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HQ Trivia shuts down after acquisition falls through (techcrunch.com)
182 points by klinskyc 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments

Shameless plug for my new open source trivia PWA Just Trivia[0]

It has no ads, tracking, social integrations or monetization of any kind. It can never go out of business, it already is out of business! It's an MVP, I just stood it up two days ago.

The whole app bundle is around 700k before splitting. Each 10 question uses about 7kb of additional data. No CSS frameworks, minimal 3rd party deps. Uses the awesome illustrations from undraw.co

I'm working on an offline mode, with the db cached and the service worker acting as back end.

Sorry that got long. I'm going to do a show HN soon. But check it out if you want a simple trivia game on phone or tablet. It's a passion project, in case you can't tell.

[0] https://justtrivia.fun

Repos: Front github.com/jeremy21212121/trivia-frontend Back github.com/jeremy21212121/express-trivia-server

I tried it. Its clean. One thing, after completing one category, computers, I tried clicking on others and nothing happend. Even after refreshing page. This was on firefox

Thanks for trying it! Strange, I can't replicate that.

After a game, it should return you to categories with your category/categories still selected. Pressing next should start a game of the same category.

I'll dig into the server logs and see if I can figure it out. If you feel like it you can open a github issue.

Nice that you put together a great MVP and get-things-done

Anyone here interesting in doing a decent front-end to a simple card game e.g. UNO or war or whatever? I will do the backend APIs. I can spare a few $xxx. Hit me up on yoyifo5059@mailboxt.net

HQ Trivia was great at first but it got boring fast, especially when they replaced host Scott Rogowsky and did the show multiple times a day instead of every few days which created more hype. The sudden death of cofounder Colin Kroll was also a bizarre event to add to the mix.

There was a hot three weeks where I was all about it, and told anyone around me to watch or download it. Your points, along with primarily never making it past the third or fourth question was why I stopped. Was easy to forget about.

Agreed, I played a bit a year or two ago, won a few games and enjoyed it. I was actually happier when Scott hosted less, but I'm in a minority there among people I know.

Ultimately, there was nothing very "sticky" about it for me. The "once a day" thing is kinda fun, but when there's nothing else to use the App for the other 23 hours of the day, it's easy to break the habit and forget about it.

Same thing happened to Draw Something and Words with Friends. The trick is to get the 9 figure valuation, raise as much funding as possible and then put as much in your pockets before the hype dies down.

Words with Friends managed an actual exit (8 figures, mostly cash): https://venturebeat.com/2011/07/05/zynga-paid-53-3m-to-buy-w...

Wordfeud (similar app) made $4M in ads in 2018, not shabby for a single person company. It's now ten years since it launched and had the hype. Crazy.

Draw Something was a 9 figure exit (183 million). Also to Zynga.

That's just unbelievable. Digital copy of a decades-old game is worth $50M because of its app store rating.

Let's not fail to mention the millions of people that opened the app 50x per day and were shown 25 ads each time.

I was just thinking the same thing- HQ for me was a throwback to an era where there was a series of iPhone games that came on suddenly to the point where everyone I knew was playing constantly, and then people just kind of got bored of it.

I actually won once for something like $22, which was pretty good considering it felt like most of the time the winners got about $0.85 each.

The best way to do that is to take sizable portions of secondary sales while raising capital at high valuations. You'll walk away with tens of millions regardless of whether the app realizes an exit in the end.

Secondary market is the untold hero of the entrepreneur for a VC backed company.

Gotta be careful not to sell too much and be a canary in the coal mine to investors buying into the hype.

If done right you win either way.

Last time I tried it it was so cluttered with ads I had to often force close it to get it to work. Total rubbish.

Sell your company to Zynga at the peak of your popularity is the play

It was a neat idea. I'd be interested to see what else people could come up with around live events you participate in via your phone. Obviously there's generic video streaming, but the more specific something gets the more interesting the cultural impact. Remember Twitch Plays Pokémon?

