The career of Colin Kroll, the cofounder of Vine and HQ Trivia, who has died at age 34

source
Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Variety

  • HQ Trivia CEO and Vine cofounder Colin Kroll has died at age 34.
  • Kroll helped create two of the most viral apps of the past decade after getting his start at Yahoo and the travel site JetSetter.
  • Here’s a look at Kroll’s career.

Colin Kroll, the cofounder of HQ Trivia and Vine, died on Sunday. He was 34.

Kroll was the CEO of viral quiz app HQ Trivia up until his death on December 16, and helped create popular video-sharing app Vine, which was sold to Twitter in 2012.

Kroll majored in computer science and worked at Yahoo and the travel site JetSetter before striking out on his own. While he’s had success in the tech world, Kroll also faced complaints of an aggressive management style and inappropriate behavior toward women in recent years.

Hours after reports of Kroll’s death, HQ posted on Twitter: “We learned today of the passing of our friend and founder, Colin Kroll, and it’s with deep sadness that we say goodbye.”

Here’s how Kroll got his start and helped build two of the most viral apps of the past decade.


Kroll studied computer science at Oakland University, in Rochester, Michigan, about 30 miles from Detroit.

source
oaklanduniv/YouTube

Source: Crunchbase


Kroll started his career as a software engineer at Right Media, a platform for buying and selling advertising space. The company was acquired by Yahoo for $680 million in 2007.

After the acquisition, Kroll served as an engineering manager in Yahoo’s search and advertising technology group, or SATG.

Source: Crunchbase, AdAge


Kroll left Yahoo in 2011 to become VP of product at the luxury travel site JetSetter. He went on to become chief technology officer. The site is now owned by Trip Advisor.

source
Jetsetter

Source: LinkedIn


In June 2012, Kroll and his JetSetter coworker Dom Hofmann — along with Rus Yusupov — created Vine, a short-form video-sharing platform. In October of that year, before the app could even launch, Twitter bought it for $30 million.

caption
Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll.
source
Twitter/@dhof; Linkedin/rus-yusupov; Getty Images/Bryan Steffy

Vine officially launched in January 2013 as a way to capture and share six-second looping videos on the platform.

Kroll initially served as chief technology officer at Vine, and became general manager in 2013.

Source: All Things D, AdWeek, Twitter, LinkedIn


By April 2013, Vine was the No. 1 free app in the App Store and became a sensation among teens and young adults. At one point, it had more than 200 million monthly active users. But the app struggled to make money and was plagued by other issues.

source
App Annie

Vine operated in New York City, across the country from Twitter’s headquarters, and reportedly had various managerial issues, internal politics, and struggled to retain talent.

Twitter shut down Vine for good in 2016.

Source: The Verge, AdWeek, The Verge, Business Insider


In 2014, Kroll stepped back from a day-to-day roll at Vine, becoming an adviser at Twitter and Vine. By December of that year, Kroll left the company altogether.

source
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Variety

According to Recode, Kroll was fired from Twitter for poor management, and had earned a reputation for inappropriate behavior toward women.

When this came to light in 2018, Kroll said in a statement: “I was let go from Vine four years ago for poor management. It was a painful experience, but an eye-opening one that served as a catalyst for professional development and greater awareness in the office. I now realize that there are things I said and did that made some feel unappreciated or uncomfortable. I apologize to those people.”

Source: TechCrunch, Recode, Axios


Kroll cofounded HQ Trivia in 2015 with his Vine cofounder, Yusupov.

caption
Rus Yusupov, left, and Colin Kroll.
source
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for Variety

HQ Trivia – a live game-show-style quiz app – launched in August 2017 with Kroll serving as chief technology officer.

The app was an instant viral hit, thanks in part to its silly, charismatic host and the ability to win real cash prizes. Earlier this year, the app was at the top of the App Store charts for weeks at a time.

But just as quickly as the app went viral, its popularity faded and it faced internal turmoil of its own. In September, the company reportedly forced out Yusupov as CEO and replaced him with Kroll. And shortly before Kroll was appointed CEO, an HQ Trivia employee reportedly filed a complaint over Kroll’s “aggressive management style.”

Despite HQ’s issues, the company had announced plans for a second “Wheel of Fortune”-style game and has been earning money off sponsorship deals and in-app purchases.

HQ closed a $15 million funding round in March and is expected to do $10 million in revenue in 2018.

Source: Recode


In December, Kroll was found dead in his Manhattan apartment at the age of 34.

source
Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Variety

TMZ was first to report the death of the tech executive, while The Daily Beast and others confirmed the story with New York Police Department sources.

The police said he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Saturday night; he was pronounced dead on the scene at 12:18 a.m. on Sunday.

TMZ said his death was caused by an “apparent drug overdose,” although this is not yet verified. Kroll was discovered by police after his girlfriend was unable to make contact with him, TMZ added.

“We learned today of the passing of our friend and founder, Colin Kroll, and it’s with deep sadness that we say goodbye,” HQ wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”

Source: Business Insider