in hopes of winning money by answering a dozen trivia questions on their phones.


Mr Rus Yusupov, who founded HQ Trivia with Mr Kroll, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The show is typically hosted by an energetic comedian who cracks jokes as he or she asks multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. Players use their touch screens to respond in less than 10 seconds, and the app shows how many people are eliminated after each round.

This year, when the company raised US$15 million (S$20.6 million) in venture capital funding, it was reported that some investors decided not to participate because of Mr Kroll's workplace history at Twitter. Mr Kroll denied that he ever sexually harassed employees.

"It was a painful experience, but an eye-opening one that served as a catalyst for professional development and greater awareness in the office," he told Axios in a statement.

"I now realise that there are things I said and did that made some feel unappreciated or uncomfortable. I apologise to those people. Today, I'm committed to building HQ Trivia into a culture-defining product and supporting the dedicated team that makes it all possible."

Mr Kroll, who was from the Detroit area, said in an interview with The New York Times last year that the company preferred to be based in New York, rather than San Francisco, because "our inspiration is more from media and TV than it is from technology".

Mr Kroll was a fan of e-sports and livestreaming gaming platforms like Twitch, which inspired the development of HQ Trivia.

He previously worked as an engineering manager for Yahoo from 2007 to 2009, and as chief technology officer at Jetsetter from 2009 to 2013.

The medical examiner's office will determine his cause of death.