This should be surprising to precisely no one. And this is nothing against HQ Trivia (although the founder seemed like a tool [1]) but any sort of format has a shelf life. Long-lasting shows like Jeopardy are outliers. The more typical case is where a given show will play for a few years, people will get bored with it and it'll be replaced by something else.

That's really all that happened here. HQ Trivia had a novelty value that eventually went away. Losing Scott probably didn't help. Just like Alex Trebek is probably a big part of the reason for Jeopardy's longevity, I think Scott was a big part of the reason for HQ Trivia's popularity.

[1]: https://theoutline.com/post/2517/is-hq-trivia-holding-its-ho...

> Just like Alex Trebek is probably a big part of the reason for Jeopardy's longevity

Off topic, but I do wonder what will happen to their ratings when he retires in the next few years.

The Price is Right pulled it off, their ratings are apparently higher now than they had been, since they started putting clips on YouTube and other types of "millennial marketing".

Trebek had a strong vision of what the show should be that would be at odds with what most studio execs might prefer. When he's gone, there will be pressure to dumb it down, make the questions easier and more trendy, make it more flashy. If they do that it will no longer be special and will wither away.

> there will be pressure to dumb it down, make the questions easier and more trendy, make it more flashy.

You could see this already in their recent GOAT primetime special. Someone did the numbers, it was like 12% of the questions were about Disney properties.

But were the questions easier or just on a more modern topic?

Arguably the hardest quiz on TV (Only Connect) sometimes has stuff from kid's TV shows (e.g. the surnames of Scooby's human companions) but it's still stupidly hard. There's a difference between needing to know which Disney resort is in Florida and needing to be able to know the first four animated feature films Disney made in order.

Not easier, just "culturally relevant".

It was broadcast on ABC nation wide instead of the typical contracted station for any given local market, right? Normally the tournaments are broadcast during normal time slots on the usual market station. Definitely makes sense that the mouse would have insisted on a bit of extra coverage for something I bet they paid a lot for, but I would be hesitant to give that much weight for determining the direction of the standard show.

Yeah, it was on prime time.

But the point was that once Alex is gone, there won't be a strong force to keep them from doing that to the regular show. I just hope I'm wrong.

Jeapardy has always done shows like that over its many decades on the air.

Do you have a source for that? I watched all the GOAT episodes and would both say that they were MUCH harder than typical Jeopardy games where I can typically answer 60-80% of questions and did not notice such a high percentage of questions being contextually about Disney.

Questions about Disney products sound more like efforts to promote Disney products than attempts at a trendy style.

Man, a dumbed down Jeopardy with trendy questions would be so depressing.

My hope is that they hire Ken Jennings and he carries on the tradition fully in honor of Trebek.

There were a couple answers about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory during GOAT Jeopardy, which made me hopeful that they were going to offer the host job to the winner, as Wonka did.

There was a whole discussion about this on reddit. It would harm them significantly to hire Ken. Due to game show laws, anyone he's ever played trivia with would be ineligible for the show. Since he's big on the trivia circuit, that would be about 1/2 of their contestants.

Reasons for hope are that Jeopardy fans (and the public) have a very specific idea of what Jeopardy should be. I'd optimistically like to think that it's strong enough to hold that line.

> Off topic, but I do wonder what will happen to their ratings when he retires in the next few years.

OT and somewhat sad but that... won't happen. He was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year. I'm not sure on his exact prognosis of course but... it seems more likely than not that he won't see 2021 (Fs in the chat).

Perhaps. He said in October he was in remission, in December it was back, but they are trying some new experimental treatments. So maybe this will be one of those cases where everyone is happy about rich people having better medical outcomes.

Wasn't it Jobs who had a "rare form" of pancreatic cancer that was in a way more treatable than usual, leading to him living many more years?

