For a brief moment in 2018, a mobile quiz show called HQ Trivia looked like it might be the future of media. But after management tumult at the parent company Intermedia Labs, the death of a co-founder and an inability to find a new hit show, investors on Friday said the business would shut down.
In an email to staff, first reported by CNN Business, Chief Executive Officer Rus Yusupov blamed HQ’s demise on an acquisition gone awry, saying that a bidder for the business had pulled out at the 11th hour.
“HQ Trivia exploded into popular culture and showed the power of making genuinely fun digital experiences that people can enjoy with their friends,” Lightspeed Partner Jeremy Liew, an HQ investor, said in a statement. “Sadly the lights went out on HQ today,” he added. “We will always remember the company as a pioneer.”
HQ Trivia launched in 2017 and raised more than $20 million from investors including Lightspeed and Peter Thiel’s VC firm, Founders Fund, according to PitchBook data. The company became famous for a live mobile trivia show that handed out cash prizes to a few winners each day. The show propelled its host, Scott Rogowsky, to viral fame, and reached millions of players. It even scored a Super Bowl ad, running a 30-second spot just minutes before the game in 2018.
But HQ was also dogged by management concerns, including awkward encounters with the press, and unflattering reports that prompted Lightspeed to conduct an investigation into the company’s leadership. In late 2018, one of HQ’s founders, Colin Kroll, was found dead in his Manhattan home. The company also struggled to match the success of its original hit show with its subsequent offerings.
Yusupov did not respond to a request for comment. On Friday he tweeted his farewell to the company. “With HQ we showed the world the future of TV,” he wrote. “Thanks to everyone who helped build this and thanks for playing.”