Colin Kroll, who co-founded HQ Trivia after a tumultuous run at Twitter, was found dead in his Downtown Manhattan apartment late Saturday from an apparent drug overdose, a senior NYPD official told The Daily Beast.
Kroll, whose live trivia app has drawn extensive attention online, was discovered face-down in bed, unresponsive and unconscious at his apartment in the tony SoHo neighborhood during a welfare check shortly before midnight, the official also said. Police had received a 911 call from Kroll’s girlfriend who accompanied officers to his apartment, officials said. The 34-year-old was pronounced dead by responding medics about one hour later.
Police, who found drugs and narcotics paraphernalia on the scene, are investigating his death as a possible overdose. An official cause of death will be released by the New York City medical examiner’s office.
A second NYPD official told The Daily Beast that the drugs recovered from near Kroll included envelopes that contained white powder substances believed to be heroin or cocaine.
“We learned today of the passing of our friend and founder, Colin Kroll, and it's with deep sadness that we say goodbye,”an HQ Trivia spokeswoman said in an e-mail. “Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”
HQ Trivia co-founder Rus Yusupov wrote on Twitter of Kroll, “I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart. He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother.”
Kroll, who in 2012 co-created the now-defunct Vine app, co-founded HQ Trivia with Yusupov and served as the company's CEO. HQ Trivia lets users worldwide tune in and contend in live trivia shows twice daily, in which they can win cash—prompting the app to be called “the future of TV.”
While HQ Trivia had been extensively hyped after its launch in late 2017, the platform has since fallen from its status as the internet’s next-big-thing. According to recode, HQ Trivia was poised to launch a new game show to solidify its place in the mobile entertainment industry.
But HQ Trivia’s ambitious plan, which may decide the fate of the start-up, comes amid a shrinking audience.
In the months after its launch, HQ Trivia was among the top 10 free iPhone games in terms of downloads. By November, however HQ Trivia’s downloads ranked between 250 and 500th. While HQ Trivia still has an audience of “hundreds of thousands,” this number marks a dramatic drop from the millions of participants it once drew, recode said.
Tumultuous management shakeups have also roiled HQ Trivia. Shortly after Kroll was named CEO to HQ Trivia, an employee complained to human resources in August alleging that he had an overly aggressive management style. The HR complaint did not include accusations of sexual misconduct, but was brought to the attention of HQ Trivia’s board, recode reports.
Another recode report provides details into Kroll’s ouster from Twitter, which acquired Vine shortly after its launch in 2012.
Kroll worked briefly as Vine’s general manager in 2014. Citing sources with knowledge of his firing, recode reported that Kroll was booted from Twitter after 18 months there for allegedly being a bad manager.
While at Vine, Kroll allegedly had shown “creepy” behavior toward female colleagues. The allegedly sketchy behavior may have deterred some investors from plunking money int HQ trivia, recode said.
HQ Trivia’s survival also may depend on its planned “Wheel of Fortune”-inspired smartphone game, called “Words.”
While some close to HQ Trivia think that “Words” success may make-or-break the company, others are skeptical it can be sustainable on a single hit game, per recode.
HQ has estimated that it will take in more than $10 million in 2018, but it’s also been bolstered by “millions” in venture capital, recode explains.