Jobs's diet came from a 1971 book written by a very convincing yet irresponsible man who got kicked out of teaching at Harvard (this isn't actually a joke; Steve's comments on the book Be Here Now suggest exactly this, and I definitely can't blame him).

His diet and his refusal of treatment was what killed him.

For some reason I doubt Trebek is the easily-swayed college student Jobs was when the ideas that got him killed overtook him.

That's all interesting but I'm not sure how we got to talking about his diet.

I looked it up and indeed he had pancreatic cancer eight years before he died. Suggests that it's possible for Trebek to live for some time yet given not all forms are untreatable.

His diet was correlated with pancreatic cancer, and he doubled down on it after he had got it; foregoing treatment to use a more extreme version of it, until it was too late to be treated effectively.

Interesting thanks. I thought the course of events was: get cancer. Use quackery for a while to no effect. Get real treatment. Discover its a treatable form of cancer. Live half a decade more. Succumb to cancer.

Unfortunately, the doctors told him it was a (rare) treatable form of cancer that needed to be surgically treated immediately, he refused, preferred to treat with diet, didn't work, finally had to have a more much invasive surgical intervention (transplant). Helped, but he still died. If he would treated it correctly when he was first informed, he would probably still be alive.

There is a similar discussion going on about Just A Minute, since Nicholas Parsons died earlier in the month. Can it even survive without him, since the very few shows without him were, well, sucky...

> Just like Alex Trebek is probably a big part of the reason for Jeopardy's longevity

Considering Jeopardy has spread and become immensely popular with similar longevity all over the world, I don't think that's true. It's about the format, not the host.

We also see the same thing happening with the Swedish version of HQ Trivia (called Primetime). It started out extremely popular but lost a lot of momentum fast. They haven't changed hosts so I think that what you say about shelf life is much more intrinsic to the format itself.

> Just like Alex Trebek is probably a big part of the reason for Jeopardy's longevity, I think Scott was a big part of the reason for HQ Trivia's popularity.

Scott was a great host, but Matt and Anna are both great hosts as well. I don’t think anything will happen to Jeopardy, since it’s not a host-centered game in the first place. There are examples of shows pulling off a host switch successfully: new hosts of The Great British Bake-off aka The Great British Baking Show are actually quite better than the original team.

HQ was a daily part of my life for a few months in my last year of college. It was pretty cool way to get a large group of friends together twice a day.

Building software to assist in answering questions and win was fun too ;)

Some of these consumer startups should be financed and built like a movie, not a company. Use off the shelf tooling, experienced staff, and expect the thing to die off in revenues over a couple of years with some residual revenues in maintenance mode.

That doesn't really fit into the SV narrative of unicorns though :/

There was an article last week about new forms of funding that may make supporting this model more common:


This is a great idea and I'd definitely invest in a vehicle that was making these types of investments.

It almost sounds like a Game of Thrones esque style episode of Silicon Valley.

Huge success. Co-founder dies. There was a mutiny to remove the CEO from it's employees Layoffs and now shutdown.

This happened all within about a year? (Cofounder passed in December 2018)

How do you successfully co-found a massive hit while being addicted to heroin?

One of the best sales people i've ever worked with I found out two years in that he was a daily heroin user

Most people think of the homeless or bums when they think of heroin addiction but there are a lot of very functioning addicts out there in the corporate world

According to some acquaintances, heroin is apparently a really good drug for "crank through enormous backlog" type work.

The problems are 1) heroin is highly addictive and has an absolutely ferocious withdrawal and 2) heroin is really easy to overdose.

So, as long as you keep the heroin going, you're "good". The problems all start when the heroin stops.

By having a steady reliable supply of heroin.

It's called high-functioning addiction and there are tens of millions of such people (mostly addicted to alcohol).

Or benzodiazepines and prescription painkillers. People switch to heroin when they run out of money.

I had heard high functioning is a misnomer. They may have one area of focus they can succeed under some definition, but the overall quality of life and relationships is very poor.

My understanding was that "high functioning" is relative to what is essentially "non functioning", where the person is unable to keep up even the semblance of a normal life.

Yes yes... But not anywhere near normal functioning.

Must be the alcoholics hitting the down arrow :P Here is a great article https://www.nytimes.com./2009/05/05/health/05brod.html ...

Having employees doing the bulk of the work helps, I'm sure.

Any write-up on their tech stack? I imagine it's not an easy problem at the height of their popularity to scale so many live video feeds with real-time interactions.

I did a little bit of exploring a few years ago [0]. Iirc they just had one live stream for all their shows. All app events (quiz, chat messages) were through websocket.

The founders are ex-Vine founders, who then created a live streaming app called Hype. It looked like they were re-using Hype in HQ according to some URLs like hype.space.


I found a job posting of theirs a while back while trying to figure out their tech stack. It required experience in docker, redis, node, can't remember what else if anything. Given the on demand nature of the game you can kind of imagine the kind of microservice architecture built from those components. For example each container handles X number of users, redis cache has a copy of game state/user state, each round questions/answers are handled and losers are kicked out so load is progressively reduced through the course of a game until only a winner remains. Most likely cloud was used to spin up containers right before trivia starts so you only pay for compute while a game is in progress then spin everything down.

If you have money (and they did) it’s actually not too difficult to solve. There are services out there to scale both video streaming[1] and websockets[2] for you.

[1] https://aws.amazon.com/cloudfront/streaming/ [2] https://pusher.com/

Ultra low latency that allows real-time interaction is really hard to scale. I have built an HQ clone and the only right way in terms of latency seemed using WebRTC.

What a quick ride. It was so popular, so quickly. There must not have been great retention? Or poor monetization?

One of the founders overdosed, they switched hosts, and overall seem to have done everything in their power to tank themselves.


No? I don't think the comment implied that; I separated the two between an "and" for a reason. I was just stating that that was when things seemed to start going down for them.

I think it's clear that it's not the intended meaning, but I can see how it might be misread as that. "and overall seem to have done everything in their power" did make me wonder for a brief second if the first two things were examples of things in their power. Personally, I'd probably tweak it to something like "and overall seem" to make the distinction more clear.

I still believe interactivity like this is the future of TV, but the real killer app hasn’t been found yet.

Count me as one of those who slowly quit playing when Scott quit hosting. He was definitely part of the reason I tuned in to play last year for a few months. And the fact that it was nightly, and not many games seeming to happen all the time.

What are the best trivia apps nowadays? Have been looking but haven't found anything great. Still feels like there is an unmet need. I still love Quizup though ...

This always happens with products built to focus on short-term engagement instead of driving long-term retention.

Wow totally forgot about HQ... kind of obvious why it shut down because so did everyone else.

founders could have made money if they accepted that it was a fad.


Well, that was both entertaining and heartbreaking. They both are great hosts.

I'm sure death among heroin addicts is common. It's only a matter of time they'll come in contact with a fentanyl laced dose.

I had a few friends die from heroin overdoses and that was 25+ years ago. Fentanyl exacerbates the issue but is is easy enough to O.D. without it.

It's not bizarre among heroin addicts, but death by heroin overdose is a bit bizarre among cofounders of high profile companies, isn't it?

I'd guess they usually have access to better drugs. Addiction affects people from all walks of life, and people who can afford their addiction don't necessarily have it impact their work.

Heroin is very good. I'm having a hard time coming up with something better that could be used for prolonged periods of time as efficiently.

Cocaine is great, not as great as heroin and cocaine has some drawbacks (sniff). Like everyone knows you are on it. And you can only snort so much before you get nose bleeds. And I have been that guy where my right nostril starts pouring out blood so I snort with my left. Heroin is relatively tidy.

Looking back on things it is probably for the best I made minimum wage after high school. The only thing that really tempered my substance abuse was poverty and my aversion to stealing peoples stuff to get high.

That's very interesting, thanks for sharing that.

Closest I've gotten was Valium given by my oral surgeon as part of some tooth extraction. Wow, Valium is great. I would eat it every day if I had access to it. As a result, I stay totally away from everything. I have back problems that qualify me for opioids, but based on my Valium experience, there's no way I wouldn't go all in. So I manage the pain other ways, exercises, posture, and just gritting my teeth and dealing with the pain.

I had a friend that made homemade Laudanum for helping with cancer pain. Maybe I would do Laudanum if I had that problem and made it myself.

Based on my experiences with benzodiazapines (diazepam, tamazepam), there's definitely a feeling of "More of this would be _great_", even at very lose doses when I'm not really noticing it doing a lot else. With weak opioids (codeine, tramadol), I've never really noticed the same, even though they induce a far more noticeable high-like effect.


Been through the cancer game.

Three months of mouth radiation and chemo. They numbed me and poked a hole through my stomach to insert a feeding tube since swallowing wasn't going happen after week 5 of radiation kicked in.

The feeding tube was interesting. This was the "You have got to be fucking shitting me Monday".

I basically did not use DDG to look into what was going to happen to me. I wanted to know nothing about chemo, radiation, feeding tubes, and all the other horrors that would come my way. Clean slate, go in ignorant, just deal with it as it happens. This turned out to be the best approach. Like a frog in a warming crock pot. You adjust while your family gazes in horror as you lose your hair and 25% of your mass.

But back to Monday. Radiation at 9AM. Feeding tube at 10AM. Chemo at 2PM. Radiation was nothing. Get my head put in the mesh mask made during the simulation and you go in the machine for 20 minutes. They have Pandora so you can have music piped in during the treatment. I picked New Order.

Then the feeding tube. I was put into the operating room. Then put to sleep. Then I woke up with my sister staring at me in a room that was not the operating room. And I was told they couldn't do the tube. And plan B was needed. I was not told what plan b was until the horrors of plan b were already over. We will get back to plan b in a bit.

Now I will talk about round one of chemo. 2 liters of saline in the vein. Tiny bag of cisplatin. Then two more liters of saline. The entire thing would take 4 hours. But my god. I was nearly cocaine amped. It was a massive rush after chemo for a few weeks. Then it got different and I don't really want to talk about that. There is a reason my radiologist said to remove guns from the house. I can see how suicide would be a good idea.

Back to the feeding tube. They had to send me off to interventional radiology. They had to do a scan while installing the tube. From what I gather my stomach rides high under the ribs and they had to go in through my mouth and push my stomach down and then poke a hole between my stomach and the outside world. And then three things I would describe as "buttons" were stitched in to keep everything in place.

If you get a normal feeding tube you get Advil after you are done. I got 16 hours in a bed with a button that would call someone for a injection of something that would put me to sleep for hours. It was lovely. Like I said. I like drugs.

But I was given Hydromorphone to deal with the insane pain. This is when I realized opioids do fuck-all for me.

But opioids. I just watched that Pharmacist thing on Netflix. And I am kinda pissed off.

Really? Like heroin? When you have cancer you are showered with pills. I got a ton of OXY and they didn't really help. Lorazepam (the best) and Hydrocodone helped the most.

In the documentary they compared OXY to heroin. I get a bit of pain relieve from it (but I have never used it outside cancer). And they said you get high from it. I don't. And I asked my sister and she said oxy didn't get her high either. So I feel a bit cheated. And I have hundreds of oxy just sitting in my medicine cabinet.

I have friends who say marijuana has helped them a lot with chronic pain, might be worth a shot.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22331413.

Which is a tragedy in itself.

A tragedy - yes, but not exactly 'bizarre' unless you are a frequent subscriber to fringe conspiracy theories.

Agreed, unfortunately it's rather common.

I don't know... when I first heard about it, it was iPhone only? I believe, and, honestly, I'm not the type to just install just any "app" on my cell phone. So, for me, the interest or "hype" was doa.

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